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The winter NAMM Show in LA always allows guitar companies to introduce a selection of new models – For the Fender Custom Shop team it is not so much about trying to re-invent the wheel, so more a case of offering a number of highly spec’d limited edition models, that are still vintage flavoured, yet modern tweaks will enhance the way the guitar plays and performs – Many such tweaks can be found on the custom spec’d models of our guitar hero’s and it is such features that the Custom Shop team will offer within their highly spec’d Limited Edition models – So please read below, my evaluation report, for this New Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 1964 Relic Strat, with a lightly aged  ‘faded 3 tone sunburst’ finish – Far less wear and tear than many other relic finishes, yet it still captures some moody and faded character – Note the Limited Edition decal on the rear of the headstock, along with a CZ Limited Edition serial number that is engraved on the 4 bolt neck plate – Note the lightly figured maple neck – Just enough flame to add character but not look ‘tarty’

Anything prior to  mid 1965, is considered the golden era for Fender Guitars – Yet from 1954, through to 1965, Leo had undertaken many changes to the Strat, almost on a yearly basis – Some more subtle than others – After the introduction of a rosewood fingerboard, towards the end of 1959,  two further significant  changes took place – 1) mid 62 and the introduction of a lam rosewood fingerboard replacing the slab board – 2) 1964, the introduction of the transition logo – Granted various tweaks took place regarding the pick-ups throughout the pre-CBS era – No such tweaks make any year better than another, but it does make them marginally different, for whatever reason – This Limited Edition Strat is highly spec’d and fully loaded with soul and expression, that you’ll instantly become aware of from the first moment you play a big open E chord, unplugged, through to the first time you hook it up to your amp

Feel/playing performance :-  Whatever magic is in this Strat regarding the playing experience can’t be seen – You feel it – The classic 60’s oval C profile instantly feels comfortable, somehow familiar and very much old school from the vintage era, with an extra ounce of meat on it – It can’t be considered fat, but it possesses a touch more meat with a .830″ measurement at the top nut end and .960″ around the 12th fret  – Spec’d with a thin honey tint nitro finish, that has been cut back to offer that instant ‘played in from day one’ character – To further enhance a slick playing performance, you’ll find a set of narrow/jumbo 6105 frets, along with a 9.5″ fingerboard radius – You can still dig in and attack those big pentatonic blues bends, but equally a slick playing actions awaits without any choking out – All in all, such modern tweaks, allow for a slick and user friendly playing experience

Tonal character :- First of all play this Strat unplugged and you’ll instantly notice a big acoustic voice – You can actually feel the vibrations, through the neck, on to your left hand – ‘It don’t mean a thing if it ain’t got that ring’ is a regular phrase of mine, to talk about the acoustic qualities of a good Strat  – So add a set of hand wound Custom Shop Fat 60’s pick-ups to compliment the acoustic properties it offers – Vintage flavoured, yet slightly overwound SRV style, to add just an extra hint of sizzle and muscle, so they don’t sound thin – They still retain all the magical vintage attributes of a 60’s Strat but with an extra helping of some spicy Tabasco sauce – Big piano like lows that are rich, sparkling and rounded – Sizzling clear highs that are warm and smooth, with just enough mids to beef up the overall character and drive the amp – Overall, a very rounded and smooth voice, with that percussive snap and attack that all good Strats possess  – The neck pick-up delivers that classic SRV chilled out voice, with the volume pot rolled off a touch, or with more of a percussive attack it is ideal for those walking bass lines and shuffle rhythm styles when the volume pot is back towards 10 – The two ‘out of phase’ tones are totally infectious – Crisp, clear and full with more depth and body on the neck/middle combination and more snap on the bridge/middle combination – You’ll hear almost a full Tele like twang, with a musical bite, from the bridge pick-up that possesses a good level of depth and body, yet nice and tight, so ideal for power chords, riffs and scorching solos – I’m probably far more of a neck pick-up man, but this bridge pick up is  a great attribute to this Strat – I can imagine the likes of Rory Gallagher fans have a strong liking for this set-up

This Strat is loaded with soul, expression and emotion, so to maximise these attributes use the volume pot accordingly, were subtle tweaks produce effective variations – To me the base camp is with the vol pot on/around the 6 mark, were it will handle most applications, be it with the amp set up for  a clean voice or an overdriven amp setting – Then roll the volume pot back towards 10, as and when you have a statement to make, that requires that additional boost with a touch of edge to it – On more subtle overdriven amp settings this approach allows you to clean up the voice for more of a laid back approach – On hi-gain amp settings it will allow you to roll off the gain for a cleaner voice that still sings, but now less saturated, so take it back towards 10 for more of a full on approach – Hence you and the guitar control the amp and every level of expression that goes with it – It allows you to try subtle yet effective variations, so for example a subtle overdriven amp setting with the Strat on 10, sounds different to a hi-gain overdriven amp setting and the Strat rolled off to around 6 or 7 – So all the Strat snap and attack on 10, or more chilled and lush as you wind it back down to around 8 or less – It possesses more than enough character to be played through a clean amp setting – Equally very little gain is required on the amp, to bring out the best of this Strat and make it sing – So add more gain as required- Which ever you prefer, this Strat offers a monstrous voice that is ideal for the classic rock and blues fans

Full spec and details for this Fender Custom Shop NAMM Limited Edition 1964 Journeyman Relic Strat :-

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Guitars4You is not another corporate high street guitar store - My selection of premium grade guitars is about quality not quantity. Every guitar has been selected, inspected and approved by me, with particular attention to the set-up and playing performance. Every sale, phone call, email and mail order transaction is handled by me. A journey that is now over 40 years old, has fuelled my knowledge, experience, love, devotion and passion for exceptionally fine guitars.