Today on Live Musician Central I’m going to talk about an interesting new phenomenon in the electric guitar industry. It’s the new fad of paying big bucks for beat-to-crap looking instruments. This isn’t really a new thing as other companies have built replicas of famous guitars that include all the dings, scratches and missing pieces of the guitar they’re replicating. A really famous one is the Eddie Van Halen Frankenstein Replica Guitar that is just beat to hell right out of the box. I hear it’s exactly like Eddie’s and it can be yours for a mere $25,000. That’s right, twenty-five thousand dollars! Is that really worth it? I guess if you want to be “exactly like Eddie” then you’d shell out that kind of money. But today we’re talking about full factory production runs of “aged” brand new guitars.
Fender has just released their much publicized line of Fender Road Worn electric guitars. These guitars are supposed to look and play like a vintage 40 to 50 year old instrument. I’m sure that this phenomenon has come about because of the insane prices that people are paying for actual forty to fifty year old guitars. I’m sure Fender is thinking “Why not cash in?”. Well I’m here to disagree with this fad of fake vintage instruments. Let me tell you why.
First of all, let me say that I believe the best instrument is a brand new instrument that has never been handled by anyone but the final player. I personally feel like the new guitar technology is the best technology. Let’s take a look at my favorite guitar, the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster as an example. The locking tuners are the easiest to string of all the tuners and hold their tuning the best. The Samarium Cobalt pickups are noiseless and produce single coil pickup tones without the 60Hz hum. The two-point synchronized tremolo is very low friction and holds it’s tuning extremely well. The bridge pieces are solid blocks of metal that transfer string vibration better than the bent steel pieces used on the Road Worn series. All of this technology is the latest and greatest and it performs the best for gigging.
Now let’s take a look at the Road Worn series. As I said before they’re supposed to look like 40-50 year old instruments. I’d like to add that they look like 40-50 year old, poorly cared for instruments. I look at my guitars that are a mere 25 years old and they have some nicks and scratches but nowhere near the amount of road rash, scratches and dings the Road Worn series is adorned with. The true vintage instruments that are in this poor of shape lose a lot of their market value compared to “like new” vintage instruments. I’ve heard people make the argument “But a well played instrument plays better than a new one”. I’d like to know how rash and dings all over the beautiful nitrocellulose finish make these guitars play better? I can tell you from experience that what makes a guitar play better is freshly crowned frets and a perfectly intonated bridge. I’m not buying into this whole “if it’s beat up it plays better” rubbish.
There are a few nice features on the Road Worn guitars. They have a nitrocellulose finish which is excellent for letting the wood breathe and nitrocellulose looks fabulous when brand new. On the Road Worn guitars, at least you’ll get the breatheability advantage for the wood but the finish is basically ruined with all the aging. Another nice feature is the soft “V” shape neck which does feel very comfy in your hands and having some of the finish rubbed off will make the neck feel a bit smoother. The single coils are the Tex-Mex Stratocaster pickups so you’ll have very good output along with the hum. Sadly, the guitars only come with a gig bag and not a case. Then again, why do you need to waste time putting a beater guitar into a case?
My recommendation if you can’t afford the Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster is to buy a Fender American Standard Stratocaster instead of a Road Worn Stratocaster. You’ll pay the same price for an American Standard Stratocaster as you will a Road Worn Stratocaster and you’ll get a case, better bridge and staggered tuners in the bargain. Plus, you’ll know where every single ding, scratch and dent came from 15 years after you buy it.
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