Announced at Winter NAMM 2020, the new Fender Parallel Universe II Uptown Strat is now available to buy. Shaped like a Strat, this intriguing rock guitar may give Gibson a run for its money. After all, the rest of the specifications are more like those of a certain well-known single-cut model. Is this – dare we say it – a superior Les Paul? It’s certainly a more versatile take on the classic LP recipe…
Fender Parallel Universe II Uptown Strat
No doubt: this is a fascinating beast. The body, neck and headstock of the Uptown Strat are based on the Stratocaster we all know and love. But the electronics, woods, block inlays and lack of most comfort curves steer this model into a separate parallel universe. With two humbuckers, mahogany construction and a shorter scale-length than a regular Strat, this is a Les Paul in all but name (and shape).
The partially transparent Static White Lacquer finish looks very impressive, with the grain of the mahogany peeking through. Both the 24.75″ scale length body and and ’60s C-profile neck are made of mahogany. The fingerboard is made of rosewood and even has block inlays and a binding, adding to the Gibson-like styling.
Each of the PAF-style Fender Double Tap humbuckers has its own volume and tone controls. In addition, they can both act as a single coil. This adds some versatility you might not suspect at first glance. The guitar is fitted with a unique toggle switch cover for the pickups labeled Uptown and Downtown.
Overall, it is a neat looking guitar which manages to blend two worlds of classic ’50s American guitar design, and does it fairly well I think. Sure you have a trem system, which you wouldn’t normally see on a Les Paul, and it is missing the comfort curves of a regular Stratocaster. But this guitar mixes the DNA from two vastly different guitars and turns it into something that looks eminently playable.
Is it better than a Les Paul
Checking out the demos, you’ll notice that the new Uptown Strat has a decidedly gutsy tone that will rock out with the best of them. Is it better than a Les Paul? From a player’s point of view, the upper fret access definitely looks better. And there’s a trem for more options than on your traditional Gibson single-cut guitar. From a maintenance standpoint, it has a bolt-on neck so if you need to readjust your neck angle it’s an easy fix, unlike Gibson models with a set-in neck.
Purists will probably hate it, but if you need a ballsy humbucker tone with greater playability, then the Fender Parallel Universe II Uptown Strat ticks a lot of boxes.
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