It’s been a few months but the Blog is BACK, suckers! That is…until I hit another two-month-long round of writer’s block again. But despite my lack of inspiration, I figured I’d write up a little piece on my latest fascination in the new Squier ’51 we’ve now got here at the shop. Specifically, this quirky little guy right here:
Seems like something conceived from a late night of partying between a Tele, Strat, and P-Bass, doesn’t it? And as gross as that sounds, that’s actually kinda what it is. Back in 2004(ish), the evil geniuses at Squier concocted this bastard-child probably due the good ol’ fashion Fender spirit of “Hey, wouldn’t it be funny if we…?” And despite the fact that the thing kind of looks like a Tele melted onto a Strat skeleton, it is a well thought out design and as solid a Fender-style guitar as any Strat or Tele out there.
Here’s a quick bit of background before I start talking tech:
On their own, Squier hasn’t had much of a reputation apart from Fender’s “Little Brother” company who looks up at his older sibling and copies everything he does as best as he can. Though their claim to fame as of the last fifteen to twenty years has been a huge rise in design and manufacturing excellence (nearly enough to compete with Fender’s original products) as well as making the Fender style affordable for most players, they haven’t had much opportunity to branch out into new design directions. The Squier ’51, however, is one of their few exceptions and I think they did a darn good job of it. Keep it simple. Keep it Fenderish. But then, yours is the earth! Make something new!
I suppose, technically, “new” is a generous statement. Essentially, the ’51 is a bunch of Fender stuff smashed together resulting in at worst, a cute novelty; at best, a potentially new kind of Fender-style instrument for the practical player. I tend to lean towards the latter. Then again, I am kind of a sucker for the fringier designs that float around out there (see: my article on that green Gretsch hollowbody).
As it turns out, I’m not the only one who likes these things. In the decade or so since its birth, the ’51 has acquired the attention of Squier and Fender fans alike, as well as Gibson guys and PRS fans and so on. It actually has its own little cult following and a mildly entertaining Internet forum dedicated to fans of the ’51 (check out Area ’51 Forum). Even Fender themselves found the inherent value in the design and adopted it into their brief-running Pawn Shop Series. As of 2013, Squier took back the helm of the ’51 design and released the most recent version, one of which I have here today and would like to dissect and review. Alright, I’ve bored you long enough: let’s talk tech!
Obviously, the first thing that catches a player’s eye about the ’51 is it cosmetic flavor. I’ll admit, I thought they looked a little disjointed since my eyes are used to Teles and Strats and I work with these all day long, but the look grew on me as I played around with it a little more. Now, I actually really dig the unique impression created by the Precision Bass pickguard and control plate mounted on the Strat body all hanging down from the Tele neck/headstock. All familiar pieces, but very new looking as a combination! Which leads me to the actual guts and configuration of the pickups themselves, because that’s usually the second thing you’ll notice: the compensated Strat-style single-coil in the neck with a humbucker in the bridge position. It is interesting to note that the humbucker itself actually has slightly narrower pole pieces; this carries over into how the strings are spaced on the neck to line up with them, giving you more concise string spacing that some may recognize as more typical to a Gibson. Whether or not that difference is positive, negative or neutral for you, it is at least an interesting design difference and I happened to like it, if nothing else. But I digress!
The actual wiring of the pickups is another point of interest, being both simple and surprisingly nuanced. Two knobs, a three-way pickup selector knob in lieu of a tone pot or even a blade switch and a push-pull volume knob with a coil-split for the bridge humbucker, providing you with six distinct tones. Neat, eh?
Further features include basswood body with gloss finish (in this case, sexy candy apple red), maple neck and fingerboard, and since this is technically a reissue, they now feature string-thru tail-pieces instead of the top-load pieces from the ’04-‘06 models. Much handier for us techs!
So come on by, plug this in and check it out! We’re always looking for feedback on our new stuff and always looking to carry the coolest stuff! The Squier ’51, in my opinion, is one of the cooler things I’ve seen in a while. Let’s see if you agree!
Stay excellent and have a good “week”!