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The yearly NAMM Show in LA allows guitar builders to launch a host of fresh ideas and new models – Yet for the Fender Custom Shop team, it is often more of a case of releasing a run of highly spec’d Limited Edition models, that pay homage to the classic guitars from their 50’s and 60’s golden era  – With current prices well in excess of the cost of a high performance, used German motor, few of us have access to an original 1960’s Strat, but thankfully the guys at the Fender Custom Shop facility pay tribute to guitars from the golden era – Coupled with a few modern features that are designed to enhance the playing performance, this Strat captures the mystical magic of a good old ‘un – So let me introduce you to a Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition CR Heavy Relic Strat with a classic ‘aged 3 tone sunburst’ nitro finish  – Nostalgia will always ensure we’ll find something of interest in an old original model, but your hands, ears and indeed your wallet, will appreciate all the attributes that this highly spec’d Custom Shop Strat possesses

Full spec and details for a Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 1960 Heavy Relic Strat :-

Aged vibe :- Unashamedly this Strat looks like it has played more than its fair share of gigs in a smokey bars – Plenty of played in character with a classic ‘aged 3 tone sunburst’ finish   that sits on a vibrant ash body – Like wise the nitro finish on maple neck has been cut back, so that you experience that played in character from day one to enhance the overall playing experience – No need to ‘break’ this Strat in or indeed give it the kids glove treatment as it is spec’d to be played and played and played – All hardware, knobs, pick-up covers etc are aged accordingly – Note a subtle amount of glamour with a AA grade maple neck – nothing to look ‘tarty’ but enough to add character

Feel/playing performance :-  Whatever magic is in this Strat regarding the playing experience can’t be seen – You feel it – The classic 65 Large C profile instantly feels comfortable, familiar and very much old school from the vintage era, with an extra ounce of meat on it – So very much akin to the SRV #1 profile – It can’t be considered fat, but it possesses a touch more meat than the regular 60’s C profile  – Spec’d with a thin honey tint nitro finish, that has been cut back for that instant ‘played in from day one’ vibe, along with the ‘dirty/worn’ character – To further enhance a slick playing performance, you’ll find a set of narrow/jumbo 6105 frets, along with a 9.5″ to 12″ compound radius – I don’t think you can actually see the gradual taper from 9.5″ to 12″ but when you bend the strings above the 5th and 12th frets it feels slinky and effortless, with no choking out, coupled with a slick playing action – The 9.5″ radius always feels comfortable for chord work around the top nut end, but many players like Eric Johnson and Kenny Wayne Shepherd often utilise a flatter radius – You can still dig in for big blues bends, but for more intricate licks, this Strat is as slick as they come – Overall the tweaks are subtle yet very effective – It is  a neat tweak from the Custom Shop team, so vintage and slick in one package

Tonal character  :- Monstrous big tone – Big, spanky, responsive and musically warm that can morph from lush to bite  – The tone starts with the  vibrant acoustic nature courtesy of a select ash body – To me, the first point of any evaluation is that unplugged acoustic test drive – At this point you might also be checking out how it feels, yet if it don’t ring then walk away – This Strat has a pure vintage character with no shortage of snap, clarity, warmth, presence, responsive attack and of course that spanky nature that an old Strat is known for, thanks to a set of  hand wound and custom voiced 60/63 pick-ups – The neck pick-up is custom wound with less output at 5.73K, with a reverse wound/reverse polarity middle pick-up at 6.03k and a slightly overwound bridge pick-up coming in at 6.23K – Hence a musical and well balanced set of pick-ups across all settings on the 5 way switch – First of all check out the two awesome out of phase tones – Plenty of quack and body with more depth and warmth from the neck/middle combination and more of a crisp flavour from the bridge/middle combination – Both are angelic and so infectious, so no thin weedy voices here – The neck pick-up is succulent, rich and warm with crisp highs, plenty of depth and just enough muscle in the mid range – Roll of the volume and/or tone pot for more of a chilled out character – In contrast a bridge pick-up on a Strat can sometimes be found ‘wanting’ just a touch, yet this custom voiced bridge pick-up has just enough muscle to add depth, yet retain both its warmth and bite – With the volume and tone pot on 10 it possesses enough bite to attack, yet avoids going into ice pick territory, but roll off the volume. or indeed the tone pot, just a touch, for more of a controlled voice – Yes this Strat is spec’d with a tone pot for the neck/middle pick-up, plus now you’ll also find a tone pot for the bridge pick-up

Only a touch of gain is required on the amp to make this Strat sing, as it show of its traditional blues based character – In doing so you’ll appreciate all the finer nuances of tone from a responsive guitar – Whilst adding more gain will take you into classic rock/blues territory – For your base tone leave the Strat’s volume pot on/around 6 or 7 – The guitar still retains its full expressive qualities and vintage character, but now you and the guitar control the amp – At this stage you’ll find more of a chilled out character with less gain, so now, just like a good singer wanting to deliver a touch extra, wind the volume pot back towards 10 for more bite, attack and gain – Hence more emotional control, soul and expression directly at your finger tips – For blues based players you’ll hear that percussive snap and attack for SRV style shuffle patterns, walking bass lines and chord stabs with a succulent musical richness in the neck position – Whilst the bridge position has enough in it to kick dirt, yet equally it can be tamed for a softer approach  – I played around with different gain settings to see how it would respond and whatever you threw at it, it was not short of soul, emotion and expression – Less gain on the amp, but add an overdrive pedal, with the guitar volume pot on 10, or 6/7 – Likewise a hi-gain amp with the Strat volume roll off – All approaches delivered variations of gain and sustain, yet all effective in different ways – The finer nuances off the tone and gain are there for you to explore but the key factors is the guitar is responsive to you, the amp and how you play it

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Guitars4You Offers Reliability, Integrity and Expertise

Every guitar in stock at Guitars4You has been personally selected, inspected and approved by me, with particular attention paid to the set-up and playing performance – Every sale, phone call, mail order transaction or e-mail is handled my me – Mark Hopkin, the owner, Managing Director, cleaner and coffee maker (Jo, my wife helps with the coffee) – A 35 year journey has fuelled my knowledge, experience, love, devotion and passion for exceptionally fine guitars – This reflects in every aspect of our business.

I have no desire to run an Amazon style 'click to buy' guitar shop, that lacks any soul or passion, or indeed to fill a showroom with a selection of dirty, shop soiled or dusty guitars that are in need of a set-up.

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