Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Review: 1989 FENDER JAPAN TELECASTER TL72-55 Guitar


Even casual readers of Rex and the Bass know that I love both Telecasters and Japanese guitars, so when those two planets align I am like a high school kid with a cheesesteak and a Coke Zero. Check out today’s beauty: a Japan-built Fender TL72-55 Telecaster. This is a fairly faithful recreation of a 1972 Telecaster, and gives the performance of the American-made reissues at a fraction of the cost. I picked this non-export model a while back in Japan, and I am trying to figure out how it fits into my collection.

As this is a model TL52-55, it is one of the midrange models. The “72” in the model designation means this is a 1972 Tele style, and the “55” in the name designates 55,000 Yen, which is around 600 bucks right now. And Japanese music shops don’t bargain much from list price. The serial number on the headstock has an E9 Made in Japan prefix, dating this to 1989 (or so) according to Fender’s website. That puts this one pretty squarely in the period of time when Fender Japan was at its best.

This guitar has a transparent finish over its very pretty 3-piece Sen ash body, and it is not terrible heavy, coming in at a touch over 8 ½ pounds. It still sports the original 3-ply black pickguard, and pretty much everything else is original too, except for the output jack (which was probably a wise upgrade).

The maple neck is a peach with a period-correct water transfer label and a C-profile. The original frets are normal-sized and were probably well finished when it was new – they are still level after almost 30 years, but they do have some visible wear. The neck pocket to body fit is very precise, showing the fine craftsmanship that went into building this instrument.

The hardware includes the aforementioned 3-ply pickguard and a traditional Tele bridge with 3 steel saddles. As I said earlier it is not terrible faithful to the original and this is because of two things: the truss rod screw is a hex type and they installed Gotoh sealed tuners at the factory. There are no problems with these things, of course as the hex is less likely to strip and Gotohs are very nice tuners that work smoothly and hold well. The electronics pickups appear to be original to the guitar, too.

This Tele is not a museum piece and it has had its share of use over the years, but it is all honest playwear and it has a nice vintage vibe to it. In particular there is wear to the fretboard and pitting of the metal parts, which really add to the character of the instrument. People pay extra for relicing, you know…

There is a pretty good reason it is showing some wear, and that is because it sounds great and it is a smooth playing guitar. The tone is everything you could ever want from a Telecaster, and it will kill any Stratocaster that crosses its path. Everyone needs a Telecaster!


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