A guitar three years in the making.
I'll admit that when I opened the guitar case of the Acoustasonic
Telecaster I immediately thought of the toy guitar my parents gave me
when I was four years old. With a small hole in the center of the body,
it looks unlike anything out there. Well, except that plastic toy that
somehow snuck its way into the recesses of my memory. Then I picked it
up and strummed and... no this is not a plaything. This is a seriously
impressive instrument that will more than likely win over skeptics once
they start playing.
The $2,000 Acoustasonic Telecaster is the first in a series of American
Acoustasonic guitars that put the sounds of an acoustic guitar into the
body of an electric guitar. It sounds simple enough, but in reality,
there's a very specific sound that needs to be produced by an acoustic
guitar and recreating that in the smaller body with far less volume than
a traditional acoustic took time and lot of research.
It's something Fender's VP of acoustic and Squier divisions Billy
Martinez has been thinking about for 15 years. But it wasn't until
recently that its development got fully underway. "The journey started
literally three years ago, it started two weeks after I started here at
Fender. it was basically, how are we going to take the technology of an
acoustic guitar forward into the future without losing the organic
traditional vibe and feel to it," Martinez said.
One of the issues with acoustic guitars is amplification. Guitarists can
either get a guitar with a plug and connect directly into the PA (or
acoustic amp) or place a microphone in front of the instrument. Both
have worked for decades, but if you have a certain sound you want that
involves a pedal or overdrive, it's tough to get it right on stage and
you always run the risk of feedback.
The Acoustasonic Telecaster eliminates those issues and I plugged into
multiple amps (solid state and tube) and ran it through a series of
random pedals without worrying about my band's practice space becoming a
den of low-end humming feedback.
It sounds like someone has placed a mic up to a traditional acoustic
guitar but you have the option to switch to electric whenever you want
to kick out the jams.
Fender went through four different proof of concepts to get to where the
guitar sounds like it should when not plugged in. They needed to work
on bracing and adjust the depth of the sound port so that it projected
the noise coming from the instrument. It sounds like you're playing an
acoustic. That's not a small feat. But there was more work to be done.
The guitar as is does 55-65 percent of the work according to Martinez.
To make it play well with all your amps, it needed some DSP (digital
sound processor) help for the "Acoustic Engine." "First and foremost, we
use the analog side of things first, which actually helps with not only
the way the electronics work but also allows us to not have latency as
you're switching between positions," Martinez said.
The result is a guitar that sounds like a traditional acoustic guitar
with a variety of different mic and amp setups all available via the
five-way switch. All that processing takes a lot of juice and the
soundboard uses a rechargeable lithium-ion battery (like the one found
in your smartphone) for power. It recharges via a USB port, which at
first seems odd, but then makes sense because we all have that cable and
most of us have a battery pack. A four-hour charge will give you about
20 hours of play time. But even if you forget to power it up, the
Acoustasonic Telecaster quickly found its way into my rotation.
I also ended up using the guitar to practice on the couch. I live in an
apartment building and plugging in an electric guitar is a one-way
ticket to getting the stink eye from my neighbors and a call from the
landlords. Typically I use an acoustic guitar, it's big and bulky and it
works, but I don't use one on stage. The Acoustasonic Telecaster, on
the other hand, was more comfortable to sit back, relax and practice
It's light, has the action you would expect from a Tele, sounds great
and probably couldn't have been made 15 years ago when Martinez first
started thinking about it. Manufacturing something like this requires a
lot of technology and know how. "It took us minimally two years just to
even get the cavity right. That speaks to the innovation that was needed
in order to get this to the next level," Martinez said.
If I remember right I had a lot of fun with that toy guitar when I was
four. Neither of my parents are musicians so there's a good chance it's
what sparked my love of being on stage and playing music that I adore.
Sure the Acoustasonic Telecaster resembles that childhood memory, but
it's an impressive feat of technology that'll impress any guitarist that
picks it up. It's the versatile guitar that you can play during the
entire gig and sound great doing it. It's two (maybe three) guitars in
one. More importantly, it's the guitar you'll want to play.
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