The quest for the perfect "Tele;" Boutique Adventures

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by Roach, Feb 21, 2006.


  1. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    Like many, I keep searching for the perfect sound...sounds is probably more accurate since there are several in my head. One of these is the perfect Tele sound. As a point of reference, I'm a Roy Buchanan fan but also appreciate some of the more modern country Tele players like Brad Paisley. In the last 5-6 years I've gone through a bunch of teles and I thought I'd offer up my impressions. I'm sure you may see it differently, so take my impressions with a grain of salt.

    Here's my tele quest in chronological order.

    - G&L ASAT: great value in a guitar, the MFD "soapbar"-like pickups had their own sound, but not that classic twang and snarl I wanted. Really well made and underpriced on the used market

    - Fender 52 RI: nice guitar! Radius is a bit challenging...feels like it's fighting me. Great sounding body and decent pickups. Wish I kept it. Excellent snarl...Roy would likely approve

    - G&L ASAT Classic Semi-Hollow: an amazing guitar! Ash bod an RW fingerboard. Sounded aweful with duncan hot tele pickups. When I dropped in Fralins, it sounded just awesome! Second best sounding tele in my quest and a great value. I've tried the solid Classics, but like the semi-hollow better. Traded it for a 79' LP Custom. What an Idiot I was. Really regret trading this one.

    - Fender USA production tele: good, but nothing special. Played well and sounded good. Really reliable.

    - Fender 62 RI: I could never get close to this one. It sounded a bit cold and lifeless to me.

    - Melancon Classic T: Really well built. Came with Rio Grande pickups and I tried Lollars in it as well. Solid and artistic workmanship. A good value used. In the top 1/3rd on boutique teles. Had the classic snarl but could sometimes sound a bit thin.

    - Grosh Retro-T: I'm a big Grosh fan. My Retro-S is the finest strat-like guitar I've ever played. The Grosh-T was really good; solid tone and workmanship, but fell short of the ASAT Classic semi-hollow in my opinion (might be my G&L was a one-in-a-million).

    - Anderson Hollow-T: Best neck ever!! Never felt this good to play. It was maple cap over basswood and I don't think that combo was for me. It had an overly strong fundemental tone and not much in the way of overtones/harmonics. Perhaps an Anderson solid with Ash body? We'll never know.

    - Suhr Classic-T: Top notch all the way around! Great body wood, nice pickups, and really great neck. Had that 50's tele sound, but with a bit more output. Output affects tone and harmonics and I think it was a touch too much for me. That said, it was my 2nd favorite.

    - Fender Custom Shop 51' NOS: Best by far! I can't play like Roy, but I sure can sound like him. Overdrives beautifully. Lightweight, incredible sustain, resonant body and a great FAT neck. The fat neck alone made the vintage radius and frets livable. I can't put it down. The knob setup is a bit weird at first...the 2nd knob blends in the neck with the bridge. There's no tone knob...just vol and blend. The pickup selector in the forward position is useless...it has a treble bleed off capacitor and sounds incredibly muted (not jazzy at all). It's all in the wood and the wood is amazing; but I'm also impressed with the custom shop pickups. I'm not changing a thing.

    - RECENT ADDITION: Since the first post in 2006, I picked up a K-Line Tele. It's a lightweight ash body, in relic'd black, with maple neck, 1" C-shape, 9.5" radius and 6105 frets. It's a Lollar special bridge and a Lollar vintage neck. The neck is a bit big...feels like the same size as the 51 NOS but with bigger shoulders. It's slightly heavier than the 51 NOS, but still under 7 lbs. It's really resonant and the Lollar pickups are a great match. Classic tele sound. Bridge may not scream, but it sure shouts loud when cranked. Best "two pickups combined" sound I've ever heard. Just a nicely crafted, lively guitar that looks good and plays great. It's now my second favorite.

    So my favorites in my non-random, unscientific sample are (in order of preference): 1- Fender CS NOS 51' 2- recently added the K-Line and it's number 2! 3- Suhr Classic-T 4- ASAT Classic Semi-hollow Please forgive me if I slighted one of your favorites or omitted one. The above is simply one man's opinion. The one thing I'm sure you'll agree with me on, is there has never been a greater selection of good guitars and has never been a better time to be a guitarist. Growing up, it was only Fender or Gibson (maybe Gretsch, Ric and Epi too). Now look where we are! Thanks for reading. I'd love to hear your experiences.
     
  2. Shark Sandwich

    Shark Sandwich Supporting Member

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    well I haven't tried nearly as many Teles as you have, but I also have found my 'keeper' Tele--a '51 Nocaster relic. Mine came with some special options--it has a white blonde finish insted of the typical butterscotch color. Also it had the modern wiring, 9.5 radius and medium jumbo frets. I LOVE the fat neck on this guitar and the pickups are fantastic--no need to change them. It's light too--about 7.25 pounds. All the classic Tele tones are there. It's the real deal.
     
  3. PlexiBreath

    PlexiBreath Member

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    The other day I had the pleasure of playing at Vinetto. While it's not a Tele, more of a blend with Tele and Strat but closer to Tele.

    I have a love/hate relationship with Telecasters, they have a classic tone but when not right can be too shrill, I don't like where the volume knob is, even when the plate is turned around, and I dont like the sharp edges of the body. But the Vinetto has enough Strat like features such as knobs in more usefull places, especially the volume knob, and the edges are more rolled for comfort, the neck was fantastic, nice and big with a very slight "V", but I would prefer more radius to the finger board. I played two, one with rosewood fingerboard and two Firebird like pickups (no screws through cover), the other was a one piece maple neck with a single mini humbucker (screws through cover), both had the tele bridge pickup. I liked both of these guitars and really liked the feature of one of the tone knobs was a three way rotary with good settings though I don't know what they were technicaly. The finish on both guitars was impecable and very hard and thin.

    Recently I had a chance to borrow a '50's Relic Tele for a few weeks, I was disappointed as it just sounded way too shrill, though I know it would be perfect from some players. I much prefer this Vinetto, unfortunately I'm not in the market for a Tele at this time but if I were this would be my first consideration.
     
  4. RevolutionMan

    RevolutionMan Member

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    Scott Heatley built me what I consider the best tele I've ever played. Nothing too fancy, just a great sounding and playing machine. It's a keeper, and quickly became my # 1 guitar.
     
  5. olectric

    olectric Supporting Member

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    Brad Paisley plays Crook Customs in addition to his '68 Paisley Fender.


    I'm an Anderson fan. Out of all the boutiques and small company guitars, my hands just fit the Andersons best, even on different neck carves. All the little things that I worry or have to fight with other instruments are gone with the TAGs. If the Andy felt the best to you as well, I'd suggest another run at an Ash-bodied T Classic (or an Ash on Alder Hollow T Classic) with the TV1-TV3 pups. Maple on Basswood definitely isn't a classic Tele tonewoods combo; it seems to be reserved for the superstrats like Anderson Drop Tops, Suhr Standards, or Grosh Bent Tops.

    Mark Goldenberg (Jackson Browne), Pete Anderson (Dwight Yoakam), Dierks Bentley and Rod Janzen, Tony King (Brooks and Dunn), Dann Huff, and Michael Britt and Ryan Ochsner (Lonestar) are all Anderson Hollow T players (as well as countless Nashville pickers). If you have any discs with them on 'em, check 'em out.
     
  6. AJ Love

    AJ Love Senior Member

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    I enjoyed reading your post, Roach. I've been on similar journeys myself...

    My favorite Tele tone is the old Fender Broadcaster sound, it is a thicker bluesier more midrange sound (think early ZZ Top) than the stereotypical Fender 60's twang thang, and Lentz seems able to nail that Broadcaster sound well. Alan Hamel's pickups get in that zone too, but that sound is more than just pickups... I've found a few Suhr Broadcaster pickups that can get there too
     
  7. billybob77036

    billybob77036 Member

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    Good post.

    If you're intrested in fiddleing around with trying to get Roy Buchanan type tone and want to mess with your pickups then look into sending this guy your A3 or A5 pickups. I have been folowing his search for several months, and think he really is on to something.

    Don Mare's Rewinding Service.
     
  8. Steeltoe

    Steeltoe Member

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    I love my '94 Hamer USA T-51. Southern ash body in butterscotch,
    beefy maple neck with a 14.5" radius, Wilkinson bridge (strings thru body), Sperzel tuners, medium jumbo frets, black bakelite pickguard, Duncan
    Broadcaster bridge p/u, and I removed the bland Duncan '54 neck p/u
    and did the Yo George mod, that is, installing a Rio Grande Tallboy.
    Fit, finish, sound and playability are top notch. It's a keeper and a
    sleeper. Good bite and spank in the bridge postion, a usefull full
    tone with both, and a great full and bluesy tone from the Tallboy.
    It took me awhile to get used to the big neck and flat radius, but
    now I love it.
     
  9. suhr_rodney

    suhr_rodney Supporting Member

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    Great post Roach. Thank you! Do you dare stop to think about what that post really cost you? Oh wait, don't go there... :) Just curious... which Fralins did you have in your ASAT Semi-hollow that worked so well for you?
     
  10. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    Suhr Rodney- I've considered the cost in passing. It could be worse...I only brought one guitar new and seldom sold at a significant lost. It certainly cost me a lot of time, but the journey itself was worth it.

    The Fralins were his standard vintage Teles. Got them from Callaham guitars who cryogenicly freezes them for better conductivity...or just to make them cooler perhaps.
     
  11. skeeterbuck

    skeeterbuck Member

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    Roach,

    Your tone quest sounds like mine, though I followed a somewhat different path.

    I highly recommend that you try and play a GVCG blackguard tele. I currently have a "60 tele by Jonathan with a slab rosewood board and the lite 5 lbs. 15 oz. ash body. Needless to say, my perfect tele quest has come to an end. If you get to play one I promise that it will be an eye opening experience.
     
  12. NeuroLogic

    NeuroLogic Supporting Member

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    The answer is actually very simple, buy a McInturff Terrycaster. This guitar is the most significant istrument since the originals. It has every Tele sound & a lot more, supberb construction and playability. You can also select from several different neck carves, two neck wood options and the mid control is the most advanced tone control since the invention. It is expensive but not relatively so considering that it is entirely custom built by Terry alone. All of these high end bolt on builders/custom shops are really nice but, so not compare. I have nothing to gain by this other than complimenting someone who brings a new level of insight to the craft. See www.McInturffguitars.com
     
  13. KRosser

    KRosser Member

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    A big +1 on the Fralin tele pickups and The G&L ASAT Classic, IMHO the best production line Tele available today. I have two new ones made by Saul Koll that are killin', see "Kolls..." under this heading further down...
     
  14. abergdahl

    abergdahl Member

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    MY perfect Tele is a Chapin Hawk, wonderful sounds plays like butter. Neck PU is a p90 and a strat coil and gives me strat to fat jazz. The bridge is a SD JD, twang to Robben Ford. Swamp ash with a thin maple top, maple neck with blackwood fretboard. Over all Chapin's are remarkable, and he can give THE Tele sound you have always wanted.

    Dirty fretboard, means it get used - ALOT :AOK
    [​IMG]
     
  15. shallbe

    shallbe Deputy Plankspanker Gold Supporting Member

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    I've been a Tele player for a long time. I enjoyed your post. My journey is a little different. After playing the same Tele (1983 '52 reissue with Harmonic Design pickups) for 18 years, I sold it to build my own. I wanted a Tele that could be like a Mike Stern guitar---mission accomplished--a great black Tele Deluxe with a humbuker in the neck and rocking bridge pickup. Then I started missing the traditional bite/twang/snarl of a Roy Buchanan-type sound.

    Yesterday, I received a beautiful vintage white Suhr ESQUIRE from Indoor Storm. Holy Crap! More twang/bite/snarl than you can imagine. Piano like bass, unbelievable clarity and ringing sustain. Perfectly voiced tone control to do the wah swells---great taper on the volume. The bridge pickup with no tone control is beyond nasty. I am VERY happy. This is a unique instrument that I plan on keeping until I can't play anymore.
     
  16. Reeek

    Reeek Member

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    That's exactly where I will probably go too. I MUST have a Tele style this year and I'm so pleased with my Suhr Classic, I just can't see going to another option. If I could have John fudge on something though, it would be to request a slimmed down headstock that more resembles the visual size of a real Fender Tele. I don't really care if the overall headstock style is retain (I tend to like the Suhr headstock on my Classic) but I get a big warm and fuzzy over the elongated, slimmed down Fender Tele headstock so Tele's with a more Strat sized headstock are not as appealing to me.

    Call it superficial or not, I feel what I feel.

    It all doesn't matter in the end however because I will buy the guitar mostly for the tone and playability anyway but . . .
     
  17. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    It sure is great getting so many good opinions about the beloved Tele. Who would have thought over 50 years ago that it would have been such an enduring sound. What a great discussion!

    I find that I "aged" into a tele. It certainly wasn't always my favorite but as I grew more seasoned and my ear a bit more decerning, the tele sound grew on me.
     
  18. The_Whale

    The_Whale Member

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    How much twang?
     
  19. OWENMUSTANG

    OWENMUSTANG Member

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    favorite t? easy, lentz broadcaster..
    perfect d neck, 6105's 9.5 rad,stupid light,killer finish, by far the best sounding neck pick up i have ever played, of any type or style. ask scott about these. i believe these are his babies..
     
  20. Roach

    Roach Supporting Member

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    My complements to Suhr on a fine guitar. And it sounds like good advice to try a different pickup...that may have made the difference. While I like my CS Nocaster best, for the tone and the hugh neck, I loved the Suhr T and I think many would prefer it. They were awfully close in quality, tone and vibe. I would never hesitate to own a Suhr. I still believe my Nocaster was a "one-in-a-hundred" guitar and I just got lucky. I feel confident that Suhr quality is very high and consistant and I wouldn't have to try many to find the perfect guitar.

    I don't suppose it's possible to order a Suhr T with a big 50's neck and the LP Tele bridge pickup you mentioned in the post?

    It's great to know Suhr is hanging out on thegearpage listening to what guitarists want and responding to questions and suggestions.
     

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