Fender Player vs Vintera: What Are The Differences?
The last few years have seen Fender revamp both their Mexican and American ranges of guitars and basses. Their made in Mexico guitars are now made up two series – the Player and the Vintera series. What was the old Mexican Standard became the Fender Player, and more recently, they discontinued the Classic Player, Baja and Road Worn models and released the Vintera series.
Both the Player and Vintera ranges are made in their Mexican factory, and they both consist of the classic Fender designs – Strat, Tele, Jazzmaster, Jaguar, P-Bass and Jazz Bass, amongst a few others. You might notice however, that the Vinteras are more expensive, so what are the differences between these two series to justify the price gap?
The main difference in a nutshell, is that the Player series is a modern take on Fender’s classic guitars, whereas the Vintera series offers players authentic, period-correct style guitars, based on their ‘golden era’ decades: the 50s, 60s and 70s.
The Fender Player series represents 60-70 years’ worth of innovation – they’re modern versions of the classic guitars, but they retain the character of what made them so iconic. They’ve got player-friendly features, they’re available in quite a few different finishes (modern and classic), but they’re still quintessentially ‘Fender’.
The Vintera series on the other hand, is a direct throwback to the 50s, 60s and 70s. Each model is based on a particular decade, so for example, the Vintera 50s Strat has features; pickups, colours, neck profiles etc that would have been on an original Strat in the 1950s (‘Modified’ versions are also available but more on that later). The Vinteras are essentially the Mexican counterpart to the American Original Series, whereas the US version of the Player would be the American Pro series. The guitar world in general, is pretty obsessed with vintage guitars, so for some players, they will be more desirable.
Fender Player Vs Vintera: Pickups
The pickups were specially designed for the Fender Player series. They all use Alnico 5 magnets (the strongest that Fender use) which give you a relatively hot output. Make no mistake, you’ll get beautiful, glassy cleans out of these, and you’ll find that they sound great overdriven too. Fender describe the pickups as being ‘designed for authentic tone – with a bit of an edge … a modern tweak of our classic sound’ – that’s also a pretty good description of the Player series in general. Obviously a Tele pickup sounds different to a Strat pickup, but they’re all made using the same magnets and wiring.
The pickups in the Vintera guitars were all designed by legendary pickup guru Tim Shaw. He carefully inspected pickup sets from a range of vintage Fenders so that he could recreate them for the Vintera series. The pickups in these new guitars have the same type of magnet, wire and wire coating as they did in the 50s, 60s or 70s, depending on the model. Each pickup has been carefully calibrated and voiced not only for the decade, but also for the guitar and pickup position. This means you get a really clear, dynamic and balanced sound – not to mention vintage. As the decades went on, the sound of Fender guitars changed slightly; the Vinteras authentically replicate this.
If you’re a fan of players that have used 60s Strats – Stevie Ray Vaughan and John Frusciante being just two examples, and you’re after that sort of sound, then the Vintera 60s Strat is such a good option – it’s cheaper than an American Original or a Custom Shop, and it gets you a good part of the way there. If you’re not too bothered about nailing a vintage sound, and you just want a good, general Strat tone with all of its chime, glassiness, and versatility, then you could find your match with the Player.
If you want a vintage style guitar, with all its old-school mojo, but with a bit of extra spice, then one of the Modified Vinteras could be for you. Most Vintera Modified models have different pickups – they’re still based on whatever decade you’re going for, but will generally have more output, meaning you won’t have to drive the amp as much to get them to distort. The Mods usually have some sort of extra pickup configuration as well that give you a wider range of sounds from just one guitar.
Fender Player Vs Vintera: Features
Not only do the Fender Player and Vintera guitars sound different, but they’ve got different features too. A big one for me, is the difference in neck profiles- if my fretting hand isn’t comfortable, then I’m probably not going to get on with a guitar. All the guitars and basses in the Fender Player series have Modern ‘C’ neck profiles – these are like a C-shape, but flattened a bit. They’re fairly thin, but not too much – they’re fairly standard and very inoffensive – they’re designed to be comfortable for any sort of player. The neck profiles on the Vintera series however, vary from model to model. You’ll find that the necks on the 50s models will be pretty thick; especially on the Telecaster, so if you don’t get on with chunky neck profiles, then that’s definitely something to consider. The necks on the 60s Vinteras are a little closer to that of the Player, but still a tad chunkier.
As the Vinteras are period-correct, they’ll have the same number of frets as they did in that decade; usually 21 on Strats and Teles; on the Players, they’ve got 22 so if you like having that extra access to the highest notes, then the Players give you that. It’s worth pointing out that the finishes on offer also differ. In keeping with the vintage vibe, the Vinteras are only available in finishes that were around at the time; personally, I love all the pastel finishes from the 50s – Sonic Blue, Fiesta Red, Seafoam Green etc – they’re all in there in the Vintera range. You’ll notice as well that the 50s models have single-ply scratchplates, as they did back then – it’s not a huge difference, but it’s a nice touch that adds to whole vintage aesthetic of these guitars.
Lastly, but still an important point to make – the Vinteras all come shipped with a gig bag, whereas the Players don’t come with anything.
Whilst they might look similar, I’d say there’s more than enough of a difference between the Players and the Vinteras to justify firstly, them both being in the current Fender lineup, and secondly, the price difference. The pickups in the Players are fantastic, but the amount of work that Tim Shaw has put into the Vintera pickups; from the research to the carefully chosen material that they’re made up of, mean that you get guitars that sound incredibly close to how they did in the 50s, 60s and 70s. It’s not just the pickups; everything about the Vinteras is as close to a vintage Fender as you can get, for less than American Original kind of money. The neck profiles, the finishes – they all make up a fantastic range of guitars and basses with a tremendously old-school vibe, plus the fact you get a gig bag with each one shouldn’t be sniffed at either. Not everyone is going to bothered about nailing that vintage tone or vibe, and that’s fine – the Player series will see you right. What’s for sure is that both of these ranges offer players great value for money, and they’re both built really well – these things will last!