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Review: I just can’t get over how good Fender’s Acoustasonic Stratocaster sounds

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Gadgets for humans

A Stratocaster unlike any other

My “wow” moment came when I picked up the Acoustasonic Stratocaster for the third time and finally plugged it into an amp. The first couple of times I noodled around with it I’d just played it acoustic. It sounds fantastic and it’s the most comfortable acoustic I’ve ever played. But a hollow-body Stratocaster can only make so much sense until you plug it in.

I’m a beginning player. I started learning last year and I’ll be the first to admit that this particular axe is a bit too much guitar for me. I wasn’t sure what to do with the different voices or, if I’m being honest, exactly who this guitar was supposed to be for. But when I finally plugged it in to an amp and started strumming something akin to the main riff from Bush’s “Glycerine,” it all made sense.

If you’ll excuse my poor amateur technique, the following video demonstrates the Acoustasonic Stratocaster connected to a small amp with the “clean” channel selected. First, I play it with the volume knob down to demonstrate the acoustic tone. Then, with the selector in an acoustic voice position, I play it with the volume up so you can hear it through the amp. Finally, I select the position one electric setting and play it through the amp again.

The overdriven tone of position one is out of this world. There’s more crunch there than I expected from a Stratocaster voice, acoustic or otherwise. I’ve been noodling with it for a few weeks and I’m still blown away every time I hear it.

If you want to see what it looks like when a pro plays this guitar, check out this video from Musician’s Friend:

The Acoustsonic Stratocaster is, in execution, several different electric and acoustic guitars. As a pure Stratocaster, it’s one of the best sounding and most playable electric guitars I’ve had the joy of jamming on. As an acoustic, it’s mindbogglingly good for a guitar that looks nearly the same size as a Strat.

 

The Acoustasonic Strat has ten voices. Instead of a regular tone knob, it has an analog A/B knob to dial between different tones for each of the five toggle settings. Each voice is distinct, which makes this guitar very conducive to different play styles.

Fender invented a new patented “Stringed Instrument Resonance System” to create the unique sounds from its small form factor (when compared to traditional acoustics). And the Fender and Fishman-designed Acoustic Engine manages to create 10 distinct voices that have to be heard to be believed. 

In the studio, this thing’s incredibly versatile. I like having the option of playing acoustic with mics or line in and switching to electric on the fly. Plus, once you’ve laid down a track in one voice, you can switch to another for a backing track without worrying about minor tuning differences screwing with your EQ.

For pro or gigging guitar players, this probably won’t replace your favorite Stratocaster or Dreadnought. It makes minor concessions that put it in an all-together different category.

On the electric side, you’ll have to get used to a wound G string. It didn’t bother me much, but I’m still working out chord progressions so I’m not playing much of the ‘weedly-deedly’ stuff that shredders dig on.

On the acoustic side, well, it’s shaped like a Stratocaster. That might be weird for some strummers (though I personally cannot overstate how amazing it is to play an acoustic with a belly-cut, plus it weighs less than most six-strings). Also, the acoustic voices are a bit warm. Again, this is a good thing in my book but pros who want a stringent acoustic sound might be put off a bit.

While it might seem like Fender’s tried to make a one-size-fits-all guitar with the Acoustasonic Strat, I’d argue the opposite is true. This is a guitar that requires a reexamination of what your goals are as a musician and a guitar player.

As an electric, it draws a lot of attention to the flaws in your technique. Scroll back up to that video and you’ll see what I mean: when I play that part on my regular Strat, it sounds better. But my crappy technique is on full display when you can hear the acoustic resonance. This is a good thing though. This guitar forces me play better.

On the other side of the equation it’s also a pretty nifty acoustic for a beach bum. When you break this out around the bonfire it’s going to catch everybody’s attention. It looks like it needs an amp but you can really strum away without one. If there’s one thing Fender did not sacrifice, it’s amazing unplugged tone. However the concession here is that it’s not quite as loud or resonant as most dedicated acoustics I’ve played.

Specifications (screenshots via Fender.com):

I think this guitar is an all-time great in the looks department. The Stratocaster is arguably the most recognizable guitar shape in the world and its visage is employed in the Acoustasonic to legendary effect. The combination of wood types in the body, neck, and hardware is elegant and the whole thing feels precision engineered. I adore that Fender chose to print the top of the guitar body rather than paint it – that gives it a modern, sexy look and feel.

I also get tickled at the idea that this guitar has a USB charging port. To support the incredible sound profile, it uses active pickups and that means you’ll have to charge it before you use it the first time. Fender says it lasts 20 hours and that sounds about right to me.

Per the usual, I do have a couple small quibbles with this product. First, the neck is a tad wider than I’m used to. Fender’s used the “modern C” here and, as someone used to playing an older Strat and little else, I found myself fatiguing again for the first time in awhile when playing chords at the low end of the neck. If you like the newer modern C you can disregard this gripe.

The other bother I found was in how loud and clicky the selector switch is. On a regular Strat the sound of it clicking through selections is muffled but here it’s amplified by the hollow body and that makes it sound like someone is playing a washboard every time you move the selector more than one position.

As a tech person, I find this guitar fascinating. To the best of my knowledge there’s nothing else out there like it. The ability to flow back and forth between acoustic and electric at the flip of a switch or twist of a knob adds another layer to my playing style that I’m just starting to explore. It’s an engineering marvel that pays homage to its legendary roots while simultaneously employing modern technology to become a Stratocaster like no other.

As a beginning guitar player, I’m keen on the idea of learning to play on this six-string. The acoustic tone works almost like a mini-monitor when I’m quietly playing scales and practicing riffs. It’s easier to tell when I’m screwing up. But it’s also a kick-ass rocker I can play metal on too.

The bottom line: The Acoustasonic Stratocaster is a glorious monster. If you’re a beginner, it’ll challenge you to get better. If you’re a pro, it’ll inspire you to do fun weird things and write guitar parts that you’ve never considered before. I like to imagine Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine retreating to a dark studio for two weeks with this thing to make a concept album.

I can’t think of a guitar made recently that I’d rather have, and that’s saying a lot.

You can pick yours up right here on Fender’s website in five original colors (sunburst, red, blue, black, and natural) for $1,999 or in a wicked American flag print for $2,099.

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Published August 7, 2020 — 19:35 UTC

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