Fender Standard Telecaster: Review of the Mexican Tele
The Standard Telecaster
The Fender Telecaster is a historic instrument with origins dating back to the dawn of solid-body electric guitars. Musicians love the Tele today just as much as they did back then, and it is one of most popular guitars of all time.
While it is most commonly associated with country music, blues and rock, the Telecaster can get the job done in just about any genre. Even heavy metal shredders have been known to employ modified Teles. There is really nothing this guitar can’t do.
Fender knows when they have a good thing, and they also know a great instrument shouldn’t come cheap. Nobody would argue that Fender’s American-made guitars aren’t worth the asking price, which is usually a bit steep. These are among the finest instruments a guitarist can own, and they are worth every penny.
But what about the student, hobby guitarist or working musician? For many players, American-made Fenders are simply too expensive. But if you’re a guitar player on a budget Fender still has you covered with their Mexican-made lineup of guitars and basses.
You know Fender is among the top guitar brands in the world. The Standard (MIM) Telecaster looks just like a real Fender, because it is the real deal, not some copy. And you can land one for less than half the cost of the American version. If the Telecaster is your dream guitar you can make it happen.
So what’s up with this Made-in-Mexico thing, and what’s the difference between a MIM Fender and the American-made version?
According to many players, not as much as you might think.
About MIM Fenders
So what does Made in Mexico mean to you? The MIM or Standard line of Fender guitars is much less expensive than the American Standard versions of these classic instruments. Fender cuts costs in a few ways.
As you probably expect, they use components that aren’t quite as high-quality as the ones in the USA guitars. But they also outsource their construction across the border to Mexico.
You might be imagining some sweatshop packed with underpaid workers bolting guitars together, but this really isn’t the case. Fender’s USA shops are in California so this isn’t a big jump geographically, and their Mexican facilities are well-run compared to many overseas plants that put out cheap guitars.
Point is, even though you might prefer to buy an American-made guitar if you can, you don’t need to feel guilty buying a Mexican Telecaster. You’re still supporting an American guitar company.
Standard Fenders might not be as perfect as their USA-made cousins, but they’re still pretty darn good guitars, especially for the price. Many working players use their MIM Fenders on gigs and leave their pretty American guitars at home.
Or, they might swap out parts until they have a custom Telecaster that beats even the best American Tele.
If you’re looking for a great guitar for a reasonable price for right now, MIM Fenders are one of the best options out there.
MIM Tele Tonewoods and Construction
The Standard Telecaster is about as simple as a guitar can get, and for many players that is the beauty of it. Its single-cut solid-body design was revolutionary in 1950, back at a time when most electric guitars basically looked like acoustic guitars with cords sticking out of them. It hasn’t changed much since, and the Telecaster is still the same classic design.
Standard Tele bodies are made of alder, a snappy tonewood also used in Stratocasters.
For the neck and fingerboard you have a choice between one-piece maple, or maple with a rosewood fretboard.
The maple fingerboard will sound brighter where the rosewood will round the tones off a bit. For the classic, twangy Telecaster sound maple is probably the better choice, but this decision is up to personal preference of course.
The bridge is one of the most beautiful things about the Telecaster. While not as high-quality as on the American version, it’s still a big part of the Tele sound. It’s a big bridge, and it extends all the way out under the bridge pickup. Along with the string-through body, this provides a solid tether for the Telecaster tone. Some players like to swap out the stock bridge for a vintage bridge with three T-shaped saddles rather than the six-saddle modern version.
Pickups and Electronics
The pickups are standard Tele single coils, and this is another component that Standard Telecaster owners love to customize. While the stock pickups are fine, there is an array of choices out there, from vintage tones to hotter sounds.
One of the great things about owning a MIM guitar is that you never have to feel bad about modding it!
Like the rest of the Standard Telecaster, the controls are simple and classic. A three-way selector switch controls the pickups, along with one tone knob and one volume knob. The bridge pickup is thin and twangy for that vintage rock sound. The neck pickup is more guttural and reeks of country vibe. The middle position of the selector switch activates both pickups.
Fender Standard Telecaster Sound
You don’t have to worry about your made-in Mexico Tele pulling its weight when it comes to sound. Even though it’s a less-expensive Fender, it’s still a Fender through and through. And remember, you can swap out any components you wish, from pickups to pots, to get that perfect sound you’ve always been looking for.
Hear the MIM Telcaster
Made-in-Mexico Telecaster vs USA Tele
So far this article has discussed all of the great things about the Standard Telecaster, but now we will take a look at what this guitar is not. One of the biggest knocks against the MIM Tele is simply that it is not an American Telecaster.
American Fenders are amazing instruments. These are the guitars you pass on to your kids or grandkids, the classics that you cherish as they get older.
The Standard Telecaster is simply not that kind of guitar. Your MIM Fender can last you for years, even decades. You may love it to the end of your days, but it won’t be worth much in twenty years. Except, of course, to you.
MIM vs USA Tele Differences
So what’s the difference between MIM and MIA Fenders?
Let’s start with the body and the finish. USA Fenders are made with select pieces of wood, and finished with a thin urethane.
MIM guitars get a thicker polyester finish, and the wood used, while good quality, isn’t as choice as that of the USA Fenders. The thinner finish means the wood used in the American guitars has more influence over the tone than in the MIM Telecaster, and we know great tone starts with great wood.
The pickups are another key part of the tone. American Standard Telecasters come with Fender Custom Shop Broadcaster and Twisted Tele pickups, as well as significantly upgraded electronics. While the stock pickups on the Mexican Tele are just fine, Fender Custom Shop pickups are legendary.
The bridge and tuning pegs are higher quality hardware, meaning they’ll not only be more reliable but also contribute to the sound of the guitar.
All around, the American Telecaster is just a better guitar than its Mexican cousin. The question you need to ask yourself is whether or not the cost justifies taking the plunge on a real American-made Fender.
When it comes down to it, you are deciding between a very good guitar and a great guitar.
Hear the American Standard Telcaster
Other Telecaster Options
You know Fender isn’t going to leave you hanging with just two choices of Telecaster, right? There are about as many different Teles out there as there are flavors of ice cream. You don’t have to look very far to find one that exactly meets your needs.
If you’re having trouble deciding between the American Tele and the MIM Telecaster, you may want to consider the . American Special Fenders are made in the USA, but not quite at the same quality level as a true American Tele. American Special Telecaster
They started out as the Highway One series, but in recent years Fender has changed their name and seriously upgraded their specs. The American Special Tele has the same alder body, but with a thin Urethane gloss finish. It’s got Texas Special pickups, a nice upgrade from standard Tele pickups, and improved electronics like the Grease Bucket tone control. The three T-saddle bridge tops off the vintage vibe of the American Special Tele.
Fender American Special guitars are a nice middle-of-the-road option between the MIM and MIA instruments. You can still mod them without feeling bad, but they are a major step up from the Standard MIM models so you might not feel the need to make any changes.
That Tele Vibe
If you’re looking for a Telecaster it’s not likely any other guitar will do. Stratocasters are cool, but not quite the same. The Gibson Les Paul is a great guitar, but it doesn’t have that Tele twang. If you want a Tele, you know you need a Tele.
Fender has so many options out there for Tele lovers it is hard to imagine you won’t find what you’re looking for. However, if you find your dream guitar costs more than you really want to spend, you can always choose the MIM Standard Telecaster and upgrade it with your own custom modifications.
On the other hand, the Standard Tele might be all you ever needed in a guitar. It sounds great, is built to last, and comes in at a reasonable price. Even though it is made in Mexico, it is a real Fender guitar.
Good luck choosing the best Fender Telecaster for your needs and budget. Hopefully you found this review helpful!