3 Telecasters Compared For 3 Different Budgets: All Under $1000

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You want that famous Telecaster jangle – but a bit short in the cash department? No worries! Fender / Squier is great at providing access to all of their guitars depending on your budget. Here we’re going to look at 3 Telecasters that you can own for less than $1,000 – and we’ll find out what my guitar store experience was with them.

This whole saga started the other day when I was at my local guitar shop and I caught a pretty little Telecaster out of the corner of my eye. As I drew closer I noticed two things. First – it was a Squier. My expectations lowered a bit – and then a bit more when I saw the price tag – well under $200. After playing it for a little bit, I wondered what you could get if you roughly doubled that – landing around the $500 range. Then double that – for $1000. Thus this article was born.

In all actuality, there are a boatload of Telecasters you can find for under $1000 – but here we’re concentrating on the standard style telecasters – single coils, standard electronics, etc., and three neat price ranges.

The Squier Affinity Telecaster

Squier Affinity Telecaster
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Some say the Squier Affinity series has really changed how they think about the Squier brand. They once thought of Squier as a “cheap” brand but after playing an Affinity, their perception of how good a Squier can be is changed somewhat.

To me it’s hard to say. After all – what can you expect to get from a guitar that’s going for $180 on the street? When I saw this guitar at my local guitar shop – I was asking myself this very question – how good could it be?

The Affinity Telecasters are probably some of the most playable guitars in their price range. I must say, I was plenty impressed with how it played, as far as the feel of the guitar, the balance, the weight and the action. The sound wasn’t impressing me too much – there was a bit of buzz, and the neck pickup was extremely weak – not what I’m used to in a Tele neck sound.

The other drawback I found was that some of the frets on the Affinity weren’t quite finished right and were a bit rough on my hands.

The guitar did have the sound (and I’m guessing electronics) limitation, but for $180 – guys this thing is worth it. If you’re stuck in this price range and you want a Telecaster, I’d say this guitar is going to be one of your safest bets. This isn’t the best Squier makes by a long shot, but I’d say its best in its class – for the price.

It comes with the typical fare for a Tele – an alder body, C shaped neck, and 21 medium jumbo frets.

The Fender Standard Telecaster

Fender Mexican Standard Telecaster
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The Fender Standard weighs in at about $250 more than the Affinity by Squier. You can get it for around $450. Its more than double the price, but it felt better in my hands – played better, and the weakness I was concerned about with the pickups on the Affinity was gone with the Fender Standard. Plus it was Lake Placid Blue, which is in my opinion one of the coolest colors Fender sprays on guitars. I love Lake Placid Blue.

The fret finish was nicer than the Affinity’s, but both guitars seemed to be about even as far as ringing clear up and down the neck, without buzz.

Plugged in – the sound of this guitar, however, was light years beyond the Affinity. It sounded like a Telecaster, up and down the neck and in all the pickup positions.

My words of warning for this one? While the one I played was a delight, I have found that Mexican made Fenders vary quite a bit in quality and workmanship details. I’d say you might get more consistency from the Squiers in this case. So in that regard, a Mexican made Fender might be a bit more of a gamble. Having said that, you’re going to get better quality hands down from the Mexico factory, but when you compare a Mexican Fender to a Mexican Fender you’ll see a variance in various workmanship points.

Overall, once again, Fender scores a home run on this one, however. It’s worth every penny of the $450 price tag. Nice little Tele.

The Fender 2012 American Standard Telecaster

Fender American Standard Telecaster
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The third and most pricey Telecaster I picked up that day was the 2012 American Standard Telecaster. This guitar sounded only slightly better than the Mexico standard. While neither the Mexican made or the American made produced any pickup hum, the American did have a cleaner, brighter sound. More Jangle. You know why? The Custom Shop pickups – a Twisted Tele at the neck, and a Broadcaster at the bridge.

The feel of this guitar in my hands was not that much nicer than the Mexican made Tele. In fact, to really notice the difference, I had to put the American back down, pick up the Mexican again, and then I did notice a few weight / balance issues that made me prefer the American. It was slight – but there was a difference.

After looking over the Mexican and the American once more, I noticed a few other details, like the bridge seemed more solid and straight on the American – the Mexican seemed to be having an issue with a slightly off balance saddle on the high E string. I know the American has steel saddles.

Once again, the American held its own – at double the price of the Mexican, it was still worth it’s price, but I had to ask myself if it was indeed the best buy – was it worth double the Mexican Tele? I’m not sure I was sold. If you’re looking for that sound from a Tele, you’re going to get it with either one. You’ll get something that sounds cleaner and clearer with the American. To me that was the big selling point, and as a side note, the balance did make for a better playing experience.

So there you have it – 3 Telecasters under $1000 – three enormous comparative price gaps, each at least doubling the one before it.

I call this a success on Fender’s part, because each guitar felt, sounded, and played up to it’s price tag. My only question was – and still is – if the American was that much better. Some might say the fact that I even have that doubt means that it isn’t. If your shopping in these price ranges, I’d say you need to go to your local guitar store and try them out for yourself because the differences between the American and Mexican might not make a $500 difference to you.


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Tim Monaghan

Tim has been playing guitar & bass since he was 12 years old and has been in Jazz, funk, rock & metal bands. Influences include Jeff Beck, Stanley Clarke, Doug Stegmeyer, Baden Powell, Steve Vai, and pretty much anyone else who has a unique style that expresses their individuality. One of Tim’s many hobbies is building, tweaking, and repairing basses and guitars.

4 thoughts on “3 Telecasters Compared For 3 Different Budgets: All Under $1000

  • September 5, 2012 at 7:27 AM
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    I wish more sites did comparisons like this. Nice article. You should have checked out the Squire Classic Vibe Tele while you were at it. General consensus is that it’s the equal of the mexican tele.

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  • September 9, 2012 at 7:00 PM
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    The Mim is probably the best overall value, however, if you factor in the cost of the hard shell case, Custom Shop Pups, and staggered Tuners, the AmStand is really only about $200.00 more. I bought my Mim used($300.00), and upgraded to a Fender pat/pend bridge, original vintage pickups, and vintage style tuners($150.00 – could have done it cheaper, but I wanted all “Genuine Fender” parts.) So $450.00 for a Fender branded tele that has the same gear on it as an $1,800.00 AVRI, not a bad deal! 😉

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