Allen Abbassi, the director of product for Fender, explained why the company prefers “medium-to-low” output with their guitar pickups. Abbassi discussed this in a recent interview with Guitar World where they focused primarily on Fender’s more affordable Player series.
During the interview, Abbassi was asked about their preference to predominantly use single-coil pickups and some of the current trends among guitar players to rely on pedal-based effects, as well as to go with more vintage-inspired pickups. Allen replied:
“One thing I’ve learned over time is that if you like to use overdrive and a lot of effects, sometimes a lower-output pickup is better suited to handle that kind of environment.”
“Of course, there’s a lot of players that do like more output so they can get a chunkier, heavier distortion.”
As he adds, Fender prefers to keep things at lower to milder output levels:
“We do offer a lot of different types of pickup, but we never – even with our humbuckers – get to the super-hot realm of resistance on a pickup. We stayed at the medium-to-low end of the range.”
In more recent years, we’ve seen the so-called “offset” models, like Jazzmaster and Jaguar and other old-school-style guitars, which are getting some love even outside of the usual indie genres. The offset guitars come with their recognizable asymmetrical waists. What was once considered a jazz-oriented guitar in the late-1950s now has a completely different life in a variety of genres.
Allen Abbassi reflected on how these offset models have become more popular again. Asked about what he thinks is the real reason behind this “current in-vogue appeal,” he replied:
“You know, it’s interesting because I think, up till now, we’ve seen a pretty steady increase in popularity of the offsets, and it doesn’t seem to be waning. Certain models, like Mustangs, usually wax and wane a little bit more than, say, Jazzmasters. For some reason, Jazzmasters seem to be the more popular offset.”
However, apart from the Jazzmaster, Allen also explains how even the shorter-scale Jaguar came back into the picture. Which was once conceived as an entry-level student guitar has a completely new life now:
“But we recently did the anniversary of the Jaguar and we did some anniversary models there. And in our new American Vintage series, we removed the Jaguar, and we heard some feedback about that, like, ‘Hey, where did the Jaguar go?’ So I think there’s been a very steady increase in popularity with the offsets and I have not seen that start to decrease at all.”
As Allen adds, the appeal for offset Fender models originates from their cheaper prices on the market of vintage instruments. For instance, an old Jaguar has been much cheaper than a Stratocaster or a Telecaster from the same era. The good thing is that people finally realized the potential of these underrated instruments:
“In the decades past, people started gravitating towards vintage offsets — because if you wanted an older Fender, they were way more affordable.”
“And I think once people started doing that, they just discovered the beauty and the variety of tones you can get out of the offset instruments like the Jazzmaster and the Jaguar.”
“And the more models we offered and the more artists that started using them, and the more songs that started to be recorded using offsets, it just increased people’s interest. And that’s just been steadily increasing and I don’t see it stopping right now at all.”
During the interview, Allen also discussed how the Player series came to be in the first place. Essentially, what was once Standard or “Made in Mexico,” popularly labeled as “MIM,” was rebranded into Fender Player and comes with a wider variety of models and finishes than ever before. Technically, Fender Player is something between your usual USA-made Fender guitar and budget-friendly Squier guitars.
Asked how they decided to start the Fender Player line, Allen explained that this was the replacement for the Standard line:
“Prior to the launch, we had the Standard Series at this price point as Fender’s stalwart for probably over 30 years. And the Standard Series itself was a beloved series, it was very popular and it stood the test of time. So, coming around to 2018, we were thinking maybe it’s time to do an update.”
“The intent here was to replace the Standard Series with something new and fresh. We had our own vision of where we wanted to go with the Player Series, but because the Standard Series had been around for so long, we had tons of feedback from players, dealers, professionals, artists, and so on, about what they liked and didn’t like.”
“In the end, the goal was to design instruments that have modern appointments, combined with some more traditional Fender cues.
In the past decade or so, Fender focused on the diversification of their products and almost entirely reinvented their approach to their brand. Fortunately, Fender stood the ultimate test of the incredibly unstable market and supply chain issues and managed to pull through and continue doing what they’re doing.
In a last year’s interview, Fender CEO Andy Mooney reflected on these issues and how the company has dealt with it:
“A new program we recently communicated to our dealers is a six-month futures program. If you as a dealer commit your order to us six months in advance you get guaranteed price no matter what happens due to currency or cost pressures, and you get prioritized delivery. During a period of rampant inflation, currency volatility, and on-going supply chain challenges, we felt this would be a real benefit to dealers.”
“We’d like to offer guaranteed delivery as well but there’s too many supply chain challenges to honestly commit to that, but certainly prioritized delivery. In exchange, we’re offering retailers a significant increased margin opportunity. So we’re trying to connect the dots across the supply chain to make it beneficial for the retailer, make it more predictable for us to plan.”