Who doesn’t love the simplicity and versatility of the Fender Telecaster? When Leo Fender introduced the Telecaster design in 1948 (originally called the Broadcaster), he pretty much nailed it. It’s a design that has remained basically unchanged for over 70 years. With two pickups, and a solid body, it was created to handle high-stage volume that hollow body guitars of previous years couldn’t because of the feedback issues.
The Fender Telecaster is the electric guitar that started it all, and it’s never been more popular than it is today. It’s been a go-to guitar for hundreds of the world’s most beloved musicians and continues to be used by artists of all genres. Telecaster pickups and construction provide a unique tone platform that is capable of covering nearly any sound you want to achieve.
About Fender Player Series Guitars
In 2018 Fender introduced the Player Series of guitars, which comprises all of the classic Fender models like the Telecaster, Stratocaster, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, and more. It replaced the long-standing Mexican standard series which have been immensely popular for the value and quality they provided.
The main focus of this Player Series is to provide the classic feel and look of vintage Fender designs, with some modern touches that make them perfect for today’s players. Some of these improvements include improved pickups for better overdriven tones, a satin-finish neck for easier movement up and down the fretboard, and 22 frets where the old Mexican standard line only had 21.
One of the best parts about the Player Series is that they come in a number of hardware configurations to suit every kind of player. For example, if you’re not much of a single-coil person but love Fender looks and feel, they typically offer humbucker options which was not a common option with the old Mexican standard series guitars.
If you’ve been considering grabbing a Telecaster for your collection, if you’re not sure that Teles are for you, or if you want to learn more about them, read on and see why the Fender Player Series Telecaster is such a well-regarded guitar.
In this comprehensive Fender Player Telecaster review, you’ll learn why this model is not only a great guitar but a great value for players of any level, from basic beginner to touring professional.
Fender Player Telecaster Review Highlights:
Between the simple and robust construction and unmistakable tonal profile, the Player Series Telecaster is built to handle any situation from a bedroom jam to a sold-out world tour.
Let’s check out a few things we liked, and a few things we didn’t.
What We Liked
- Tone: The improved pickups in the Player Series guitars are direct and have plenty of power, while maintaining that undeniable Telecaster brightness and clarity.
- Playability: The modern C-neck profile feels great in your hand, and the satin finish on the back makes playing a breeze.
- Stability: This Telecaster’s simple hardtail style design makes staying in tune a breeze, with almost no regular maintenance required.
What We Didn’t Like
- No case or gig bag is included
- Might experience some 60-cycle hum, common with single-coil guitars like this
- Setup out of the box may not be ideal, not unusual for import guitars
Fender Player Telecaster Review: Features & Specifications
- Fender Alnico V pickups; bright and punchy, hotter than traditional single-coil pickups
- Fast playing Modern C-shaped neck and 22 fret 9.5″ radius fingerboard
- 6 block-steel saddle string-through bridge for perfect intonation
- Satin Urethane finish on the back of the neck, gloss Urethane finish on the fingerboard
- Standard Fender sealed tuners, nickel and chrome hardware finish
Fender Player Telecaster Review: Our Insights
If you’ve been following along thus far, you can already see that the Player Series Telecaster is a solid guitar from top to bottom.
Now let’s take a deeper dive and really get into what makes this guitar such a great option.
With the Player Series line being a mid-tier range of instruments, the build quality is probably better than expected. As with many of their Mexican made instruments from the past, some of these can even rival the much pricier USA Fender models. They use great parts, and great woods on the Player Series models.
Our only concern with guitars coming from the factory in Mexico, is that they do have a somewhat inconsistent quality control team. Some of these instruments come out of the box with zero flaws and a perfect setup, while others may come with some fret buzz and need a good setup to reach its full potential.
If you’re comfortable doing your own setups and action adjustments this shouldn’t be an issue. If you aren’t much for guitar maintenance and repair, you may want to seek out a local luthier to give it a once-over. To be honest, we would recommend doing this with every new guitar to get it playing its best.
Side note: If you purchase your guitar from Sweetwater however, they include a complimentary 55-point inspection and setup on every guitar that leaves their warehouse.
As is standard for Fender instruments, the Player Series Telecaster has an alder body, and a maple neck. The only thing out of the ordinary is that they’ve used Pau Ferro for the fingerboard instead of the traditional rosewood.
Pau Ferro has been popular with many manufacturers in recent years because it is readily available, and has a near identical tonal profile as rosewood. Visually, the Pau Ferro may be a bit lighter in color, but just like rosewood it is a lightweight and dense tonewood and has a clear bell-like sound.
Hardware and Electronics
Nothing too fancy going on here in the hardware department, but that’s kind of the beauty of the Telecaster, right?
Fender went with their standard sealed 6 in-line tuners, which work well and feel sturdy. For the bridge, they went with a 6 Steel-block saddle bridge instead of the traditional 3-saddle brass setup that you’d associate with older Telecasters. We love this choice, as the steel saddles add a bit of mid-range bite to the tone without being super bright like the brass would be. Also, having the option to get every string perfectly intonated is a great feature.
We’ve covered it a few times already but Fender redesigned their standard single-coil pickups for the player series, and the Alnico-V telecaster pickup is one of our favorite sets. It’s got a bit more output than a vintage style Telecaster set would, and they’ve also dialed back on that high frequency “take your head off” sound that many Teles have.
You can find a wide variety of tones within the simple setup of the Player Series Telecaster.
In the neck pickup, it is voiced to be a bit bass-heavy with a midrange scoop and smooth highs. I find that this works really great for clean tones, or edge of breakup tones when you roll the volume knob back. Also, it’s a great setting if you’re trying to play with others but don’t want to stand out in the mix too much.
The middle position using both pickups is again a mid-scooped sound that works great for rhythm and percussive picking patterns for something like funk music. Another great thing about this middle position is that it eliminates the single-coil hum by using both pickups in unison. A less-known feature on the Player Series instruments is the shielded pickup cavities. This shielding is great at eliminating the hum that single-coils come with.
We all know the “Telecaster sound” comes from the bridge pickup. It’s sound is direct, twangy, and powerful, and it stands right out front in a mix. While fully capable of high-gain lead lines, it also has an incredible clarity for rhythm playing. When strumming a big chord, every string is pronounced and rings out beautifully.
Although Telecasters’ control scheme and pickup configuration is very simple, it can cover a lot of ground. Between the pickup selector, volume, and tone, there are basically infinite tonal options.
It seems somewhat obvious that playability was Fender’s main focus on these Player Series guitars.
The modern-C neck profile is one of the most comfortable neck shapes available today. It has enough thickness to feel nice and sturdy, but thin enough to grip easily and even do that John Mayer thumb over the top chord thing if you’ve got large enough hands.
The 9.5” radius neck is somewhere between the vintage size radius and modern size radius. It has just enough curve to feel right at home if you’ve been playing Fender or Gibson guitars for a while, but might feel a little strange if you’re someone who plays really flat necks like maybe an Ibanez or something along those lines. One thing to keep in mind is that it can be difficult to get a neck with this radius to have extremely low action like you’d see on a more shreddy guitar, you’ll likely wind up with some fret buzz here and there.
The tuning stability is pretty insane on these Telecasters. You’ll more than likely be able to pick this guitar out of the rack and not need to retune for days or weeks depending on how hard you play. It’s just one of those great benefits of the simple and effective Tele design.
For a guitar under $800, we would say this is a great value. It can hang with just about any USA-made Fender and hold up in tone and feel. It definitely has the “workhorse” guitar vibe, almost like you just couldn’t kill it even if you tried.
The Player Telecaster punches above its weight in playability and sound, and has rock solid construction and quality wood, electronics, and hardware. The one thing that is a bit surprising is that Fender neglected to include any sort of gig bag, so you will need to get your own in order to protect your instrument.
A comparable USA model would be the American Performer Telecaster which comes in at $1299. For a pretty significant chunk more cash, you’ll actually find that it has an almost identical set of hardware and features. The quality control from the US plant is more consistent, which is where some of the added cost comes in.
Fender Player Telecaster Review: Buying Experience
While Fender guitars have their own warranty policies, other details like shipping costs and return policy will vary depending on where you shop for gear.
If you’re shopping at your favorite local store, consult with them regarding their policies. If you’re shopping online, however, it’s tough to beat Sweetwater. The information below is based on their policies.
If you buy your guitar online from Sweetwater, it will ship for free if you’re in the continental United States. This covers ground shipping, though you can also get Next-Day shipping for a fee if you can’t wait to start playing
Another great thing about buying guitars from Sweetwater is that each instrument goes through a 55-point inspection before shipping. This ensures that the guitar will be ready to play out of the box. The box will also be an official Fender box, not a generic one.
As long as you register your guitar and return your warranty card within 30 days of purchasing, you can take advantage of Fender’s 2-year limited warranty program.
Fender’s limited warranty doesn’t cover normal “wear and tear”, or negligence, like leaving your guitar in an extremely humid environment. Fret wear, nut wear, saddle wear are a few examples of the “wear and tear” damages that are not covered.
Most major retailers have great Return Policies these days and Sweetwater is no exception. If you’re not satisfied with the Player Series Telecaster, or it’s just not the guitar for you, it can be returned within 30 days of purchasing.
If you’re trading the guitar in for something else, Sweetwater will apply the difference. If you’d like a full refund, though, they will deduct the cost of shipping from your refund.
What is the Fender Player Telecaster Good For?
The Fender Player Telecaster is really good for players of nearly any style. It has been extremely popular for players who like country, rock, indie, jazz, and even in rare cases, metal music.
I’ve always found them to be very versatile and the limit of switches and knobs leads to forcing players to get creative in finding the best tone for any given situation. The pickups in the Player Telecaster work great with drive pedals and amp gain. They can handle distortion and fuzz better than Tele models of years past, and clean up really well when the volume is rolled back.
Should You Buy the Fender Player Telecaster?
We can’t make that decision for you, but we can give you all the details that can help you make a choice. There are other great options in this price range, and even cheaper options that provide a similar experience, but we are definitely fans of the Player Telecaster.
Who Should Buy the Fender Player Telecaster?
At this price point, I would say the Player Telecaster is a great purchase for anyone who is looking to get into the Telecaster world without breaking the bank. It could be for someone who is looking to upgrade from their first guitar that’s maybe a Squier or Epiphone, or even a nice guitar for a road warrior who is rough on their instruments. It’s durable, and holds up tonally to guitars two and three times the price.
Who Should NOT Buy the Fender Player Telecaster?
If you do not like single-coil twangy sounds, you should probably not go for the Player Telecaster. While I consider these Alnico V player pickups versatile, they will not bring you near the power that a traditional set of high-output humbuckers will provide.
Fender Player Telecaster Alternatives
We’ve never had more guitar options available to us than we do today. Let’s take a quick look at some other great choices in Tele-style guitars.
Fender Player Telecaster vs. Fender American Performer Telecaster
The Fender American Performer Telecaster delivers vintage vibes with modern enhancements. Crisp tones, smooth playability, and iconic Tele twang.
The entry-level choice for a real-deal American Telecaster would be the American Performer Telecaster. The Performer series guitars are taking the place of the long-standing American Standard series guitars, and are an excellent choice.
It will run you about $500 more to step up into the USA lineup, but they will come with upgraded quality and playability.
At first glance, you’ll only see one notable difference visually. That is the old-school three brass saddle bridge setup. The brass has a more snappy and bright tone than the steel-block saddles that are on the Player Telecaster.
The other big change is under the hood: Fender put a set of their Yosemite single-coil pickups. These are vintage-inspired pickups, and are a bit lower output than the Player Series Alnico V set. The Performer Telecaster also has installed Fender’s new “greasebucket” tone circuit. This circuit adds a treble bleed to the volume and tone control, allowing you to roll them back without making the pickups sound too muddy.
Besides these two differences, the Player and Performer Telecasters are nearly identical. They both use the same tonewoods, same fretboard radius and scale length.
The Performer is really for that player that wants to get into the USA tier of guitars, while the Player Series is a better value, but is an imported guitar. Also, the Performer will come with a Fender padded gig bag.
Fender Player Telecaster vs. Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
Squier’s Classic Vibe series has been a huge hit in recent years. They are the highest tier of Squier’s lineup and provide a killer value for players who want a quality guitar for not a lot of money.
As the name implies, the Squier Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster is directly inspired by the first line of mass produced Telecasters.
Some of the best vintage features on this guitar are:
- Pine body, just as the originals would have been
- 3-saddle bridge, steel saddles
- 50’s inspired Alnico single-coil pickups
The pine body is more lightweight and more resonant than the Alder of the Player Series. Pine was used for many years but was somewhat expensive, and it’s quite soft which was not great for touring players. While many of us love a good relic on our guitars today, the players were not so fond of it back then.
These vintage inspired Alnico pickups sound great, but are quite low output compared to the Player Series pickups. Because of this, they may struggle to keep up when using modern gain tones.
Playability is one thing that was updated on the Classic Vibe Telecaster. The neck profile is a full “C” shape, which is a bit thicker than the “modern-C” but it is fitted with a 9.5” radius to feel more modern. It also does not have the satin finish on the back of the neck, it is a full gloss.
At under $500, the Classic Vibe is an extreme value. If the Fender name on the headstock isn’t so important to you, it may be a great choice for you. Overall, it will have more of a vintage sound and feel so you’ll have to decide if that’s something you prefer or not.
Fender Player Telecaster vs. Squier Affinity Telecaster
Lastly, let’s look into the most affordable guitar in our list, the Squier Affinity Telecaster.
Coming in at $229, it is easily the most wallet-friendly Telecaster in the range, but not without making some quality sacrifices.
We start with an alder body, maple neck, and maple fretboard. We have a “C” neck profile, and a 9.5” radius so it will feel a little chunkier than the Player Series.
The pickups are Squiers standard vintage-style Tele single-coil, and frankly they will be less dynamic and less smooth than the Alnico-V in the Player Telecaster, but they are still capable of achieving some nice sounds.
Overall, this is the most affordable option, and would make a great beginner guitar for someone just getting started, but will not have the same quality as the Player Series Telecaster.
The Bottom Line
The Player Series Telecaster is a really solid workhorse guitar that plays and feels great. Coming in at just under $800 it is a versatile and durable instrument suitable for any environment, and nearly any style of music.
Some of the best features of the Player Telecaster are:
- Improved Alnico-V Telecaster pickups
- Fast playing “Modern-C” neck profile with satin back finish
- Durable construction and great tuning stability
You can’t go wrong with the Fender Player Telecaster if you’re looking for a great all-around electric guitar at a decent price. If you want to try something made in the USA, the American Performer might be worth checking out, while the Squier Classic Vibe is a solid budget option. We hope you find the right Tele for you whichever way you go!