Not all great guitars are expensive. And sometimes, you aren’t looking for something with frills. You may just be on the look out for a solid guitar that plays well and sounds good – one that is well built but not prohibitively expensive. There are a lot of bargain guitars out there, but few of them sport the Fender name. This Fender FA-100 review is going to claim that the name on the headstock, in this case, means something.
About the manufacturer
Fender was founded by “Leo” Fender in 1946, and since that time has become one of the, if not the, most recognizable names in guitars. Fender is a rock and roll icon, and for good reason – their iconic electric guitars, including the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, as well as their nearly ubiquitous electric basses, including the Precision bass and the Jazz bass, have been used by a prodigiously large number of great musicians. From rock to country, from jazz to R and B, the Fender name on instruments and amplifiers has become synonymous with reliability and quality.
While they are known for producing electric instruments, Fender also produces a number of impressive acoustic instruments, of which the FA-100 is just an example. From banjos ukuleles to acoustic guitars, Fender’s acoustic line is represented by some great musicians.
The construction of the FA-100 is roughly what one would expect from an entry-level acoustic guitar. Its back, sides, and neck are made of agathis, a light wood sometimes used for the bodies of solid-body guitars and basses; its fretboard is rosewood, a dark, dense wood that is probably the most common fretboard material on acoustic guitars; and it has a spruce top, spruce being, again, a rather common material for acoustic guitar tops.
The top of this guitar is laminate, which tends to produce a slightly thinner sound than solid construction, but this is likely one of the ways in which Fender saved money on this model in order to offer it at such a low price. You can be certain that, overall, the guitar is still very well made.
How does it look?
This guitar is rather understated, but that doesn’t mean it is unattractive. It comes in black, sunburst, and natural. The black version of the FA-100 is straightforward – it is a jet-black finish with a black pickgaurd. In conjunction with the dark fretboard, the finish on the black FA-100 feels rather heavy, conjuring images of metal and punk musicians playing an unplugged show.
The sunburst finish is attractive, moving – as most of Fender’s sunbursts do – from a very light sand color in the middle to a deep black on the periphery. It is reminiscent of some very classic rock and roll images.
The natural finish is very pleasant, bringing out the natural color of the spruce top. It is a laminate top, but it is still rather attractive, and when allowed to breath a little aesthetically it makes for a very nice-looking instrument.
How does it sound?
The FA-100 may be a bargain, and it may not feature some of the denser, heavier tonewoods that more expensive guitars are made of, but it is not in any way an unpleasant sounding instrument. This guitar can sing, and in the right hands, it can sound every bit as good (albeit different) than any other dreadnaught acoustic guitar. Its sound profile is a little thin, perhaps a little uncomplicated, but what it loses in complexity it makes up for in directness. This is a frank guitar, no nonsense. It sounds the notes you play, straightforwardly, without any accoutrement. That is something about this guitar that a lot of people feel endeared by.
How does it feel?
This guitar, being both made of lightweight agathis and being a dreadnaught, feels both large and light. The sizes of dreadnaught guitars turn some people off to them, since they are rather bulky in your lap. They are instruments you really have to wrap yourself around to play. But dreadnaughts are well worth it – they have great projection and, in general, richer tones than smaller-bodied guitars. This guitar is made more manageable by the fact that it is not a heavy guitar. Agathis is not a particularly heavy material, and so the guitar is rather easy to wield, even considering its large frame. It is worth saying, too, that many people love the way dreadnaughts feel – it gives you something to hold on to; you really feel like you’re playing something of substance.
There are no two ways of saying it – this guitar is inexpensive. The concern, then, is not that it may have an inflated price tag, but that it may not be of any real quality, that it may not be worth buying (even at its easy-on-the-wallet price). This review has tried to make the case that not only is the FA-100 worth its price, but that it is a truly great value, set apart from the other guitars in its class for its quality. It is, after all, a Fender, and along with that comes a certain measure of craftsmanship. This is not just a bargain guitar, it is a bargain guitar that can, in the right hands, sound very much like much more expensive instruments.
This Fender FA-100 review has tried to make the case that the surprisingly inexpensive FA-100 is more than just a bargain guitar. That it is also a great instrument. The bottom line is that if you’re on the market for something simple, direct, and no-frills, then this Fender bargain may be for you.