Hands-on review: Fender's Road Worn Player Strats are ready to be worn

(John Gorbe | Posted 2011-02-09)

Hands-on review: Fender's Road Worn Player Strats  are ready to be worn

I was walking through a music store the other day when I looked up and noticed something different hanging on the wall. It looked like a used Stratocaster, although I wasn’t sure what model it was yet. Then I noticed the tags hanging from the headstock, so at that point I knew it was new … but what was it? The body had an aged white finish with worn spots in the paint; the headstock and neck were distressed as well, but the black pickguard assembly against that great worn-white finish caught my eye and begged me to take it down.

This was the brand new Road Worn Player Stratocaster made by Fender out of their Ensenada, Mexico, plant. Fresh off the NAMM show, this guitar looked and felt like its been played for several years. My demo guitar had an Olympic White finish.

This guitar features an alder body; a distressed urethane-finished maple neck witha modern C shape; 21 medium jumbo frets; maple fingerboard; three Texas Special single-coil pickups; five-way pickup selector; 1 volume control, 2 tone controls; chrome hardware; vintage-style tremolo; cast/sealed tuning machines; synthetic bone nut; and aged black plastic knobs, pickup covers, pickguard, switch tip and trem arm tip. All Road Worn Player Stratocasters also ship with a deluxe gig bag.

The popular Road Worn Series guitars struck a chord with guitarists with their well-played look and feel and their great value. The New Road Worn Player Series guitars takes the experience a step further by adding hotter pickups and a flatter fingerboard to facilitate smoother bending.

Performance Immediately after I plugged the faux-aged beauty in, I tuned up quickly. The standard Cast/Sealed tuners got the job done in a hurry and felt smooth as I raised the guitar to pitch. I dug in right away with some bends in the lower, middle and higher registers of the fingerboard. The guitar responded with grace and agility in all registers with a smooth, expected feel and no fretting out. This could very well be due to the flatter fingerboard. The frets were dressed nicely and the fingerboard edges were very smooth; in fact, I was surprised how smooth the edges were on a non-USA model. This is really nice work.

The tone of this guitar is your typical Strat "chime" that is both beautiful and distinctive. The Texas Special single-coils really came alive, though, when I kicked in some overdrive and the sound began to saturate. This is where I appreciated the pickup upgrade and noticed that these Texas Specials have more output than a standard Strat pickup. The sound was balanced with a little more mid-range hump to my ear, which made my lines sound thicker with the overdrive I was working with.

The first thing I noticed after the asthetics of this piece was the great tactile feel of the neck. If you’ve read my other reviews, you’ll know that when I grade the playability of a neck I place a lot of emphasis on the finish. The Road Worn Player passes my test with flying colors. The neck appears to have a worn finish that would suggest it hys been played for 50+ years. When I sat down to play I found that all the details in my technique flowed like water; little things like pivoting on my thumb, shifting zones, muting with my hand and fingers and gliding my thumb vertically along the neck were effortless.

Of course, the Fender Stratocaster is one of the most versatile guitars you will find on the market. Guitarists have been using them for Blues, Rock, Metal, Ska, Reggae, R&B, Country, Funk, even Jazz! This model will feel great in anyone’s hands performing these styles, especially with the hotter pickups.

Another test I always perform on electric guitars is the “volume swell.” Yet another pet peeve of mine is reaching for the volume knob to slowly sneak a note or chord in to emulate a synth or pedal steel and have the sound jumps to 10 instantly. When I began to sneak a note from the Road Worn Player, the pot reacted exactly as expected, with a gradual increase in volume. The volume knob is also located in the perfect place for my middle finger to execute this technique.

If I were looking for a new Strat to add to my arsenal I would definitely consider this guitar, along with their USA models. You can purchase the Road Worn Player Stratocaster for $949 USD, which includes a deluxe gig bag. I tested this guitar at Pat's Music in Bensalem, Pa. Visit them at http://www.patsmusiccenter.com

Fender Road Worn Player Series guitars come with a head start on history, bringing players killer aged designs perfectly paired with modern quality and playability.

<>IJohn Gorbe is a guitar editor for MGR and a professional guitarist/instructor.

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