It’s practically impossible to overstate the significance of Fender’s brand-new American Professional series of guitars and basses:
This isn’t just another new series among many others – the American Professional instruments are replacing Fender’s longest-running, mega-selling American Standard model range.
In addition to several Tele, Strat, Precision and Jazz Bass models, the American Pro range also includes modern versions of the Jazzmaster and Jaguar guitars.
Fender’s American Pro instruments feature a multitude of improvements and updates over the American Standard models, but without doubt the most important upgrade comes in the form of the series’ V-Mod single-coils.
The V-Mod pickups have been developed by Fender’s electronics specialist Tim Shaw. The basic idea was to provide pickups that are tuned specifically for the position they are used in on the guitar. Shaw even went as far as harmonising the tonal response between the wound and plain strings inside each pickup, in some cases even using different magnets inside one pickup.
Depending on the chosen finish, the Fender American Professional Telecaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) comes with either an alder or ash body (as on the two-tone sunburst model reviewed here).
You can also choose between a one-piece maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard option.
The American Professional Stratocaster (price in Finland approx. 1,700 €; incl. case) uses alder for the body, and you can choose between one-piece maple necks and rosewood fingerboards, too.
After having used synthetic materials for a long time, Fender have now switched to genuine bone nuts on all their American Pro instruments.
The two-way Biflex truss rods have been kept over from the American Standards.
All Am Pro guitars come with modern tuners with staggered-height posts.
The fretboard radius is kept at 9.5 inches, which gives you an excellent compromise between a vintage Fender-feel and modern playability.
There’s been an important change regarding the fret material, though:
American Professional guitars come with a new fret type that is almost as tall as jumbo wire, but narrower than the frets on the discontinued American Standard models. Again, this new fret profile is meant to give you the feel – and the percussive attack – of vintage fretwire, combined with the bend-friendly height modern jumbo-sizes offer.
The Am Pro Telecaster’s bridge is a brand-new design, which is reminiscent of vintage-type Tele bridges, but includes a few contemporary improvements.
Tele anoraks will be pleased to see Fender reverting back to a three-saddle design using brass saddles. The new saddles sport machined slopes for better intonation adjustment.
For the most part, the sides of the bridge’s base late are lower than on a vintage-style Tele bridge to make fingerpicking easier. The rear-facing end is higher, though, and Fender even includes a short and snazzy bridge cover (not shown).
Why fix something that’s not broken?
The Am Pro Strat vibrato is basically the same well-designed two-point bridge we all know from the recent American Standard series Strats, sporting vintage bent-steel saddles, and a modern bridge plate and vibrato block.
The vibrato arm is push-fit.
The American Professional models feature a traditional four-screws-plus-tilt neck joint.
The Am Pro Strat’s deep contours make the guitar especially comfortable to play.
The V-Mod pickups on the Telecaster both use Alnico V magnets for the bass strings and Alnico II for the treble strings.
The bridge pickup is reverse-wound/reverse-polarity to give you a hum-free middle (both pickups on) setting.
The V-Mod set for the SSS-Strat is even more involved than the Tele’s set-up:
The neck pickup uses Alnico II magnets for the wound strings and Alnico IIIs for the plain strings, for a tight bass and warm trebles. The middle pickup comes with Alnico IIs for the bass strings and Alnico Vs for the top, which helps retain the sparkle and clarity in switch positions two and four. The bridge pickup has Alnico V magnets for all six strings.
The tone control set-up has been modified to include the bridge pickup as well, by having the neck and middle pickups share the first tone control.
Fender has given the neck profiles an overhaul, too, and this has clearly paid off:
The new, more oval C-profile feels fantastic, much better than the sometimes slightly generic feel of older American Standard necks. The neck is chunky without being fat or unwieldy.
The workmanship, the fretwork and the general set-up were very good, but for some reason the intonation was off on our test sample. Nothing a digital tuner and a screwdriver can’t fix in a matter of minutes, though…
I look for a woody and throaty basic voice in my Teles, and the new American Pro Telecaster delivers. There’s enough twang in here for Country and early Rock ’n’ Roll, but the sound always stays satisfyingly fat and chunky.
The new neck profile also does its magic when it comes to the Am Pro Strat. This is one guitar that’s hard to put down!
You can only admire Tim Shaw for his dedication and perseverance in developing the Strat’s V-Mod pickup set.
Every now and then I tend to veer towards the cynical, when dealing with marketing hype and pickup esoterics. I mean, come on, most traditionally constructed Strats (and S-type guitars) sound like a Strat – bright, sparkly single pickup selections and hollowed-out in-between settings.
Fender’s V-Mod single-coils do clearly make a difference in my opinion. Firstly, the string-to-string balance for each pickup on its own is outstanding, both in terms of level and timbre. Secondly, the in-between settings sound extremely good, too, despite the fact that the V-Mod set mixes three different Strat pickups.
This results in a Stratocaster model with five equally great-sounding pickup selections.
The demo track has Telecaster rhythm tracks coming from the left side of the stereo field, and Stratocaster rhythm parts coming from the right. On the first pass the lead guitar part is played on the Tele, for the second pass the Strat takes over.
In my view, the American Professional Telecaster and Stratocaster are very worthy successors to their American Standard counterparts.
These guitars will doubtlessly set a new standard for high-volume production line electric guitars, just as their predecessors have done since the late 1980s.
Fender American Professional Telecaster & Stratocaster
Approximate price: 1,700 € each (includes hard case)
A short comparison clip of a Japanese Fender ’62 Custom Reissue (c. 1990) and a brand-new American Professional Telecaster. Both guitars were played through a Juketone True Blood tweed-style amp (volume at 7) and recorded with a single Shure SM57.
The order is neck pickup, both pickups, bridge pickup. The ’62 Reissue plays the first two chords for each pickup selection, with the Am Pro taking over for the second two chords.
Tokai Guitars’ workshop in Japan will do the occasional special run of Limited Edition models that come with some features that differ from the regular models on offer. To our delight, we at Kitarablogi managed to get hold of two such special Love Rock guitars for this review.
The Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates (price in Finland: 1,550 €; hard case incl.) is a factory-modded instrument for Billy Gibbons fans …
… while Tokai’s LS-200F-5A(2,995 €; hard case and pickguard incl.) represents the maker’s take on the ”ultimate Love Rock guitar”. This Premium Series instrument shows off an AAAAA figured maple top, and a set of Seymour Duncan Custom Shop pickups.
Even though this isn’t an official signature model by any stretch of the imagination, Tokai’s LS-100F Pearly Gates is clearly modelled after Billy F. Gibbons’ main squeeze.
The solid figured maple top looks fantastic in its gloss brown Ice Tea Burst. The guitar comes with a set of Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates humbuckers.
The Tokai LS-200F-5A has been built in an extremely limited edition (less than 20 guitars worldwide), with a whopping three instruments finding their way to Finland.
The LS-200F-5A isn’t ”just” a top-of-the-line instrument, it’s a thrilling experience. The flame on this guitar’s top is so deep you can lose yourself in it, and the instrument’s semimatte finish only accentuates its sensual qualities.
Both models are equipped with top quality Gotoh machine heads.
The fretwork is second to none. Both instruments sport a fret size that’s slightly larger-than-vintage.
The bridges and tailpieces are also supplied by Gotoh.
For some reason Pearly Gates – a 1959 Les Paul Standard – comes with a set of humbuckers that offers a strong mid-range peak, while the bridge humbucker is clearly much louder than the neck unit.
Tokai has ordered a batch of custom-made Seymour Duncan Antiquity-humbuckers for the LS-200F-5A.
The Antiquity is Duncan’s most faithful recreation of Gibson’s original PAF. The custom-version used here differs from the regular issue in two points – these humbuckers have not been aged, but look brand new, and both pickups come with four conductors to facilitate pickup splitting.
The Japanese electronics inside the LS-100F Pearly Gates are of a very high standard.
For the LS-200F-5A Tokai uses Orange Drop capacitors, US-made volume pots, and two ESP push/push tone pots for coil-splitting.
Both models are sold with a top-drawer hard case.
Our review sample of the Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates is a fine-playing instrument, with a nice, moderate weight, and a great neck profile, that’s rounded, but not too big (somewhere between a ’59 and a ’60 profile).
The Pearly Gates humbuckers deliver a good deal more output than a traditional PAF (or its copy), coupled with a very strong mid-range. Yet, despite this signature sound, the Pearly Gates set never feels one-dimensional, clunky, or hard-to-control. There’s ample top end and a great dynamic range.
This is what the LS-100F Pearly Gates sounds like played through a handwired Tweed Champ-clone set clean:
Overdriven and distorted tones clearly show off the signature pickup set’s Texan accent:
It’s fairly easy to coax artificial harmonics from this Tokai, if you’re into Billy Gibbons’ playing style:
Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is too good an instrument to be locked away in a display case!
The LS-200F-5A is a surprisingly lightweight solid-body guitar. It plays at least as good as the LS-100F, but thanks to its semimatte finish one seems to make a more intimate connection with this fantastic guitar.
Seymour Duncan’s Antiquity-humbuckers really let the woody aspects of your guitar’s inherent tone shine through. These humbuckers have a clear, precise and dry (in a good sense) sound:
The coil-split option opens up a whole bag of additional tonal choices, whenever you look for more single-coil-type tones from this Love Rock:
Overdriven and distorted tones, too, will benefit from the possibility to drop the output level with the simple pressing of a button (or two):
The demo track features two rhythm guitar tracks, which were both recorded with split humbuckers. The first half of the lead part starts off with the split neck pickup, switching to the full unit for the second half of the song:
Both the LS-100F Pearly Gates as well as the LS-200F-5A are prime examples of the kind of top grade workmanship that has made Japanese Tokais legendary.
The LS-100F Pearly Gates is a great choice for Blues- and Rock-inclined players, who thrive on chunky mid-range power and bags of sustain.
For an investment grade instrument Tokai’s LS-200F-5A is still rather affordable. This guitar will give you Japanese Custom Shop quality at a very fair price, but the edition is, indeed, very limited…
Two Tokai Love Rock models
LS-100F Pearly Gates – 1,550 € (case included)
LS-200F-5A – 2,995 € (case included)
Pros (both guitars):
+ (LS-100F Pearly Gates only) Billy Gibbons signature humbuckers
Tokai Guitarsin paja Japanissa valmistaa aika ajoin pieniä eriä erikoismalleja, joilla on tavalliseen mallistoon nähden poikkeavia ominaisuuksia. Kitarablogin iloksi saimme tällä kertaa testiin jopa kaksi tällaista Love Rock -kitaraa.
Tokai LS-200F-5A(2.995 €; laukku kuuluu hintaan) taas on firman näkemys ultimaattisesta Love Rock -mallista. Se on Premium-sarjan soitin AAAAA-luokan loimuvaahterakannella ja Seymour Duncan Custom Shop -mikrofoneilla.
Vaikka se ei olekaan virallinen nimikkomalli, on Tokain LS-100F Pearly Gates silti kovin Billy Gibbons -henkinen soitin.
Upeassa, kiiltäväksi lakattussa kitarassa on ruskehtava Ice Tea Burst -liukuväritys, sekä Seymour Duncanin valmistama Pearly Gates -mikrofonisetti.
Tokai LS-200F-5A –mallia on valmistettu erittäin rajoitettu erä (noin 20 kappaletta yhteensä), joista peräti kolme kitaraa löysivät tiensä Suomeen.
LS-200F-5A ei ole ”vain” laatukitara, se on elämys. Sen loimuvaahterakannen kuviointi on niin syvän kolmiulotteista, että melkein alkaa huimata, ja sen puolihimmeä viimeistely tukee sopivasti tätä kokonaisuutta.
Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty Gotoh:n laadukkaita Kluson-kopioita.
Soittimien nauhat on työstetty erinomaisella tarkkuudella. Molemmissa kitaroissa on käytetty samaa, hieman vintagea isompaa nauhakokoa.
Myös tallan ja kieltenpitimen suhteen Tokai luottaa Gotoh:n vankkaan laatuun.
Jostakin syystä mestarin omasta 1959 Les Paul -kitarasta löytyy epätavallinen setti PAF-mikrofoneja, joissa on vahva keskialueen korostus, sekä selvästi kaulamikrofonia voimakkaampi tallamikki.
LS-200F-5A:ta varten Tokai on tilannut Seymour Duncan Custom Shopilta erikoiserän firman Antiquity-settiä.
Antiquity on Duncanin tarkin jäljitelmä legendaarisista PAF-mikrofoneista. Tässä erikoiserässä on kaksi eroa tavallisiin Antiquity-mikrofoneihin nähden – niiden ulkonäköä ei ole vanhennettu lainkaan, ja kummankin mikrofonin voi halutessaan puolittaa.
LS-100F Pearly Gates -mallin elektroniikka edustaa selvästi japanilaista pro-tasoa.
LS-200F-5A:ssa on sen sijaan käytetty Orange Drop -kondensaattoreita, amerikkalaisia volume-potikoita, sekä ESP:n valmistamia push/push-potikoita tonea ja mikkien puolitusta varten.
Molemmat soittimet myydään oman laadukkaan kovan laukun kera.
Testattu Tokai LS-100F Pearly Gates on erittäin mukavan tuntuinen soitin. Painoa löytyy vain maltillisesti ja mallin pyöreä, muttei liian paksu kaulaprofiili tuntuu erittäin mukavalta.
Pearly Gates –mikrofoneissa on huomattavan paljon enemmän tehoa kuin tavallisissa PAF (-kopioissa), ja myös keskialueesta löytyy rutkasti vääntöä. Silti Pearly Gates -setti ei kuulosta millään lailla yksitoikkoiselta, kömpelöltä tai kovaotteiselta, vaan soinnista löytyy silti dynamiikkaa ja selkeyttä.