If you’ve been curious about the Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster, you’re probably not alone. These guitars offer promising specs on paper and appear to be equipped as well as lower-end Fenders (if not better!). That’s why in this KillerGuitarRigs Guide, we tested a CV Telecaster to find out whether it deserves its reputation as a genuine alternative to a MIM Fender Tele. This was a great test, so you’ll definitely want to read on to find out more.
Who Is This For?
Squier is Fender’s budget, Asian-made lineup. As such, instruments sold under this brand were historically almost always aimed at absolute beginners. However, with the introduction of the Classic Vibe Series, Squier have built guitars to vintage Fender specs. That makes this particular Telecaster a great option for everyone from day 1 beginners to working musicians on a budget. Many will tell you it’s actually one of the best Teles on the market.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Our test guitar was a ’50s model finished in classic Butterscotch Blonde. It looked incredible and the grain of the one-piece pine body showed through nicely. Pine may not seem like a tone wood you hear much about these days, but it’s absolutely period correct for a 1950s Tele. The clear coat is as you might expect, polyurethane. It’s a very hard-wearing topcoat, but as this is a vintage model, it would be nice if it could get some patina over time, which almost certainly won’t happen with a poly finish.
The neck is C shaped and made from a single piece of maple. The fretboard was also maple and was finished with 21 narrow tall frets. Again, a period-correct feature. The fret ends were nicely finished. Considering that sharp frets is a fairly common complaint about Squiers, it shows how much additional attention to detail has gone into the QA for these Classic Vibe models.
Other appointments are clearly upgraded over the lower-tier Telecasters from Squier, too. It was equipped with a bone nut, and even barrel-style saddles.
Electronics-wise, this Tele was fitted with a pair of Fender-design alnico single-coil pickups. Like many of the best telecaster pickups, they are wound to Fender specs, but not produced in a Fender plant. The pots are unbranded. It would have been nice to see CTS pots, given that this level of Squier is competitively aimed at the “Inspired by Gibson” Epiphone range, and they benefit from high-end electronics.
It’s worth noting that while this model is technically made to vintage fender specs, it’s still an import. Meaning components are metric rather than imperial like US and Mexican Fenders. So if you’re looking at a Classic Vibe Tele thinking it would be a good mod platform, remember that Fender-branded hardware may require permanent alterations to the guitar, including drilling, to fit properly.
After getting hands-on with the Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster, we noted just how lightweight it was (especially compared to the many off-brand copies), which is clearly due to the pine body. This really made it a comfortable guitar to hold for extended periods, which is especially important as Telecasters aren’t exactly famous for their ergonomics.
Playability was a strong point for this Telecaster. Action from the factory was just where we like it, nice and low but without causing any buzz. Intonation was also pretty dead on, which was handy, because intonating a guitar with 3 barrel saddles vs 6 individual saddles as you’d find on a Strat can be a nightmare. Our experience was good, overall, but if you do need to make changes, a guitar like this is best taken to a pro for a setup.
We found the neck to be particularly chunky and while we enjoyed the feel, it may not appeal to younger guitarists or players with smaller hands. It wasn’t exactly fast-playing, but we didn’t feel hindered by it and when playing chords and simple solos up and down the neck, we had no issues.
After getting plugged in, we were really impressed with the overall tone and performance. The pine body gave such a snappy, responsive tone that we were left wondering why they ever moved away from using this wood. The bridge pickup gave us the bright “twang” that every Telecaster should have, without ever feeling brash.
The neck pickup was a little muddy on its own, but the middle position gave a great blend and balanced the tone really nicely for rhythm playing. For clean styles like jazz and country, we got perfect clean tones, which compared very well against Mexican-made Fender Telecasters we’ve played previously.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster is genuinely a gig- and studio-ready instrument, but if it’s not quite what you’re looking for, you’ll probably be very happy with one of these great alternative guitars
The Fender Player Telecaster is a Mexican-made, Fender-branded Tele built to a much more modern specification than the Classic Vibe Squier. Dimensions are the same, but this model is a bit weightier with its alder body. Because of the extra weight, it does net some additional resonance and sustain, which might be an attractive feature for many.
Like the Squier, it features 2 single-coil pickups, although the Fender Player Series Alnico V Tele pups that it’s equipped with are noticeably brighter. This is to be expected when you consider this is the Entry-Level Fender, and it’s still almost double the price of the Squier. It’s a solid, dependable guitar with great tone and some brand prestige.
The G&L ASAT Classic is the alternative if you’re looking for something close to a Telecaster, but you’re not interested in Fender or Squier. G&L was founded by Leo Fender himself after he left the Fender company, leading many to call the instruments he made there “the final word on the Telecaster.”
With the ASAT classic, you’re getting a guitar designed by Leo Fender himself, with improvements like 6 individual barrel saddles and a contoured back for comfort. The ASAT Classic sits right between the Classic Vibe Tele and the Fender Player series price-wise, making it a great compromise.
Final Thoughts on the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster
The Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster, even with its shortcomings, is a viable choice for working musicians looking for archetypal Telecaster tones and feel on a shoestring budget.
Not only that, but it’s a great guitar for beginners. It’s priced at an accessible level and it will grow with you as you develop your skills. You could even go so far as to say if this is all you can afford, it’s the only guitar you’ll ever need.