Although the ’72 Thinline reissue has been an integral part of the Fender and Squier lineups for years, the pickups on these guitars were merely visual approximations of the Wide Range pickups that made the originals so distinct. But thanks to the introduction of Fender’s new CuNiFe magnet-based Wide Range pickups, the new American Vintage II ’72 Telecaster Thinline now exists in the most vintage form from the original, down to the classic Wide Range units. Lover, 1 megohm potentiometers and a 7.25″ fingerboard radius. It’s a lively, exciting and rich instrument that spans Fender and Gibson textures while inhabiting a sonic world of its own.
Fender ’72 American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline Demo | First look
Mashups, magnets and reels
Avoiding patent infringement is a powerful engine for invention. When Seth Lover came to Fender from Gibson in the late ’60s, he inherited a directive to create a Gibson humbucker. To do this, he had to avoid copying the PAF he had designed for Gibson. But Lover also had a specific, self-imposed goal: to build a meatier-sounding pickup that retains the fast transient response of Fender single coils. Lover’s task was like threading a needle. And for a long time, the popular consensus was that the Wide Range experiment had failed. But in the years since, open minds and ears have proven just how versatile, beautiful and powerful the Wide Range can be. They are also a case study in how a series of small design pivots can produce an unexpected whole.
Structurally speaking, the differences between a Wide Range and a Gibson PAF humbucker are simple but important. In a PAF, steel pole pieces concentrate a charge from an alnico bar magnet at the base of the pickup. A wide range, however, uses adjustable pole pieces as magnets – a design made possible by the use of CuNiFe, a malleable magnetic alloy of copper, nickel and iron which can be shaped into magnetic screws. When Lover designed the extended line, CuNiFe was widely used to make tachometers, speedometers, and other gauges. It was relatively cheap and filling. But as gauges became more and more digital, CuNiFe became more and more undesirable. Cheap supplies have dwindled. Before long, the Wide Range pickup was also gone.
In the decades since, many great pickup builders have debated what makes vintage Wide Range pickups special and what role CuNiFe magnets play. What is certain is that CuNiFe led Seth Lover to a series of very interesting technical adaptations. Consider this chain of events: the low iron content of the CuNiFe alloy makes it more difficult to extract low-end heat in pickup applications. This requires bigger spools and more turns of thread. The resulting wider spacing between coils also means a wider pickup, which, in turn, reads vibrations along a longer string span. Needless to say, many things could explain a Wide Range’s unique voice.
Fender engineer Tim Shaw, who developed the new Wide Range pickups and delves into the details of these issues, says CuNiFe is an indispensable ingredient in a Wide Range’s sonic signature, and a material with very individual properties. audible and discernible. “As a designer, we almost never work with a completely different family of magnets,” says Shaw. “It’s like having a new scale or a new set of chords to play with. Even when CuNiFe is saturated, it (retains) definition and a very pleasant and musical high end. It was very inspiring for me.
Although Shaw’s view of the Wide Range remains mostly true to the original formula, he voiced them to fit the extreme ranges of what he heard in various vintage specimens. His team made another big authenticity-related decision that pays sonic dividends here by using the 1 mega pots that Fender used in the early 70s. Whereas people like Shaw care less about the cone in 1 mega (it’s noticeably less smooth) they are noticeably brighter than the 500k pots when the guitar tone and volume are wide open. Some players like the closer output to the PAF you get from the 500,000 pots. Others find the 1MB pots essential for making wide ranges distinct and more lively. After a few days with the American Vintage II version of the ’72 Thinline Telecaster, I’m inclined to fall into the latter camp.
Alive and healthy
Playing the American Vintage II Telecaster Thinline straight into a powerful, clean Fender amp, it’s easy to hear how inspired Lover’s vision was. The Thinline’s bridge pickup sounds like a single-coil Telecaster that’s pumped up without adding an ounce of fat. The upper end is clear, lively and full of teeth. And although the bass strings have an increased mass feel compared to a single-coil Telecaster, they still sound like Bakersfield in a bottle. This harmonic profile means the ’72 Thinline doesn’t hog the bass and midrange of a mix, but can still deliciously drive an amp and create a feeling of added weight and explosive excitement. The neck pickup, too, balances mass and detail gracefully. Both pickups produce sounds that I searched for in Les Paul and never found. I suspect Seth Lover would be tickled.
Don’t be afraid of deconstruction
The pickups weren’t the only departure from design standards that set the ’72 Thinline apart. The first Thinline Telecaster, which appeared in 1969, was the brainchild of Roger Rossmeisl, who designed Rickenbacker’s 300 series guitars, among others, before moving to Fender and designing the Coronado, Montego and Acoustic line. from the company’s mid-1960s. . To create the lighter semi-hollow Thinline, Rossmeisl adopted the construction technique he developed for Rickenbacker: routing the acoustic chambers from a solid section of ash, then capping the back of the guitar with a section of finer wood. On the new American Vintage II version, the ash body is formed from two solid sections of ash glued together at the midline of the guitar. Because annoying beetles have endangered ash trees, visually perfect wood specimens are rare these days. As a result, the grit in the two sections that make up our review guitar is far from perfectly matched. Still, the natural blonde poly finish is gorgeous and marks a nice visual link between the early blackguard Telecaster and this more deconstructed variation of the shape.
The Thinline’s semi-hollow construction also produces audible differences. Compared to a solid ash Telecaster, the Thinline sounds much more zingy, resonant and lively, especially in the mids. This difference is also apparent when the guitar is plugged in, and the more resonant characteristics of the body are a perfect match for the lively Wide Range humbuckers. Together they give the Thinline an exceptionally responsive and awake feel.
Fender has elected to revamp the company’s 7.25″ fingerboard radius across the entire American Vintage II line. And, for this reviewer at least, the development is welcome. I know that flatter radii are appealing to players who like to bend, but when combined with the beautifully rolled edges on this Thinline’s one-piece maple neck and super-thin ’60s C-profile, the more curved Thinline radius feels fast and enticing under the fingers . strangled or rattling notes Is 7.25″ too bent to bend? I do not know. Maybe you should talk to Jimi Hendrix and David Gilmour. I think it’s fantastic.
The Thinline is a delight in other ergonomic respects. The semi-hollow construction makes it relatively light (although the humbuckers probably make up for that a bit). And while the volume and tone knobs are located farther back than on a traditional Telecaster or Stratocaster, the 3-way pickup switch, which is angled like a Stratocaster pickup switch, is an inspired move that makes switching much smoother. .
In terms of function, sound and style, the weather is proving to be good for the ’72 Telecaster Thinline. And in this American Vintage II incarnation, enhancements to the Wide Range pickup make the Thinline a very real, engaging, and individual alternative to Gibsons and more canonical Fender sounds. The specific idiosyncrasies of Wide Range pickups and 1meg pot configuration will not suit everyone. The guitar can sound quite bright. And I suspect players who just want PAF sounds from a Telecaster will have the same complaints they’ve always had. But for any player who loves the feel of a vintage Fender but is interested in a more distinct and individual palette of sounds, the ’72 Telecaster Thinline is a sweet playing delight.