Here’s my Classic Vibe story:
Lately I’ve been big-time into Billy Gibbons and Joe Walsh, and since I can’t stop spending money on gear, this meant I wanted a Telecaster. I didn’t care whether it was a “jen-u-wine” Fender Tele, and in fact for a while I intended to put together a partscaster/mutt Tele with an ash body and a maple fingerboard. I figured if I could get the parts for cheap, I could put the whole thing together for under $300. Little did I know then that three bills was the magic number….
After much eBay surfing, I realized that people were paying too much ($100+) for bodies they hadn’t handled or heard. And if it was an official Fender body, the prices got completely unrealistic. If I went that route, I’d be looking at around $300 for just the neck and body (Warmoth et al would be more expensive than that).
Bridge, pickups, electronics and tuners would put the project into the $400+ range, which was too much for an experiment. I figured I could find a decent used or new Tele locally in that price range, so the partscaster idea was out.
I had already joined the awesome Telecaster.com forum, aka tdpri.com, and was asking a few questions there when I ran across a thread that mentioned “CV” Teles. They were supposed to be cheap and sound good. Well, what were they? I searched the forum and found out that:
- It’s the Squier (by Fender) Classic Vibe Telecaster.
- Made in China.
- Pine body, maple fretboard.
- Sounds great and it didn’t seem like anyone got a bad one sound-wise – meaning that most were phone-ordered because these Teles apparently weren’t available at most stores.
I read the CV threads on the forum, and everything about the guitar sounded good. But a pine body? Even though the first “nocasters” Leo Fender built were pine, I’d never heard pine in person. And to buy a guitar without playing it first isn’t exactly wise.
Still, none of the CV owners had any big complaints (quite the contrary), Musician’s Friend has a good return policy, the YouTube CV vids were reassuring, CV Teles are “only” $300 (shipped!) and Fender is increasing prices across the board this year (might make sense in Bizarro World, not where I live).
Then there was the wife to consider. She rightfully would be POd if yet another box showed up at the house, and I already had new Duncan pickups coming for my Les Paul….
Well, I’m sure you can read the tea leaves here. I ordered one from Musician’s Friend.
BUT before I did that I called around to just about every music store in northern NJ/eastern PA, and even happened by the 48th Street stores in NYC, and no one had a Classic Vibe Tele. But they could all order one (of course). Well, I could do that myself and did, thus avoiding sales tax.
I told the 20s-sounding guy who took my order at Musicians Friend that if they sent me a boat anchor I would return it. He said they couldn’t guarantee the weight. I said I knew that, but they surely had a scale in the shipping department and if the guitar was 9 pounds or more when I got it, it was going back.
Four days later the CV Tele arrived, and thankfully the wife and kids weren’t around. I didn’t weigh the guitar, but it wasn’t unduly heavy. It’s probably in the 7-and-change range, so that was good.
I will fess up right now that I am by no means a Tele expert. But I know what I wanted a Tele to sound like: twangy (the classic Tele twang), with some balls – meaning it would growl through a Marshall, not cut your head off. A decent neck pickup would be a bonus, but I wasn’t concerned with it.
I was amazed to find that the CV Tele gets REALLY close to the sound I wanted.
When I took it out of the box, it looked good and the neck felt good, which for me means NOT chunky. Thin-ish, like a modern Strat. The intonation was a little off, but nothing to worry about right away. No strings buzzing, nothing bad. I tuned it up and found the tuners to be surprisingly solid, not at all like the ones on Epiphones.
Quick detour: I recently played a Fender Highway One Tele (I could swear it was, but maybe not because I believe it was semi-hollow), a G&L ASAT Classic Tribute (the cheaper ASAT) and a Squier Affinity Tele. All were played through a semi-decent Tube amp. I didn’t love any of them.
The Fender (about a grand) sounded the best, but it didn’t sound how I wanted it to sound (and very expensive). The G&L (about $500) felt great (neck) but the alder body didn’t do the twang enough. The Squier (about $200) played okay but sounded horrible – like an icepick.
At $299 (no case or gig bag), the CV is cheap and sounds better than any of the ones mentioned above – those particular guitars to my ears. The CV neck is comfortable for my medium-sized hands (I don’t like baseball-bat necks) and is consistent from the nut all the way up. The frets are good and dressed fine. Again, the tuners are rock-solid and feel rock-solid, a big surprise. And the pickups are good!
The bridge pickup has twang and balls – maybe a hair too much balls and too little twang, so I am considering replacing it with a DiMarzio Twang King (see the vid at bottom for why). But it’s not a change that needs to be made immediately.
I’d read about the neck pickup being weak or sounding bad, but to me it sounds pretty good. And with both pickups on it’s all classic Fender “glassy” sound. Nice. Interesting too that Alnico III magnets are used in both pickups.
The bad included the tone knob (not the pot, the knob) being a little lose, the selector switch crackling a little (obviously cheap) and the worst thing by far, the jack, which feels like it’s made out of tin foil and is loose. Definitely needs an upgrade.
The bottom line here is if you want a Tele or “need” one (ha ha) and are not a brand snob or anti-Squier snob, get this one. You won’t regret it. My only wish is that I had a room full of these to play before buying because if a random one sounds this good, you know that one out of 10 must sound unbelievable.
Below are the CV Tele specs, and here’s where to order one from Musician’s Friend. Note that MF still has them for $299, but because of the aforementioned Fender price increases, some websites are now selling CV Teles for $349.
- Body: Pine
- Finish: Polyester
- Neck: 1-Piece Maple, Modern “C” Shape
- Fingerboard: Maple, 9.5″ (241 mm)
- Frets: 21, Medium Jumbo
- Scale Length: 25.5″ (648 mm)
- Nut Width: 1.65″ (42 mm)
- Hardware: Chrome
- Tuning Keys: Vintage style tuning machines
- Bridge: Vintage style Tele bridge plate w/brass barrel saddles
- Pickguard: 1-ply black
- Neck pickup: Custom Telecaster pickup (AlNiCo III)
- Bridge pickup: Custom Telecaster pickup (AlNiCo III)