While Fender have long been known to faithfully and steadily recreate their historical guitar designs over the years, it’s not too often that we have a completely new instrument added to their line-up of solidbody electrics. And so it seems that in 2019, Fender have made up for lost time by adding a slew of reinvented instruments to their catalogue, two of which we will discuss, here. The Alternate Reality series, seeks to hypothesise what might have been, were Fender’s iconic guitar designs to have come to fruition in some sort of other realm: another time, or universe. Would Fender have had similar, industry-changing success with these designs? Who knows. But we do know that they have made a sterling effort to create a series comprising instruments that maybe Leo would have designed, had he not invented the Stratocaster and Telecaster. And so we have the Powercaster and Sixty-Six guitars.
These guitars are both made at Fender’s Mexican factory, cutting down on the cost of a similar line-up of US models they previously launched – the Parallel Universe series. For those of us out there who want something different, but still identifiably Fender, it might not always be justifiable to spend as much as demanded by that line of instruments. And we really do applaud Fender for their efforts in creating a quality instrument, at a slightly more accessible price-point.
Starting with the Powercaster, Fender brings us a guitar that is essentially an alder bodied, offset design, but with a Strat-style over-sized headstock, and a bridge humbucker to compliment a Soapbar pickup in the neck position. But it doesn’t stop there. This guitar – unlike its sibling – sports a shorter 24.75” scale-length, likening the instrument slightly to a Gibson, in terms of feel. The extra slinkiness in the strings can certainly be felt, and so can the guitar’s smaller, yet looser tone. Another feature that we love with this instrument, is its aesthetically stunning roasted maple neck. Sporting a ‘Modern-C’ profile, and a Pau Ferro fretboard, the guitar really does look the part. And its 22 medium-jumbo frets and 9.5” fingerboard radius mean that it plays the part perfectly, too. We think Fender really nailed it on the head with this design. It’s individual, unique – and most importantly, it sounds great! And a lot of that has to do with those pickups.
The Sixty-Six, on the other hand, might have some more familiarity to it. Retaining the full 25.5” scale-length, this is an amalgam of some classic designs – just not necessarily in a combination that you might expect. Its body – made of ash – is effectively a down-sized Jazz Bass shape: it looks snazzy. Other small cosmetic appointments that liken it to this bass, include its chrome control control plate, and chrome-covered pickups: a trio comprising two Player Series Tele Alnico 5 single-coil pickups, and a Player Series humbucker in the bridge position. This guitar looks about as individual as it gets, when it comes to Fender. Again, we see the same familiar over-sized Stratocaster headstock make its return. A 5-way blade means that – while the trio of pickups and their positions relative to the guitar’s scale are slightly different – the instrument is capable of some Stratocaster-like tones, albeit a different take on them.
In the hand, the Sixty-Six feels solid, weighty and affirmative, and it handles and plays in much the same way. Notably lower in output than the Powercaster, this guitar would seemingly suit gentler, more articulate players, who won’t seek to smother their guitar tone with overdrive. That said, it pokes through thick drives in a pleasingly characterful way. Comparatively, the Powercaster is a more savage beast, all round. Its lighter construction, smaller scale length and considerably higher output pickups, make for an instrument that generates thick, pushed clean tones right from the get-go. Add drive, and you have meaty, mid-range-saturated tones that sing, and will no doubt suit players who love rockier tones, or who want a guitar that has more of everything, sonically. Lows are round and fat, highs are subdued and smooth, and mids are what gives this guitar its unique sonic signature. We like this instrument a lot.
Fender know they’re targeting players who aren’t seeking the conventional, but who aren’t afraid to break the mould. Consequently, it seems that this is exactly how they approached designing these guitars: fearless. They’re individual, original and we can safely say that while they both offer a pallet of tones that differ from the traditional designs we have come to know and love, the Fender DNA is evident. And hence the series’ name becomes ever more prominent – these guitars really are an Alternate Reality, but stemming from the same building blocks.
We stock both the discussed guitars, and if you’re interested, we encourage you to come in to our Denmark Street store, or take a look at our website, for more details. It’s always a joy to see people play guitar, and if there’s any way we can help you decide on your next instrument, then you can bet we’ll be here to help.
Until next time…