Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster

Saturday, February 28, 2009| by Will Chen

Often, buying affordable instruments is a compromise. Corners are cut, and to some degree, you’re hoping to buy a diamond in the rough and will have to swap some parts to get the most out of the guitar. Yet, Squier has taken affordable instruments to a whole new level with the Chinese-made Classic Vibe series, offering serious upgrades where many others cut corners.

The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50’s features a pine-body with a string-through ashtray bridge, fitted with three barrel-style brass saddles; a one-piece bolt on maple neck with rosewood reinforcement stripe, capped with a synthetic bone nut; and a pair of “Custom Vintage” pickups with AlNiCo 3 magnets. Whoa…Fender doesn’t use some of those options on their Mexican series which is nearly 1 ½ times as expensive! The specs are certainly impressive on paper, but do these combine to form a real world instrument which can compete with something far more expensive?

The C-shaped, one-piece maple neck has a depth to it which feels substantial, just like I like. It’s chunky without being overwhelming. Playability was superb thanks to the 21 immaculately dressed medium jumbo frets and 9.5 inch fretboard radius; just incredibly smooth and comfortable. Honestly, I was kind of shocked by how impressed I was with the neck, as it really caught me by surprise. The neck easily rivals any American Fender Tele I’ve played; very, very nice.Tuner action felt smooth and the guitar held pitch extremely well. The guitar is just solid. Cosmetically, I couldn’t find any flaws. Though, I’m not too fond of the “Vintage Blond” finish which looks more like a semi-translucent cream. Overall, the only hardware spot even worth considering upgrading is the traditional cup style input socket since the traditional design is eventually prone to fail. Unplugged, the guitar exhibits a nice full zing with great string to string definition, which was making me excited to plug her up. Time to put this honey through the paces…

The bridge pickup has great upper midrange definition, the perfect amount of stringy shimmer on the high end, and a tight and slightly attenuated low end yielding a tone that is unforgivably Tele.

I auditioned the guitar using a Fender Cyber Champ and Boss GT-10. Saying I was impressed with the Classic Vibe Tele would be an understatement. The bridge pickup has great upper midrange definition, the perfect amount of stringy shimmer on the high end, and a tight and slightly attenuated low end yielding a tone that is unforgivably Tele. The neck pickup was even more of a treat, with all the trademark warmth you would expect, but also retaining very good high-end clarity, which is almost always lacking from traditional Tele neck pickups. Sweet! Across the board, the guitar just really feels extremely responsive to picking technique, translating attack with excellent clarity. Dig in and the guitar barks like a junkyard dog; back off and she sings like an angel. Somehow, the pickups together weren’t quite as inspiring, though still capable of some good tones. The tone knob was effective across its entire sweep, however, the volume knob dulls the sound significantly as it’s rolled back; a treble bleed circuit would be an excellent mod to consider.

While other options will get you a taste of twang for a little less money, the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster 50’s is the real deal, requiring no modifications or upgrades to get to tonal Nirvana. This really feels like a guitar where each part contributes to a tonal puzzle that just wouldn’t be complete if one piece was missing. My single wish is that it was offered in a variety of finishes (likely, offering only one finish was a marketing decision to keep the Fender Mexican series competitive). It’s simply a great guitar, not just a great guitar “for the money.” You’ll be hard pressed to find a better traditional Tele at a competitive price.

Price: ~ $350 USD
Pros: Excellent playability and workmanship, very good pickups
Cons: Uninspiring finish

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Filed Under: Squier, Reviews