Those of us – and I think it’s safe to say the majority – whose humbled beginnings were spent fumbling open chords on a haggard, beginners package guitar, look back fondly on the one that started it all. That cheap bit of wood and lacquer, treated with the negligence of a novice yet to gain appreciation for the craft. It accompanied late nights of frustration navigating a new tune, and weeks gathering dust when the struggle got too much, but for better or worse it started you on your journey.
Chances are, most seasoned guitar lovers have experienced firsthand a bargain instrument, furnished with all the relative-to-price fittings. Low price, low expectations of quality – that’s the assumption. Those reading, about to dive on into their first guitar – if Fender’s sales pitch is anything to go by – may be spared the disappointment of warped necks too fat to grasp with and barely resonant bodies.
Bang for your buck is where Fender sets the bar with the Classic Design series. Guitars made with luxuries previously only afforded to, well, those that could afford it. With each of the four guitars having many variations due to their differing areas of expertise, let’s first look at the features that they all share.
The first, and one Fender are adamant on highlighting in every bit of the series’ literature, is the easy-to-play neck shape. It’s a prominent issue with lower grade acoustic guitars, and one that still haunts guitarists’ early years playing entry-level acoustics. Manoeuvring basic open chords is hard enough for undisciplined hands. Heck, you could rule out bar chords, the strings dancing on and off the fret board, despite an emphatic attempt to keep them pinned down. The truth is these models benefit greatly from this forethought. They are easy to play from the get go. Bar chords work comfortably from bottom fret to top. Complete with rolled fingerboard edges, it’s truly a pleasure to transfer licks and leads reserved for the speed and dexterity of an electric guitar, to an instrument that usually wouldn’t get a second thought due to its cumbersome nature.
Next we have the Fishman preamp, pickup and tuners fitted to each of these models (with the exception of the CC-60S). As far as acoustic tuners go, they’re essential when it comes to relying on an in-tune guitar for an impromptu jam and a staple for anyone wanting to avoid wailing like a banshee. Thankfully the Fishman tuner can be relied on for its accuracy. The display makes the note search fairly straightforward and lacks the jittery display characteristics of other cheaper built-in tuners. Each preamp comes complete with volume, treble and bass pots, with the exception of the CD-140SCE, which includes mid EQ and a phase button. Acoustic pickups are a matter of taste, and while there are many great options on the market, the three that have them as stock are the better for doing so. Fender has been careful to load these guitars up with reliable electronics, refusing to overlook the usefulness of such a resource on the stage, in the bedroom or around the campfire.
Solid spruce tops flavour the CD-60SCE, CD-60SCE-12 string and CC-60S’s tonal characteristics; they each omit a sound of far more worth than their price tag would suggest. In either model, you will find a guitar that ticks all the boxes when it comes to natural sounding acoustics, evenly voiced and resonant. Set apart from its brethren, the solid mahogany top of the CD-140SCE fulfils its promise of projection aplenty. Stacked against the others, its ‘premium design’ is a key feature and selling point, but far from sonically superior. If looks are a deciding factor, look no further – the tortoiseshell pickguard complements its rich mahogany colouring.
What’s promised is delivered with the Classic Design series. It’s less about ‘you get what you pay for’ and more about providing all of the basics before pulling out the driveway and heading down the bumpy road of development. It’s about longevity – investing in a piece of gear that will survive the junior years until the next step is ready to be taken. It won’t expire in a matter of months due to poor quality, its limited capabilities rendered useless as its owner’s abilities advance. Instead Fender have built solid instruments that will remain worthy as your skill levels increase.