Saturday, January 26, 2013

Fender TC72-70 Telecaster Custom Guitar Review

Como estas?

As far as I am concerned, Leo Fender figured out the perfect electric guitar 60 years ago, and since then everybody and their brother has been trying to make it better. Every tele I have ever owned played and sounded better than a strat, and I have always preferred them to Gibson products. I cannot remember a time over the past 20 years when I did not have at least one on hand, and right now I happen to have three of them (just for a day or two…). The one we are looking at today is a 1999 Japanese-built TC72-70, which is a nice re-issue of a 1972 Fender Telecaster Custom, but certainly not the most faithful reproduction.

The Telecaster Custom was originally built between 1972 and 1981, and came about as a reaction to the popularity of Gibson Les Pauls in rock and roll music. The two single-coil pickups in the original-style Telecasters do not provide the same earth-shattering kaboom that the humbucker-equipped Gibson do when overdriven through a Marshall stack. Many players had been modifying their Teles with a humbucker at the neck (i.e. Keith Richards), so it was not much of a stretch for Fender to do the same thing. By the way, it is important not to confuse the Telecaster Custom with the Custom Telecaster, which was a normal Tele with a bound body.

The 1972 Telecaster Custom used Fender’s first humbucking pickup which was designed by Seth Lover, who formerly designed pickups for Gibson. These pickups were also used in the Thinline and Deluxe model Telecasters, and are generally regarded as having greater dynamics than Lover’s Gibson pickups. The pickups were wired through two volume and two tone knobs and a three-way switch. These guitars are usually a couple of pounds heavier than the original Telecasters, as Fender chose denser woods to improve sustain and to get a heavier tone.

The Telecaster Custom was not popular during its original issue. Fender quality sucked during that period, these were heavy guitars, and they had the much-maligned three-bolt neck. Plus they were more expensive than regular Telecasters. So, they discontinued production in 1981.

These days the Telecaster Custom is more popular than ever thanks to the re-issues that are produced by Fender Japan and by Fender’s Ensenada Mexico plant. There are different humbuckers in these guitars, as the Japanese ones have ceramic pickups while the Mexican ones use Alnicos. By the way, the original models were equipped with CuNiFe (copper, nickel and iron) polepieces, so they sound a bit brighter than any of the reissues. You will find that almost all of the Telecaster Custom re-issues in the US are Mexican-made, as Fender Japan did not export these to the US.

What we are looking at today is my Japanese-made 1999 Fender Telecaster Custom that I imported last year. It is finished in black over an ash body, and I believe these were only made in black. I have heard rumors of sunburst Customs, but have not seen them in catalogs or in the real world, so I am putting them in the same category as unicorns for the time being. You may notice from the pictures that the body has a bit deeper upper cutaway than the original ones did. Look at the shape of that 3-ply BWB pickguard! It is one of my favorite designs, and its uniqueness sets this guitar apart from the masses for me.

The neck is a peach, and fortunately they eschewed the modern 9 ½- inch radius and stayed true to history with a comfy oval profile and 7 ¼-inch radius. They included the bold 1970’s type Telecaster logo on the headstock, and of course these only come with 21 frets and a maple fretboard with black plastic dot markers.

The chrome hardware is mostly true to original, with a 3-saddle bridge and the 1972 to 1977 style witch hat knobs. If you flip the guitar over and look at the back you will find a three-bolt neckplate, and will be horrified to see the sealed-back Gotoh tuners. These are fabulous tuners, but are too modern and look totally wrong on this guitar.

I discussed the electronics specs earlier, so I will not go through that again, and will just say that this guitar has it all. Fourteen years later it still is in terrific condition, and I must say that the Japanese craftsmen did a wonderful job of building this instrument. The frets are perfect, the finish is even and the neck fits the pocket like a glove. I have it set up with 10s, and with the vintage radius on the fretboard I find it pretty easy to get around. This is a much better instrument than any of the original series Telecaster Customs that I have played.

And it is much lighter than the originals, coming in at around 8 pounds, 7 ounces. This has not hurt sustain, and with the less bright sound of the re-issue humbucker this thing really can sound like a Les Paul. It does not upset me that it weighs three pounds less than my Les Paul, either.

I have played a few Mexican re-issues too, and think they are also good guitars, and are better than the originals as well. But, I think the Japanese quality is still a notch above the rest. As I said earlier, these were never imported to the US, so if you want one like this you will have to find one from a Japanese seller on eBay, or buy one of mine...

Mahalo!

2 comments:

  1. Hey Rex they made sunburst ones they are on eBay a lot I saw one from 87 so maybe it was early color choice not sure .they are listed on reverb from 500_650 used price I'm looking for one .also I'm looking for the latest reissue of the japan tl rose rosewood telecaster its not as good as the tl 69 japan one but I feel those are just over priced no matter what vintage guitar says .the tlnrose is basswood with rosewood cap instead of rosewood with maple in the middle .

    ReplyDelete
  2. Hey Rex they made sunburst ones they are on eBay a lot I saw one from 87 so maybe it was early color choice not sure .they are listed on reverb from 500_650 used price I'm looking for one .also I'm looking for the latest reissue of the japan tl rose rosewood telecaster its not as good as the tl 69 japan one but I feel those are just over priced no matter what vintage guitar says .the tlnrose is basswood with rosewood cap instead of rosewood with maple in the middle .

    ReplyDelete