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A classy Thinline Telecaster with a terrific tonal twist

By Phil O'Keefe

 

The Fender Telecaster is one of the world's oldest solidbody guitars, but solid isn't the only approach Fender has taken to the Telecaster design. Thinline Telecasters have been around since the late 1960s, when Fender first took the classic Telecaster solidbody and partially hollowed it out to create a semi-hollowbody version.


While those first Thinlines stuck with Fender's traditional Telecaster pickup configuration, later models released in the early 1970s switched to humbucking pickups - the Seth Lover designed Wide Range Humbuckers. The next development came when Fender's famous Custom Shop took things a step further with the development of the first Cabronita Telecaster models. These featured Gretsch-inspired pickups, stripped down electronics, and in some cases, Thinline bodies. But as Custom Shop models, they were priced out of the reach of many players. The Fender Cabronita Telecaster Thinline changes that - this is a version of the Cabronita that nearly any serious player can afford.

 

Fender Cabronita Telecaster Thinline Main.png

 

What You Need To Know

  • Part of the Classic Player series, the Cabronita Telecaster Thinline is made in Fender's factory in Ensenada Baja California Mexico.
  • The body wood type varies, depending on what color you choose. Fender uses an ash body on the white blonde model, and an alder body for the Shoreline Gold and two-tone sunburst models. Speaking of the finish, the gloss polyester Shoreline Gold paint job on the review unit is absolutely flawless, and quite a bit more striking in person than the photos convey. This is one classy looking guitar!
  • Access to the truss rod is from the headstock end of the neck, making adjustments easier.

Headstock.JPG

 

  • The idea behind the original Thinline models was to reduce weight, and the same principle still applies to the Cabronita Thinline. Remove some of the wood, and you reduce the weight of the guitar, making it more comfortable for the player. The review unit weighs in at just a touch over 7 pounds (7 lbs 2 oz) making it a very comfortable guitar to wear, even for extended sets.
  • There is a very nicely figured maple neck on the review unit. The feel of the neck is very comfortable. The "modern C shape" (as Fender describes it) is wide enough (1.650" at the nut) for ample spacing between strings, but not so wide or thick as to cause playing discomfort, even if you have fairly small hands. The scale length is the traditional 25.5", the fret board radius is 9.5", and the frets are medium jumbos.  The neck thickness is 0.900" measured right in front of the nut (where the backside flare of the headstock makes it slightly thicker), and 0.876" measured right behind the first fret.

flamed neck.JPG

 

  • The Cabronita Thinline features two Fideli-Tron humbucking pickups, which look and sound a lot like Gretsch Filter-Trons. I expected "jangle" and sparkle from them, and while they deliver that admirably, they're also fatter and fuller in the lows than I was expecting, which, in combination with the highs, gives the guitar a very big, yet articulate sound. It sounds great clean, but it also wants to get sassy and snarly, and will do so very easily, with a little help from appropriate settings on your amp, or with an overdrive pedal.  

 

Cabronita Body.png

 

  • The tuners aren't Fender's typical "vintage" units. They're not the reissue Schaller "F" tuners I was expecting, nor the Kluson inspired Ping tuners that you see on a lot of 60s reissues. They look fine on this guitar, and better yet, they worked reliably and smoothly, with no slippage or stiffness.

Tuning Machines.jpg

 

  • Unlike a standard Tele, the neck has a slight extension which allows for 22 frets instead of the traditional 21 that you'll find on most Telecaster models.

22 fret neck extension.jpg

 

Limitations

  • The controls are somewhat stripped down, consisting of a three-way pickup selector and a volume control. There is no tone knob, and no tone "switch", like you might find of a Gretsch. Nor is there really much room inside the control cavity to add one due to where the volume control and switch are located within the control cavity route.

Control cavity.JPG

 

  • The setup on the review unit could have been better. It wasn't horrible; the truss rod and action settings were decent enough, and the fretwork was quite well done, but the intonation was a bit off.

Bridge Pickup f-hole and controls.JPG



Conclusions

If I had to sum this guitar up in just two words, they would be Muy Caliente! This is one hot guitar. The original Custom Shop Cabronitas created quite a buzz when they were first released, and now Fender has both solid and semi-hollow versions that are affordable to almost everyone. And far from scrimping, Fender really nailed it in terms of quality materials, construction, playability, and sound. This is a first-rate guitar that I'd be proud to play anywhere. I'm really going to dread sending this one back. I've had a lot of fun playing it. If you're looking for a Telecaster with a little something extra; with loads of style and attitude to match, then definitely check out the Fender Cabronita Telecaster Thinline. 

 

Resources

Musician's Friend Fender Cabronita Telecaster Thinline catalog page  ($999.99 MSRP / $749.99 "street")

Fender's Classic Player Cabronita Telecaster Thinline web page

Telecaster Buying Guide

HC Meets the Cabronita Telecaster Thinline (video):

 

Fender's Cabronita Telecaster Thinline video demo:

 

 

4 comments
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Blackbess21  |  November 05, 2014 at 3:39 pm
I've had a Shoreline Gold one of these for a few months, and I'm delighted with it. The finish, build quality, neck and hardware are every bit as good as my US Tele Standard. It arrived with 9's like all modern Fenders, so after throwing them in the bin and setting it up for 10's it played like a dream. It still sounds like a Tele, especially on the bridge pickup, but with a bit more grunt, a less thin sound.  The neck 
Reply
Blackbess21  |  November 05, 2014 at 3:39 pm
Had one of these for a few months. Changed the stupid 9's it came with to 10's, it plays like a dream. Build quality, hardware and finish as good as my US Tele Standard, neck is gorgeous. Still sounds like a Tele but with more grunt, and a very Gretsch-like sound from the neck pickup. Light as a feather too. I like the no fuss at all single volume control, if you want to change the tone use the amp! If you're thinking of buying one, do it!
Reply
NuggetUK  |  September 10, 2014 at 11:29 pm

Nice review, thanks. By far the most in-depth I've been able to find so far for this interesting guitar. I've had solid and thinline telecasters, and currently play a Gretsch G5420, and have enjoyed all three, so I'm interested in checking this one out a lot closer now after your glowing endorsement. Thanks!

Reply
evets618  |  September 10, 2014 at 11:29 pm

No tone control? McCarty would've taken a different rout.

Reply
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