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View Full Version : Custom Shop Fender worth it?


acemcguire
03-29-2007, 01:09 PM
I kind of feel stupid asking this, but I'm just curious about people's experiences with Fender Custom Shop guitars.

For the past 10 years or so, I have played a number of American Standard and MIJ reissue strats and teles. I have always modified the guitars with various pickups and stuff. I've been happy, for the most part, but I'm wondering if there's something I'm missing.

Currently, I'm playing a MIJ '62 custom Tele. I modded it with Fralin pickups, graphite saddles, new wiring, new tuners. I know that a lot of people love MIJ fenders, and I do too, but sometimes I just wonder if I should take the plunge and go for the Custom Shop - probably the Custom Classic or Custom Pro telecaster.

Any feedback would be appreciated.

also, I know that these MIJ teles have gained value of about $200 in the used market over the past 7 years or so... before they went for like $400-450 and now they go for about $600.. I'm wondering if maybe they're going to explode in value like some of the 70s Fenders did (which still sort of blows my mind, since I remember those 70s Fenders hanging around music stores for less than $600...)

thanks!

justonwo
03-29-2007, 01:21 PM
I used to own a CIJ 62 and I currently own a Custom Classic. Hmmm . . . tough call. The overall quality of the CIJ, in my humble opinion, was pretty close to the CC after upgrades. Things I really like about the CC:

1) ash sounds better to me than alder (it's brighter)
2) the CC was lighter
3) I like the modern hardware and fretboard radius

The exquisite neck profile and satin neck finish on the CC, combined with the nice nitro finish and killer pickups, made it worth the extra money above the American Series guitars. The CIJs are closer in quality to CS than AmSe, in my opinion, but I still give my CC an edge over the CIJ.

Worth the extra money? If you have a lot of extra money, probably. If you don't have tons of gear money, no.

The rest of the Custom Shop guitars are priced way to high, in my opinion. There is virtually no quality difference between the Time Machine series and the CC, but the price is several hundred dollars more.

Kelsey
03-29-2007, 01:55 PM
The Custom Classic and Pro series are nice instruments, but so are the Time Machnies and vintage-style limited editions. The differences in construction (e.g., neck truss rod) and hardware seem to contribute to tonal differences, and some people prefer one style over the other. I tend to prefer vintage Strat bridges over modern bridges in terms of tone, but I actually prefer modern Tele bridges over vintage for feel and intonation -- I like both in terms of tone.

pjwill
03-29-2007, 02:01 PM
I come at this from a different view than justonwu...I agree if you prefer modern features. But, from the other 2 guitars you have listed in your sig. line, looks like you prefer vintage appointments...Ever thought about a Nocaster, '60 Custom, '63, or '67 Tele. IMHO they are worth every penny. Recent Time Machines have been very good, indeed.

justonwo
03-29-2007, 02:10 PM
pjwill, as far as Gibson is concerned, there's not much different between vintage and modern appointments. On a Telecaster, the neck radius is different and the bridge is different. Those are the features I was talking about.

I like the Time Machine guitars . . . very much. The Thinline Nocaster looks incredible. It's just that the poster asked the question, "Is it worth it?" And my answer for the Time Machine guitars is "no." That doesn't mean they aren't the best Fenders made. They probably are. I just think they cost too much for bolt on guitars with no frills.

Just my opinion though. Obviously "worth it" is highly subjective.

acemcguire
03-29-2007, 02:22 PM
Thanks for the feedback guys.

pjwill, you make a good point. I definitely prefer vintage style guitars. I often droll over the guitars that you mentioned.

Funny thing though is that when I worked in a music store in the mid-90s, no one would go near the MIJ guitars we had. I always thought they sounded bright and tinny, but I liked the look and the price so I bought them and modded them. It's funny for me to read about how these guitars are "in demand" now.

acemcguire
03-29-2007, 02:28 PM
justonwo, I know I was asking a loaded question with "is it worth it"! lol.

I guess maybe what I'm asking is what kinds of differences and I don't know... X-factors... are involved when stepping up from a cheaper MIJ to a Custom shop.

for example, before I got my first tube Marshall, I really didn't get the hype so much. I thought that you could do the same thing with a decent distortion box and a solid state amp. I didn't really understand how much more responsive the amp would be to my guitar controls and dynamics and how it retained its clarity even at the highest gain settings.

carbz
03-29-2007, 02:50 PM
Personally I feel a lot of it is marketing. I believe you can get a $500 guitar to play and sound as good as any $2500 to $3000 CS guitar. Some people just like to have expensive merchandise regardless if its actually better. The CS stuff does have higher quality grade hardware and pickups but that stuff could be changed relatively inexpensive. Wood is wood so what makes the custom shop body wood any different or better then a CIJ strat body? Nothing IMO. I think in a blind test a good 90% of people could easily be fooled to what they were actually playing.

justonwo
03-29-2007, 03:24 PM
Yeah, I know what you're getting at. If your CIJ 62 is your starting point, you're already out in the far edges of the high quality bell curve. Can you go from 98% to 99.99999% by going from CIJ to CS. Yes. Go play some and decide for yourself. If I had CS type cash to spend, I'd pump my money into a another amp (you already have a sweet one, but amps change tone more dramatically than anything). Just my opinion. I'll shut up now.

pjwill
03-29-2007, 04:33 PM
Wood is wood so what makes the custom shop body wood any different or better then a CIJ strat body?

Well...If your looking for an alder bodied Tele/Strat that comes in under 7 lbs. wood is important. Also, hand selected wood for tonal qualities makes a difference. If I am not mistaken, CIJ guitars often have/had basswood bodies. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of very nice MIJ/CIJ guitars out there...I have owned some of them. As far as mods, it can be a crap shoot. A guitar is more than a some of its parts.

Again, not trying to be a cork-sniffer here, but if you have the means, and enjoy a really great instrument, the Fender TM series can be worth the investment...over-priced at times, yes...but definitely not a waste of money, IMO.

dave s
03-29-2007, 04:49 PM
New CS owner here. I can honestly say that my CS strat is a better guitar than any off-the-shelf Fender Strat I've ever touched at a GC. Better than the signature strats as well. It's also the best Fender I've ever owned by a longshot.

The CS is on par with my Grosh Retro Classic. Too bad it cost nearly 50% MORE than the Grosh. Boy, do we pay for that headstock logo!

dave

Florida Joe
03-29-2007, 04:49 PM
I was wondering, if you were to compare a custom shop to either the vintage hot rod or the american vintage series, is there a big drop off in quality of guitar and quality of build. I've seen some custom shops run $$$$ and the other two series run in the mid to upper $1K. Is there that great of a difference.

HeeHaw
03-29-2007, 04:51 PM
I think the CS stuff is worth it for me. Mainly because I have been through a pile of strats and my CS is the best strat I've owned to date.

I also played a nocaster today that I'm just going to have to own.

Lance
03-29-2007, 05:04 PM
Well...If your looking for an alder bodied Tele/Strat that comes in under 7 lbs. wood is important. Also, hand selected wood for tonal qualities makes a difference. If I am not mistaken, CIJ guitars often have/had basswood bodies. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of very nice MIJ/CIJ guitars out there...I have owned some of them. As far as mods, it can be a crap shoot. A guitar is more than a some of its parts.

Again, not trying to be a cork-sniffer here, but if you have the means, and enjoy a really great instrument, the Fender TM series can be worth the investment...over-priced at times, yes...but definitely not a waste of money, IMO.

Another very slight consideration with woods is how old the wood itself is. Especially sappy woods that have a lot of moisture. Over a long period of time, like 30-40 years, that moisture dissipates, and leaves very tiny pockets of air, which makes the wood vibrate much more easily. This is a very small difference, and actually has greater tonal impact on speaker cabinets than guitars, but it is a factor worth considering. Especially when companies hang the word, "Vintage," on gear. I agree with carbz in that you can get almost any $500.00 axe to play/sound like most of the much higher priced guitars. I have never spent more than $500.00 on a guitar, and until I have a significant amount of excess income, that simply will not happen. I have played $4000.00 PRS MCCarty archtops, and really didn't like them all that much at all. Diff'rent Strokes....

pedalcr8z
03-29-2007, 08:21 PM
Personally I feel a lot of it is marketing. I believe you can get a $500 guitar to play and sound as good as any $2500 to $3000 CS guitar. Some people just like to have expensive merchandise regardless if its actually better. The CS stuff does have higher quality grade hardware and pickups but that stuff could be changed relatively inexpensive. Wood is wood so what makes the custom shop body wood any different or better then a CIJ strat body? Nothing IMO. I think in a blind test a good 90% of people could easily be fooled to what they were actually playing.


I respect your opinion........allow me to offer mine.
I have owned many Teles and Strats over my 40 years of playing. My Nocaster and my Custom Shop Strat are UNQUESTIONABLY better sounding and better playing guitars......to say "wood is wood" is to say metal is metal in a car comparison. I suppose some people could be blindfolded and sat in the back seat of a BMW or Acura and then sat in the back of a Buick and not "feel" the difference but the people that did not feel the difference in the quality of the ride are simply not that into cars. It's the same concept in your guitar comparison statements.......I suppose some people that are casual players very well may not hear or feel a difference
however there are many people as myself who do indeed hear and see and feel the obvious difference. I would kindly suggest glasses to anyone who says that they cannot see a difference in a stock versus a Custom Shop neck and fret finish and I do not intend sarcasm as it clearly is reality! Try spending 5 minutes with a Custom Shop model UNPLUGGED and tell me you don't FEEL the guitar resonating like a buzz saw in your gut!!!!

go7
03-29-2007, 08:25 PM
Have you considered something other than a Fender? For that kind of money CS you really have many many options. Good Luck!!

VaughnC
03-29-2007, 10:09 PM
Custom Shop Fender worth it?....only YOU can answer that question for yourself. IMO, each individual guitar needs to be judged on its own merits. I've played both dogs & gems from the Fender Custom Shop....but, when they get it right they are hard to beat.

Jim S
03-29-2007, 10:19 PM
To get tanential and provocative, is Fender CS Relic worth ~2x the price of a Nash or K-line?

Big White Tele
03-29-2007, 10:28 PM
Custom Shop Fender worth it?....only YOU can answer that question for yourself. IMO, each individual guitar needs to be judged on its own merits. I've played both dogs & gems from the Fender Custom Shop....but, when they get it right they are hard to beat.
:AOK

buddastrat
03-29-2007, 10:42 PM
The CS woods on a whole is much better than the U.S. production and way better than the import stuff. A two piece body is nice and that's what the CS uses. I've seen four and even five piece on American strats. Also the CS doesn't dye the rosewood to make it look dark like a lot of the production models. I work at a store and lots of those dark rosewood necks comes right off on your fingertips. On the CS stuff, what you see is what you'll get.

I had one of those new U.S. vintage hot rod strats and the nice dark rosewood was turning to a light red within a day of playing it! Also the CS uses thinner finishes at least on the nitro models.

When you play them back to back, the CS strats just seem to sound better..usually. There are dogs in every line of course.

This stuff may or may not be worth it to you. But if you find a "good" CS strat, it will blow away any of the production stuff.

GAT
03-29-2007, 11:11 PM
The CS strats are much more money than many boutiques, at list price, however there is a larger mark up so you can get them 30-40% off, which makes them in the same ballpark. I have two CS Masterbuilts and a Chapin Stratohoula. All three sound different and all are great guitars.

I still think you need to play a guitar to really see if it works for you. I once played a Mexican strat that knocked me out, I should have bought it. But, overall, the wood, parts and workmanship are at a much higher level on the CS, especially the Masterbuilds. IMO.

ssdeluxe
03-30-2007, 05:49 PM
To get tanential and provocative, is Fender CS Relic worth ~2x the price of a Nash or K-line?


I would strongly suggest having a look @ k-line and nash, I have owned nash (very nice), and now own k-line (last stop for ash body tele.!)

if you must consider resale, then consider cs (I actually think the custom classic are phenomenal gtrs)....but I found them @ bit "modern" , and found the nash's and k-line particularly more "girthy" and true to the species.

If you are only considering best possible gtr for money, save a few more bucks and seriously have a look @ the individual builders, when you talk to them you will be amazed !!!!

Jim S
03-30-2007, 05:53 PM
I would strongly suggest having a look @ k-line and nash, I have owned nash (very nice), and now own k-line (last stop for ash body tele.!)

if you must consider resale, then consider cs (I actually think the custom classic are phenomenal gtrs)....but I found them @ bit "modern" , and found the nash's and k-line particularly more "girthy" and true to the species.

If you are only considering best possible gtr for money, save a few more bucks and seriously have a look @ the individual builders, when you talk to them you will be amazed !!!!By individual you mean like Anderson, Sadowsky, Suhr, Senn, Tyler, Grosh, etc or...?

buddastrat
03-30-2007, 10:06 PM
I just played some limited edition relic strat that was insane. This CS strat was one of the best strats I've ever played. The tone was incredible. Notes were completely clear and singing with an overdrive-like quality to them. Thing is, I was playing it acoustically! It has this girthy sustain, that seems to want to go that reminded me of a finely tuned sports car's engine or something purring along. It just sang unlike anything I've heard before and I've had vintage and top of the line stuff. Just awesome.

I know the CS prices are getting insane for these one-off type strats, but I've also heard they are producing unbeliveable stuff lately.

archiestone
03-30-2007, 11:02 PM
I own a CS '63 Tele - a fine guitar, but one thing makes her irreplacable: the neck. Hand shaped by legendary Fender shaper Herb Gastelum, you just don't find a neck like that on production guitars, at least I haven't. Any time I think about selling her, I spend a few minutes playing and dismiss the idea.

PS - Find a used one, saves big $!