Fender is giving a lot more attention to its acoustic line than ever before. With new guitars and amplifiers that offer a wide array of quality and features, Fender has made significant strides in appealing to discerning acoustic musicians.
In the case of this new, limited-edition Paramount PM-3, the overall visual aesthetic—from the chocolate-hued Indian rosewood back and sides to the grained Adirondack top to the slim headstock and checkerboard purfling and rosette—is striking. This is a side of Fender acoustics I haven’t seen before. I’m more accustomed to bulky dreadnought-sized guitars, with Stratocaster-like headstocks, than this 000-sized guitar with a slim, traditionally shaped headstock. [Editor’s note: Fender added the Paramount line in January 2016; see other reviews in the July 2016 issue].
This top-of-the-line PM-3 includes features aimed toward a more refined, fingerpicking-based audience. Beyond the use of woods that give a nod to fancy Martins, Gibsons, and even boutique guitars, the Paramount PM-3 Limited Edition Rosewood also includes elegant and understated appointments—like mother-of-pearl inlays, open-geared tuners, and bone nut, saddle, and bridge pins—and onboard electronics for stage and recording needs.
The charcoal-hued mahogany neck was easy to navigate from nut to 17th fret—and the Venetian cutaway added to the ease of fingering some high-voiced bends. Playing the solo from Santana’s “Black Magic Woman,” it was easy to bend and be expressive on the 25.3-inch scale neck. However, picking aggressively yielded an unwanted amount of compression and made the guitar sound thin.
The C-shaped neck and 1.75-inch nut provided a good fit for a variety of hand sizes—not too chunky nor too narrow, and with an adequate 2 1/4-inch string-spacing at the bridge for fingerpickers. I played one of my favorite fingerpicking tunes, John Fahey’s “Last Steam Engine Train,” traversing the neck from the first position to the seventh fret and found the neck girth to be just right for my hand.
When I first played the PM-3 at the AG office, I thought the guitar sounded a little muddy. But I heard the sound open up after logging some playing time at my studio. I’ve had similar experiences with newer Adirondack top guitars—it takes a little playing time for the spruce to get that crisp, airy quality that “addi” tops are known for. The bass tones are not super prominent—they have more of a chunky, low-midrange quality that will help the PM-3 stand out in the mix.
The PM-3 is outfitted with a Fishman PM pickup system designed in collaboration with Fender. The slim retro-radio–styled dials, mounted on the top side of the upper bout, control bass, volume, and treble, and have a phase control as a quick feedback-fighting solution. The onboard tuner is a little squirrelly, sometimes registering notes as sharp or flat when another tuner I had on the headstock registered the note as in-tune.
I plugged the PM-3 into a Fishman Loudbox Mini and found the tone controls to be responsive, giving me a wide range of bass to treble options. With a little bit of fiddling, I was able to dial in a good sound with the bass on the amp and guitar turned to two o’clock, and the treble dialed down to around 11 o’clock.
The Fender Paramount PM-3 plays great and sounds good for fingerstyle playing and less-aggressive strumming. The onboard electronics are easy to manipulate and will work well in a live playing situation. It’s great to see that Fender, with a collection of features not often seen in this price range, is continuing to broaden its acoustic horizons.
At a Glance: Fender Paramount PM-3 Limited Adirondack 000 Rosewood
Body 000-size body with solid AA Adirondack spruce top; scalloped X-bracing; solid Indian rosewood back and sides; ebony bridge; gloss lacquer finish; four-layer checkerboard binding and rosette; plastic tortoiseshell pickguard
Neck 25.3-inch scale mahogany neck, 15.75-inch radius ebony fingerboard with three-layer binding; 1.75-inch bone nut; mother-of-pearl inlay; dual-action truss rod, nickel open-back tuners with aged black buttons
Electronics Fender/Fishman PM with tuner and treble, mid, bass, and phase controls
Other Deluxe hardshell case with humidifier; bone saddle and bridge pins; Fender Dura-Tone Coated 80/20 Bronze strings (.012–.052); two strap buttons
Price $1,399 (MAP)
Made in China, fender.com
This article originally appeared in the August 2017 issue of Acoustic Guitar magazine.