Fender Australia | RRP $399
Fender’s range of acoustics is an ever-changing and growing catalogue of robust and unique guitars and basses. Constructed with various woods and adorned with different electronics, pickups, and controls, they offer everything from big-bodied dreadnoughts to smaller-style acoustics, such as the new range of Californian Minis.
Catch up on all the latest music gear reviews here.
Small-bodied acoustics are widely used for recording and as an accompaniment to singer-songwriters as the tones they produce don’t occupy a frequency range as big as a larger bodied dreadnought or jumbo style acoustic. Not to be confused with junior or travel guitar, Fender’s new range of California Minis feature an array of different woods and a unique, but controlled voice. High quality Fender parts, good looks, and 70 years of refining stringed instruments make Fender one company whose experience and working knowledge of the needs of the modern musician hard to match. They simply can’t be beat, and a growing list of forward thinking ranges in both electric and acoustic guitars combined, culminate in some of the most playable and comfortable instruments you will have ever played.
In the hands, the Sonoran Mini, this particular model with its all mahogany construction, is comfortable, lightweight, and responds well to your playing dynamic. The mahogany imparts a particularly warm response, with chords and notes bouncing off the walnut fingerboard in a really pleasing way, neither too bright nor too dark, and offering sufficient push and pull when played harder or softer.
Recorded, there’s not much a clean condenser mic picks up below 80Hz, and there’s not much from an acoustic you would want at that point in the frequency range anyway. The mahogany sits this Sonoran as a very focused mid-frequency instrument, at least arrangement wise, but the Sonoran Mini is available with a spruce top for a more traditional acoustic guitar sound if that tickles your fancy. For me personally, the mahogany brings a warmth that I don’t often find in acoustic guitars and really helps it to stand out from the pack. The six strings are held in tune by six vintage-style, aged-white plastic buttons on a Strat-style headstock, and the nu-bone nut is a nice addition for the price. A “bone” nut really offers a particular tone, in part because of how hard it is as a material, where plastic absorbs too much vibrations and metal (i.e. on an electric guitar’s locking nut) doesn’t absorb enough.
One thing to note about the Sonoran shape is how pear-shaped it is; while maintaining quite a small overall body size, the belly of the guitar is wide enough to impart a big sound out of a generally small guitar. This positions the Sonoran nicely between small dreadnoughts and a parlor-size acoustic, making it good for anything from Delta blues to folky singalongs, dark, sparse chords, or percussive Australiana.
The Sonoran Mini is an all mahogany acoustic guitar, available with either a mahogany or spruce top depending on what you’re trying to achieve (both impart a particular tone and both are equally affordable and therefore justifiable!) The mahogany in particular is a classic finish, with a satin finish across the body of the guitar and a satin polyurethane finish on the back of the neck. The walnut fretboard matches the deep brown of the mahogany, and 18 frets make up the 24.1-inch scale length. A fairly flat radius at 15.75 inches makes for a familiar acoustic feel, and the “C-shape” neck will be comfortable for those who prefer either a vintage or a modern neck shape, and you’ve got unabashed access up to the 14th fret when the neck makes contact with the body. The neck itself is constructed from nato, with the body held together via scalloped-x bracing for minimum acoustic intrusion. Perfect.
The California Mini series as a whole is a home-run, offering not only entirely new designs, shapes, and models, but each guitar within the series brings something unique to the table. Whether you’re looking for a good recording guitar, a beater to have handy around the house when inspiration strikes, or alternatively a guitar to take on trips without getting in the way, they’ll all fit the bill.
The Sonoran Mini in all mahogany is equal parts forward thinking and a tip of the hat to its predecessors. Parlor-size guitars produce a specific sound, and the mahogany construction rolls off a little of the brittle high end that some guitars suffer from. The body size and belly width make for a sound much bigger than you’d expect from the guitar’s design, while the neck shape and satin finish makes it a breeze to either fly around playing leads or to quickly switch between complex chord voicings made possible by a 24.1-inch scale length.
The Sonoran Mini is a fierce competitor in an industry pushing to make affordable guitars increasingly accessible, and somehow simultaneously by producing entirely new sounds, timbres, and tonal colours from an instrument that we would have thought had been fully explored by now. Fender as a company is never one to give up, and their constant exploration, experimentation, and design continues to produce new ideas that combine their rich history of success and the unwritten future. While we may be writing the songs of the future, they’re producing the tools to do it.
Head to Fender’s website for more.