Fender’s brilliant idea to combine Master Builder design and supervision with quality components and Mexican production has seen a number of superb guitars that redefined how much bang you could expect for your hard-earned buck. From lovely 50 and 60s flavoured Strats to the sublime Baja Teles, you could now get very high spec guitars for not a lot of money. And now there is another one to droll over – the Triple Tele.
This design takes the ideas and obsessions of one of the elite team of master builders – in this case, Todd Krause – and there is much here to remind you of the Baja Teles. There is an alder body with a thick poly finish – It’s well applied and looks pretty bullet proof. One thing to note – it’s black all the way baby. There are no colour options so it’s a black body and a black scratchguard.
Even if you don’t love the colour, you have to admit it contrast very well with the one piece maple neck. This is a pretty thing with 21 well-sited and polished frets. There is a fairly thick poly gloss coating on this one though but I found it much more playable surface and less sticky than a recent Cabronita I played. Gloss neck finishes can have a huge effect on playability so make sure you spend some time playing one before you choose.
The neck profile is described as a thick c, but it was instantly comfortable, half-way between the 60s Baja and the thicker 50s Baja.
Woodwork was immaculate on my example – to be honest though, the design is so simple that it should be impossible for a modern factory to cock it up.
There are no surprises with the hardware, vintage style heads sort out the tuning with no fuss and at the other end is a traditional bridge with 3 brass saddles. I do love a brass saddle, it just calms the tele twang down a bit. As with both the Bajas, there were no intonation problems at all with just 3 saddles – it also just looks really cool.
Now on to the electrics. Now I wonder what is unusual about this Tele? There are 3, count ’em, 3 pickups. All 3 are Custom Shop Nocaster pickups. And there are no S-1 switching shenanigans with this guitar, you have classic 5-way Strat switching.
So this is a pretty tempting package – a solid Tele, good neck, 3 very high quality Tele pickups and Strat switching. Is this a marriage made in heaven or a Frankentele from hell?
It feels and handles like a…..Tele? The 21 frets and slightly slimmer fretwire give it a bit of an old school feel.
but the slim neck makes it easy to pick up. Balance is good and the whole thing feels lighter than the Bajas I’ve recently played. Certainly the lightness seems to translate into a very crisp, open acoustic tone. Unplugged it all feels very lively – suggesting that the tonewood is properly seasoned (the number of 80s Fenders I’ve played with a muddy unplugged response….)
I did feel a moment of hesitation before plugging the guitar into my nice valve Yerasov. The Nocaster pickups are normally bridge units and so having the same pickup in all three positions promises an aggressive response and that is what you get. The bridge unit has a clangy, puppy-ish liveliness to it – clean you get a very pushy country tone and with any overdrive you have a crisp, articulate and responsive punky row. This tone is very vintage – many of those 51-52 Nocasters and Teles are very aggressive tonally.
The middle pickup (on a Tele? Sacrilege!) tempers the rawness with a warmer, sweeter sound – it’s bright enough for pretty much any of the classic Tele tones but responds to overdrive with a deeper, earthier feel, perhaps more P90 than you’d expect. It’s a lot more incisive than most Strat middle pickups I’ve played.
The neck tone is pure nectar – rounded and full with all the bell-like response you like but with a lot of clarity.
The quality of these pickups is outstanding and give all three positions powerful, assertive tones of great character. But you also get those in-between tones as well and these are especially interesting – darker and richer than you’d expect from a Strat, with the hint of P90 coming through slightly stronger. Indeed, if you like a Strat but think them a little quiet, this could be made for you.
So, what is the Triple Tele? Coming to a conclusion on the Baja Teles was pretty simple, they were outstanding, outstanding distillations of 60 years of the Tele, with the classic tones you wanted and extra magic through that S-1 switching.
The Triple is different, brilliant but different and another triumph for the Classic Player range. It’s madly versatile but the tonality of it pushes it towards the player who wants something more aggressive and spikier. It’s beautifully made, has tons of character and sounds absolutely brilliant in every position – if those are the tones you need. For a lot of players out there, this is the perfect guitar for them and even as a second guitar, everyone would benefit from a bit of Triple Tele in their lives.