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Fender American Ultra Series

Fender American Ultra Series  ·  Source: Fender

Fender today officially launched the American Ultra Series, replacing the existing Elite Series. The Ultra range includes a number of subtle upgrades that, seen together, take these classic models in a new direction. But will it prove popular with players?

Fender American Ultra Series

Earlier this week, details surfaced of a new series of guitars called the American Ultra Series. The leak coincided with Fender’s teaser campaign, so we had a fairly good idea of what to expect. And here they are! The new Ultra models are: Ultra Stratocaster, Ultra HSS Stratocaster, Ultra Telecaster, Ultra Jazzmaster, Ultra Precision Bass, Ultra Jazz Bass and Ultra Jazz Bass V.

So what’s new in the American Ultra series? These US-built instruments have seen a few tweaks to the classic formulas we all know and love. It’s more of an evolutionary step than a revolution. The changes include a new Modern D neck profile, new Body Contours and Ultra Noiseless Vintage and Hot pickups. The Ultra series is offered in new finishes such as Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Texas Tea, Arctic Pearl, Aged Natural, Plasma Red Burst and Ultraburst.

Ultra versus Elite

If you want to delve into the minutiae of the features introduced with the Ultra series, check out the diagram below. They include quite a few subtler tweaks that combine to put these guitars into a new class over and above the previous Elite Series launched back in 2016. In addition to the new neck profile and pickups, the instruments in the Ultra range have updated compound radius fingerboards with extremely rolled edges, satin-smooth necks, heavily sculpted four-bolt neck joints and treble-bleed circuits.

These enhancements should make these guitars a joy to play. As we all know, details matter when differentiating a good guitar from a great one. I think these subtle tweaks could culminate in some very impressive new instruments.

Fender Ultra Stratocaster Key Features

Fender Ultra Stratocaster Key Features

Double Tap Humbucker

One of the more interesting new features is bridge humbucker on the American Ultra Series Stratocaster HSS. It’s overwound so that the pickup volume matches that of the middle and neck single-coils when using the coil-splitter. Fender calls this a Double Tap Humbucker and this is the first time it’s been used on a Fender production model.

Now let’s take a look at the individual models!

American Ultra Series Stratocaster

The American Ultra Series Stratocaster has all the tweaks mentioned above, with 22 medium-jumbo frets, an S1 Custom circuit that adds the neck pickup sound to other configurations, a bone nut and sealed locking tuning machines.

Finishes include Arctic Pearl, Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Plasma Red Burst, Texas Tea and Ultraburst.

RRP – GBP 1859

American Ultra Stratocaster Aged Natural

American Ultra Stratocaster Aged Natural

American Ultra Series HSS Stratocaster

The Ultra Series HSS Stratocaster has the same configuration as above, but has a Double Tap Humbucker in the bridge position.

RRP – GBP 1859

 

American Ultra Stratocaster HSS Texas Tea

American Ultra Stratocaster HSS Texas Tea

American Ultra Series Telecaster

The Ultra Series Telecaster has 22 medium-jumbo frets and Series/Parallel pickup switching circuit, plus a bone nut and sealed locking tuning machines.

RRP – GBP 1859

American Ultra Telecaster Cobra Blue

American Ultra Telecaster Cobra Blue

American Ultra Series Jazzmaster

The American Ultra Series Jazzmaster also includes 22 medium-jumbo frets and Series/Parallel switching circuit for pickups, plus a bone nut and sealed locking tuning machines.

RRP – GBP 1959

American Ultra Jazzmaster Plasma Red Burst

American Ultra Jazzmaster Plasma Red Burst

American Ultra Series Precision Bass

The Ultra Series Precision Bass comes with 21 medium-jumbo frets,  a 3-band active preamp and a HiMass bridge with brass saddles.

RRP – GBP 1959

American Ultra Precision Bass

American Ultra Precision Bass

American Ultra Series Jazz Bass

Again, the Ultra Series Jazz Bass comes with 21 medium-jumbo frets, a 3-band active preamp and has a HiMass bridge with brass saddles.

RRP – GBP 1959

American Ultra Jazz Bass Arctic Pearl

American Ultra Jazz Bass Arctic Pearl

American Ultra Series Jazz Bass V

The Ultra Series Jazz Bass V is a 5-string model with 21 medium-jumbo frets,  a 3-band active preamp and a HiMass bridge with brass saddles. It costs a little extra, presumably for the extra string, but it’s still a decent price.

RRP – GBP 1999

American Ultra Jazz Bass V Ultraburst

American Ultra Jazz Bass V Ultraburst

Fender American Ultra Series vs Elite: The Verdict

Fender has made an array of changes here. If you want vintage looks but with modern playability, then these will be the Fender models for you going forward. I think the new Modern D neck profile will be a crucial factor for many players, and may prove decisive for the success of these new guitars. The rest of the tweaks like the extra rolled edges and satin-smooth necks will also have an impact on the overall playing experience.

Ultimately, I think these are a little overpriced across the board, especially as many Fender dealers are currently knocking out the 2016 Elite models for bargain prices. But if you like modern Fender guitars and basses, you’ll probably like these new ones, too.

You can check out all the official Fender demo videos for each model below.

More Information

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by Jef

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Dane
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This is all very strange to me. This summer a Fender Custom Shop guy appeared in a few Thomann videos explaining what makes the Custom Shop guitars so unique. One of the points he raised was that the body construction was different under the paint, with Squiers being glued from 3-5 or more pieces, the MIMs from 2-3, and the American bodies not using more than 2, and Custom Shop guitars from a single piece of wood. And here we are, a $2000 Fender MIA glued from 3 pieces, as can be seen on the Aged Natural photo. What’s justifying… Read more »


Dane
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@jef Just curious – where are seeing dealers selling Elites at bargain prices? At Thomann it looks like nothing moved.