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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Fender's latest Cabronita is a surprisingly affordable take on the original 2010 US Custom Shop original. Tom Quayle looks impressed.
The Telecaster is perhaps the most enduring and classic design in electric guitar history and you mess with it at your peril. The 2010 Custom Shop La Cabronita guitar was one of Fender’s attempts to mess with their classic design and it proved to be a great success with its combination of ‘back to basics’ controls and TV Jones, Gretsch style humbuckers. The Cabronita Telecaster is the Mexican-made equivalent and features exactly the same design principles but with some costs cut in order to price the guitar in the ‘affordable’ price bracket.
Just like the original, the Cabronita features a solid alder body with maple neck and fingerboard but the TV Jones pickups have been replaced with Fender’s ‘Fidelitron’ humbuckers that look, to all intents and purposes, just like the real thing. The body is finished in polyester and the neck coated in non-sticky urethane for a glossy looking but smooth playing experience. The 22 frets are medium jumbo with a super-comfortable and classic 9.5” radius on the C-shaped neck, making for an immediately familiar feel. Hardware is kept to the basics only with neck and bridge ‘Fidelitrons’ and a single volume control and 3-way selector switch. The design is completed with a smaller, single ply scratch-plate and string thorough, hard tail bridge for added sustain and tone. As with the original, custom shop guitar, the Cabronita is a good-looking instrument and really shows the versatility of the original Tele body shape.
Mexican made Fenders have a reputation for superb build quality at a great price and the Cabronita is no exception. There is nothing here to distinguish this as a budget instrument and the uninitiated could easily mistake the Mexican Cabronita for a much more expensive guitar, such is the quality of workmanship and finishing here. Fretwork and finishing are all fantastic and the bolt-on neck joint is flawless in its execution. Considering how much these guitars can be picked up for on the Internet it’s amazing that Fender can produce them at this quality level. Of course, the huge benefit of buying at this price point is that you won’t feel stress upon removing the guitar from its case each time you play it as you would with a Custom Shop and the Mexican Cabronita is certainly built to withstand the rigours of the road where ‘back to basics’ design is a huge advantage.
So, what about the tone? Well, the Fidelitrons are impressive sounding pickups that really sound as good as they look and seem to really suit the Telecaster body shape. You get the essence of the classic Tele tone but with more grunt and a bite that works superbly on both clean and dirty sounds. The bridge pickup gives a wonderful classic Rock tone with a tonal flavor all of its own adding ‘air’ and clarity to overdriven sounds. The middle position is a classic, thinned-out Tele tone but with more width and power that works really well for chimey picked chordal parts and stabs and twangy clean tones. In the neck position the Cabronita really excels as the ‘Fidelitrons’ have so much clarity making it really hard to produce muddy or flabby tones when using higher gain tones. Jazzier tones can be achieved with ease revealing pickups that can cover a surprisingly wide range of tonal genres given the simple control layout.
The Mexican made Cabronita is a superb guitar and really shows how versatile the original Tele design can be with the right hardware and design. Fender definitely has a winner here and it deserves to be checked out, especially considering the great prices these can be picked up for.