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Fender’s American Pro range gets a major refresh for 2020
Fender’s American Professional series has been the company’s core range of American-made guitars and basses for a good few years now, and a staple line for many performing musicians. A range refresh is thus no small event, with Fender rightfully marking the American Pro II launch as their biggest of 2020. Let’s dive in to the details!
For the American Professional II range, Fender have made changes across the board, from cosmetic tweaks to ergonomic improvements and tonal enhancements. On the whole, the aesthetics of the range are still traditional, with newfangled materials and technology largely conspicuous by their absence. The changes are predominantly subtle, and, where more radical, precipitated by shifts in available materials. We’ll get on to this last point later, but let’s look at those key ergonomic and tonal changes first.
Rolled Fretboard edges, “Super-Natural” Neck Finish and sculpted neck heel
The American Pro II range encompasses the usual roster of classic Fender models. In the guitar department there is the Stratocaster (in SSS and HSS configurations), Telecaster (SS and HH Tele Deluxe) and Jazzmaster. Bassists are offered Precision Bass and Jazz Bass models, with 5-String and Fretless options also making an appearance. Most models are also available in left-handed orientation.
Rolled fretboard edges rank in the “subtle but significant” category, improving the playing experience markedly, while remaining almost imperceptible to the casual eye. The audience will similarly be unaware of the sculpted neck heel. The player, however, will appreciate the improved higher-register playing comfort it affords. Both upgrades are now standard across the AMPROII range.
Fender have put a lot of work into the feel of the neck itself on American Pro II models. So proud are they of their efforts, that the resulting finish has been given its own name: the “Super-Natural” Satin Urethane finish. Combined, these changes provide a clue to the larger aim for the revised range. Fender intends to re-cement American Pro as the go-to series of guitars and basses for professional, performing musicians.
Changes to bridges and tremolos
Jazzmaster, Stratocaster and Telecaster models all receive bridge and tremolo upgrades in the Fender American Professional II series. These are designed to bring out the best in the originals, while improving on performance and tone where possible. The venerable Strat 2-Point tremolo is one of the most successful systems out there. It thus receives, perhaps appropriately, the least substantial changes. The upgraded cold-rolled steel block increases sustain, clarity and high-end sparkle.
For the Telecaster, the classic 3-saddle ashtray bridge has been given new “bullet”-shaped saddles, cleaning up the look and improving playing comfort. Still offering either top-load or string-through stringing capability, this bridge is designed to be the most accomplished of its type yet. A wide level of adjustability is combined with compensated saddles for precise intonation. Classic tone is assured thanks to the use of brass for the saddles.
Jazzmaster players have, perhaps, the most to be excited about: for the American Pro II range, Fender have thoroughly overhauled the Jazzmaster’s vibrato, introducing the new Panorama Tremolo system. This has been designed to maintain the Jazzmaster trem’s beloved warble, while simultaneously enabling the kind of deep, Strat-style dives heretofore not facilitated by this model.
V-Mod II Pickups
Accompanying the American Pro II range of instruments comes a new range of V-Mod II pickups. These encompass single-coils and humbuckers for the guitars; J-Bass and P-Bass models for the basses. The aim with all pickup revisions has been to maintain – and improve where possible – the best attributes of well-loved tonal outputs, while upping articulation across the board.
Roasted Pine bodies introduced
A significant change, brought about by Fender’s shift away from Ash due to availability issues, is the introduction of Roasted Pine as a body tonewood. Fender have used pine on various limited edition models over the years, but this marks its introduction on production models. Lightweight and pleasantly figured, the pine is roasted to remove excess moisture and impurities. The wood is much more stable and resonant as a result of this process.
A Range of both new and classic finishes
Fender have introduced a selection of fresh new finish options across the American Professional II range. Most striking has to be “Dark Night” – a burst finish fading outwards from black to deep blue. Another strong introduction is Miami blue, evoking the carefree palm-lined boulevards of the sunshine state city. Classics such as Sienna Burst, Olympic White, 3-Colour Sunburst and Butterscotch Blonde are also present and correct for the traditionalists.
From this range of upgrades, it’s clear that Fender takes its professional players very seriously, aiming to stay ahead of the game amid increasing competition from a range of up-and-coming brands. The American Professional II range is a worthy continuation of the company’s long history of innovation and adaptation; it’s hard to see it proving anything less than a resounding success.
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