I’m a guitar lover so when I had the chance to try the Fender Jazzmaster Acoustasonic I didn’t think twice. What more could you want? It’s a beautiful, California-made electro-acoustic that looks like the side of a 1960s station wagon. Add in some surfboards and some fish tacos and you’ve got an afternoon of fun. But that’s not what this $2K guitar is about. Instead, it’s a clever, unique, and very high tech git-fiddle with a few tricks up its sleeve.
So what makes this guitar unique? Well, like Yamaha’s TransAcoustics, Fender has stuck some impressive electronics into the package to turn a single guitar into 10 guitars.
The guitar can go from a fully-bodied acoustic to a crunchy electric. It has a five position switch and a dial that slides you from an acoustic sound to an overdriven sound in every position. In other words, you can start with an acoustic jam and then, with a single switch flip, turn it into a blues machine. I tried it below, if you’re interested in hearing how it sounds.
Ok. So we understand the basics of this guitar. You start at position one and either turn the knob to get to position two or you can flip from one sound to the next with the switch or slowly move from style to style with the knob. Unlike pedal controls, the entire thing is built into the guitar with no external cables. An internal USB battery runs the whole thing and the guitar contains two pickups, a bridge pickup, and a piezo pickup, to capture two types of string sounds. As you can hear, first the guitar sounds a bit like a piezo-micced acoustic and then an electric, all at once, and the results speak for themselves: this thing is wild. And, in the right hands, it’s an interesting musical tool.
How does it sound?
As for playability, I’m not impressed. The styling is very polarizing and the guitar has a chunky, childish, Duplo feel that I see Fender is trying to recreate the classic Jazzmaster styling with a crunchier, California aesthetic. The result is a bold and blocky guitar with an acceptable neck and body. Further, the guitar costs $1,999, a pretty penny for something that most Jazz guitarists wouldn’t touch. So who is this guitar for? Well, for one, I could see this in a busker’s or a singer-songwriter’s hands. The ten separate styles allows the solo guitarist to pop into multiple styles in the middle of a song. You could, for example, do a quick rest in a song, and then grind out a chorus after which you can return to an acoustic sound for the verse. The benefit of this guitar is that you don’t need to mess with pedals and can instead jack right into a plain Jane amp.
The guitar performs best with strum-oriented songs although there have been plenty of videos of better guitarists than me shredding on this thing. It’s definitely an acquired and expensive taste and, as you can imagine, the gigging guitarists I showed this to found it to be overkill. If they want a blues sound, they said, they’d get an overdrive pedal. Swapping the switches on this thing didn’t sound very appealing. Here are all ten sounds run through one after the other.
But as a piece of tech, this is one of Fender’s triumphs. It’s a compact, complex guitar with an amazing feature set designed for wide-ranging sounds. It looks goofy – the blue is particularly silly – but modern guitars are mostly rolling in this new candy-coated style and Fender is just playing along. Given the modern looping style of most guitarists, this Fender fits right in as you can record a lick, pause and change sounds, record another one, and so on. Fender knows that old Blues Dads are no longer its primary customer and this guitar shows they are attempting something new and far more interesting than anything in their traditional lineup.
Should you buy it?
Would I buy this? No. It’s not a guitar for me. I prefer a more solid instrument with fewer doodads which, I suspect, is why I have a Gibson L-7 and an older Harmony Jazz guitar. I’m looking for something solid and good without depending on an internal battery and electronics.
Is this guitar for you? If you’re a solo performer you might find the Acoustasonic useful. Because of its features, you’re going to get a lot of bang for your $2,000 spend and it’s a classic piece that will at least hold curiosity value over time. I could see these things hitting $1,500 or less in the aftermarket once people try and fail to fall in love with them but for folks who are gigging or busking, it’s a no brainer. You’ll want a guitar that can do what this one can.
As for me, I’m happy to let this old girl fly back to her Fender home. She’s a solid piece but not quite my style.