Fender’s ‘Acoustasonic’ Is a True Acoustic-Electric Hybrid Guitar

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It’s rare today to find a guitar with totally unique functionality and design, especially to find one that isn’t cheesy or a novelty. Fender is really offering something special with their new Acoustasonic, a hybrid electric/acoustic guitar several years in the making. This guitar is truly an acoustic and an electric, not just an acoustic with a preamp and pickup, nor just an electric with a Piezo pickup for an added “acoustic” tone. It’s a concept all its own.

Taking a broad-stroke overview, the new Acoustasonic sports the classic Telecaster body, has a magnetic electric pickup, a Piezo, and a body sensing pickup, a soundhole, a wooden bridge, two knobs, and a bolt-on neck. There’s a DSP chip inside for a diversity of tones, but the guitar sounds anything but digital or like a “modeling” guitar. With acoustic, electric, digital, and analog technology, it’s a hard instrument to nail down, but that’s what makes it so interesting.

Form Following Function

Acoustic-electric guitars have been around since the late 60s. With onboard preamps and pickups, bands could play arenas with acoustic guitars and not need to worry about putting a mic directly on the instrument, which is a logistical nightmare and can result in feedback issues. But an acoustic-electric guitar is still just an acoustic guitar that can be amplified. It won’t give you electric tones. Add distortion to your signal and you’ll get piercing feedback and out of control sustain, all thanks to the hollow acoustic construction these hybrids share.

In the 90s, some electric guitar manufacturers came at the problem from the other side and added Piezos to their electrics to try and offer an approximation of an acoustic sound. While great in theory, solid body electrics (and semi-hollow body, hollow electrics, and Arch-tops for that matter) have very different constructions than acoustic guitars and the result means thin and artificial sound, compared to the genuine, acoustic item.

Fender started exploring a solution to this problem with its first Acoustasonic, released in 2010, in the shape of a Telecaster. It was a good guitar but still came in heavily on the "electric" side of the scale. The new Acoustasonic, meanwhile, has a new design that helps it carve out a better space in the middle.

The first formidable difference is a specially designed soundhole which Fender refers to as their Stringed Instrument Resonance System (SIRS), which gives the Acoustasonic the resonance of a fatter acoustic guitar with the thinner body of a Telecaster. When you strum the Acoustasonic unplugged, you’ll hear the genuine acoustic guitar tone. You’ll feel the air and sound vibrations coming out of the soundhole.

On the electric end, the noiseless, modified Strat pickup doesn’t succumb to pesky 60 Cycle Hum like your typical single coil pickup, while it still produces the twang and chime inherent to single coils. I tested out the guitar at Fender’s media unveiling and was astonished to find I could play Slayer riffs with the gain cranked all the way up on an “acoustic” guitar.

The Acoustasonic is built from tonewoods found on acoustics rather than the woods Fender uses for its electrics and has a thin spruce top and a mahogany back and neck giving it more complex harmonic overtones and a dark, arm sound that helps round out the overall tones. The ebony fingerboard has more brightness and snap than the rosewood used on most Fender electrics. Instead of having a set-neck construction which is typical of acoustic guitars, Fender used a bolt-on neck which produces the snappy, twangy tones characteristic of Fender electrics.

The new Acoustasonic isn’t cheap, going for $2,000. But considering the build quality and vast array of tonal options on tap, it’s a very fair price. For a high grade acoustic and electric in one enclosure, it falls in line with Fender’s overarching philosophy which Mooney shared with me—“providing the best product for working musicians that Leo would design with form following function”.

via Popular Mechanics http://bit.ly/2sB6I4m