Review: Fender American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster & Telecaster

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Review: Fender American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster & Telecaster

(Source: Fender)
Words by By Lewis Noke Edwards

Fender Music Australia | | RRP: $4,499

The American Ultra range was Fender’s flagship, electric solid body range as 2019 turned into 2020. For the uninitiated, or for those on the periphery of Fender’s various product lines, The American Original range handles vintage specs, designs and colours while the Ultra range surged forward, further improving on every success that the American Elite range had ushered in.

The American Ultra range was the best of both worlds, featuring modern playability and fret access, with embellished and revised classic colours coupled with Ultra Satin Urethane neck finishes adorned on Fender’s “Modern” neck shapes. It was an awesome way to inject some modernity onto those classic Fender body shapes we all know and love.

Now for 2021, Fender have pushed the envelope once again in releasing the American Ultra Luxe range. Further building on the forward-thinking and contemporary wants and needs of the modern player, while adding a little extra class and design aesthetic. The Luxe series is traditional Fender stylings with a modern touch, more stylish trimmings and elevated modern appointments, such as a rounded neck heel, unique compound radius fingerboards and S1 switching.

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Fender have taken every success that was the American Ultra Range and augmented it, featuring a literal “Augmented D” neck shape across the range that feels extremely fast and ergonomic in the hand.

The whole series comes complete with a premium molded hardshell case and a few different pickup combinations for single-coil devotees or humbucker enthusiasts across the different models. Here we’ll be discussing the seemingly classic Stratocaster, with a maple fretboard and two-colour burst, and a double-humbucker Telecaster with a Floyd Rose Original.

The American Ultra Luxe Telecaster Floyd Rose HH features a Floyd Rose Original bridge, locking nut and custom DoubleTap Humbuckers. Classic Tele aesthetics converge with modern appointments to make a modern, genre-defying rock machine with classy binding and a slightly tinted maple neck and fingerboard to offset against the metallic Mystic Black finish.

A deeper body contour and exaggerated cutaway allows easy access to all of the 22 Stainless Steel Jumbo Frets and beyond. In turn providing some of the largest freedom of movement I’ve experienced on a Tele. For a body type often unfairly criticised for its lack of ergonomics, these subtle adornments really do add to the feeling of refined, updated design found throughout the American Ultra Luxe range.

The American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster features a classic 2-Tone Sunburst reimagined with a black 3-Ply pickguard. While the the ‘60s-style painted headcap puts a cool spin on a Fender classic and the Master Volume doubles as a push/pull S1 Switch to add another layer of tone. Fender’s S1 switch is an inconspicuous addition that, in the case of the Ultra Luxe Strat, adds the neck pickup into positions 1 & 2 (usually just bridge pickup and bridge/middle respectively).

The Luxe Strat features three single-coil Ultra Noiseless Vintage-Strat pickups, a TUSQ nut and a 2-Point Deluxe Synchronized Tremolo with Pop-In Arm for timeless vibrato and expression, while also being available in a HSS configuration.

Both of these guitars feature Fender’s new Augmented “D” shape, a super fast 10”-14” radius fingerboard, which features a slightly more filled out neck shape that tapers out beyond the 12th fret. This, coupled with the choice of fingerboard radius, satin finish and access heel, provide a playing experience that feels both familiar and at the same time, fresh and modern.

As playing guitars go, the Luxe series is hard to beat. The neck shape and aesthetic might bear a certain familiarity, but the new feature sets (specifically revised for 2021) and modern appointments, give them a contemporary yet classic feel that is sure to appease both super-Strat players and vintage spec-heads alike.

The Noiseless pickups manage to harness the best of both worlds, offering classic Strat tones without 60 cycle hum introduced in single coil pickups. The Augmented “D” neck shape feels almost like a ‘50s baseball bat-style neck shape, without the discomfort sometimes associated with these necks.

The 10”-14” radius of the fingerboard isn’t something that you notice so much as you realise how effortless fretting, bending and expressing yourself is across the Medium Jumbo frets. The Medium Jumbo frets are a nice middle ground that sits between super modern Jumbo frets and more vintage Narrow Tall-type fretwire. Stainless Steel will ensure minimal wear and tear for the life of your instrument.

Despite the absence of that particularly baseball-bat feeling neck shape, the American Ultra Luxe series from Fender is a home-run, and Fender only has to outdo themselves in the market at this point. For some players, the American Elite and then American Ultra ranges were too contemporary in feel, design and looks, but the American Luxe bridges that gap. Here, we’ve explored two specific models within a huge range of guitars, all with the same classy, deluxe appointments. They feature top-tier electronics, components and ingredients that make them the clear choice to fly the flag for Fender’s consistent, forward-thinking designs.

The guitars look and feel classic Fender at a glance, but under the hood, contain a lot more to really give you bang for buck. These are top-tier US-made Fender instruments, designed with the player in mind, as Fender always manages to do. The Ultra Luxe series is everything you want and need with a few extras thrown in for good measure.

The Strat is assembled from classic designs, but features a few extras to make playing such an iconic instrument a breeze, and the Noiseless pickups help you in always sounding your best whether gigging, recording or writing. The Telecaster, while admittedly featuring a very un-vintage Floyd Rose Original, still harks back to classic Telecaster design and aesthetic while featuring modern access and playability.

The Ultra Luxe series is every forward thinking design from Fender in their 70-odd year history, coupled with the classic designs and construction that have kept them a market leader.

Check out the American Ultra Luxe range on Fender’s website.