The Squier Contemporary Telecaster is another great addition to the Contemporary Series made to shred. This may come as a surprise for most people, because Fender/Squier usually make more traditional instruments. But this axe is anything but traditional!
Squier Contemporary Telecaster: A New Spin on A Classic Design
I have always been a fan of Squier Guitars, especially the super low priced beginner Stratocasters that come with a fixed bridge. These are great instruments for someone that wants to test the waters when it comes to playing guitar, and since these come in at under $200 usually, it isn’t a big risk for the buyer. Playing guitar is not for everyone, and you will know almost immediately if it’s something you want to stick with.
This was the Squier that I grew up with, a budget guitar brand that was for beginners. The company was just a low cost version of Fender guitars and it was aimed solely at first time players. Although, I had also seen some pros take a Squier guitar and mod it to play on stage, and some of these people were pretty famous! I have also seen professionals have a Squier as a backup guitar at gigs, in case something happens to their main Fender guitar on stage.
So for years, Squier was just the “starter model” for Fender. They were just for beginners usually, and the price reflected this. Squier was the cheap guitar that you used in an emergency, or you bought for your kid that was learning to play. It was hard to take Squier seriously, as a brand.
But a few years ago, Squier started making some higher priced instruments, that had some amazing specs. These started with the Classic Vibe Series, which sold extremely well, and was universally praised by reviewers and players alike. I owned one of these amazing guitars, and I used it to record several tracks in 2012. The studio engineer asked me about it, and after he played it, he bought three for his studio. But these were styled after classic guitars from 50 years ago, but for a budget price.
Squier began making the Contemporary Series to “compliment” the Classic Vibe Guitars. There was a twist with the new Contemporary series: Instead of being based on classic guitars, these would be more futuristic, and aimed at playing heavy music. Some models feature active pickups, and every model sports a wild new modern finish. These have amazing specs, while still remaining in budget price territory.
The Squier Contemporary Telecaster is one of the newer additions to the lineup, and it has all kinds of insane features for the price. But instead of looking through the lens of “this is a budget guitar” that usually ends up with me saying “this is good for the money”… I forgot about price and just played the guitar. The results were…different.
So let’s take a look at the Squier Contemporary Telecaster, and go over the features. I think you will be surprised at my final opinion. In fact, you’re in for a whole lot of surprises, in general!
Squier Contemporary Telecaster: Features And Specs
There is a lot to talk about when it comes to the Squier Contemporary Telecaster, and I am going to try and sum up my experience with it over three days. If you are looking for a classic “Tele Twang” type of guitar, you will be sorely disappointed with this axe! Squier has plenty of throwback models, and this is not one of them.This Tele has all kinds of modern features that Fender doesn’t usually offer outside of the Jim Root Models.
- Gloss Metal Flake Finish (All 3 Models)
- Poplar Body
- Matching headstock
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- 25.5″-scale roasted maple neck
- 12” Radius
- Contoured Neck Heel
- Squier Atomic Neck Humbucker
- Rail-style Bridge Humbucker
- 3-way Selector Switch
- Matte Black Hardware
- Black Binding
Starting with the construction, this thing does not feel like a Squier guitar at all. First of all, it is a little heavier than you would expect. Now I don’t mean it’s like an 8lbs Les Paul or anything, but it is definitely heavier than I expected, at about 6.8lbs. The roasted maple neck looks great, and everything is built very stable. The nut and tuners are on the cheap side, but they do their jobs.
If you are a regular Fender player, this neck is going to throw you off a little bit. The flat 12” radius is much different than what you usually find on a Tele (9.5 is standard). The Squier Contemporary Telecaster was obviously made for shredding, and this thin/flat neck is a dream to play on. Fast runs and legato are easy, as well as big bends. You also have a full sized 22 fret neck, instead of the 21 that you usually get with a Squier. It feels a lot like a Charvel neck to me, which happens to also be a Fender brand…Hmm…I wonder…
The finish is one of my favorite parts of this guitar, and it is nearly impossible to see the details in pictures. All three colors have a metal flake/glitter style finish. Just looking at pictures, you can’t really see the fine details of the metal flake. But trust me, in person it looks like a bunch of glitter was mixed in with the paint, and it looks awesome. I was not expecting such a cool paint job on a budget guitar, and the headstock matches on all three variants.
The Squier Contemporary Telecaster RH brings modern features and bold aesthetics to an iconic Fender platform to satisfy today’s most discerning and daring players. At the heart of this guitar is a SQR rail humbucking bridge pickup and a Squier SQR Atomic humbucking neck pickup. This guitar is primed for shredding, and is well worth the budget price!
The matching headstock gives the guitar a “Custom Shop” feel, and I am sure that’s exactly what Squier was aiming for. The neck heel is much less cumbersome than your usual Tele, and it has a contoured scoop so you can access the higher frets with ease. I would have liked to seen a nicer nut, but the one I played worked fine even though it was cheap plastic. The black binding covers the body, and the neck, like an expensive Tele Custom.
The matte black hardware looks really awesome on all three models, and it fits the whole theme of the guitar while bringing everything together, visually. It not only matches the binding, but also the tuners and the nut making the whole look of the guitar very cohesive. The bridge is Fender Modern style with six individual saddles, like a Stratocaster. This makes it so much easier to intonate and set the string height compared to the vintage Tele bridge.
I couldn’t help but think about how this guitar would look on stage. The wicked metallic paint job would look killer under the bright stage lights. The guitar in general would stand out on the stage compared to the usual fare that you see most guitarists play. I’m sure you would have other guitarists asking you “What the hell is that?” when you get off stage!
Aesthetically speaking, the Squier Contemporary Telecaster is a massive departure from classic models from Fender. Somehow it manages to look simple, brutal, and classy all at the same time. But the real star of the show is something entirely different, that has nothing to do with the way it looks…
Squier Contemporary Telecaster: Pickups And Electronics
The first thing that you notice about the electronics is that the control plate is backwards! This may seem weird to people who are new to the world of Telecasters, but the Squier Contemporary Telecaster is actually doing something that Tele players have been doing for years. It’s pretty common to turn the plate around, and reroute the knobs so the controls are closer to your hand, making volume swells easier to achieve.
The next thing you notice is the murdered-out pickups. You have a full sized humbucker in the neck with the SQR logo. But the coolest feature is the Rail-style humbucker in the bridge! This may look like a single coil, but this is a stacked humbucker like Duncan is known for, and Dimarzio. This is a crazy combo for a Telecaster, and definitely brings this guitar up to more “Metal” specs.
The neck SQR Atomic humbucker is pretty hot, but not so sizzling that you can’t get a good clean tone. The clarity is actually very surprising for a budget guitar, and the string separation under high gain is pretty impressive since you can hear every note in a chord clearly. If you turn down the tone a little, you can get that creamy “liquid” solo sound that Les Pauls are famous for.
More surprising, is the SQR bridge rail humbucker. This thing RIPS! I was so surprised when I tuned down to drop D and started chugging, and using more complex chords. You can hear every note through high gain, and this pickup is very midrange heavy so it cuts surprisingly well. Usually stock pickups are kind of “boomy” and have too much bass, but this SQR Rail Humbucker doesn’t have that problem at all. In fact, I had to add a little bass on the Katana amp EQ that I was playing the guitar through.
The middle position is a really interesting sound. I tried it with a high gain setting first, and the sound of both pickups at the same time really didn’t sound good. It had way too much midrange and sounded a little fizzy. On the other hand, with a clean setting and a little bit of reverb, it sounded excellent! There is an almost acoustic quality to the tone with both pickups engaged. It’s almost that “out of phase” honk sound that you can get from a Strat.
Opening it up, there are two generic 500k pots, but the wiring is really clean. This guitar is advertised as having the ability to coil tap, and I’m not sure if that is a mistake but this one certainly didn’t coil tap. The other models I saw did not have that feature either. So the coil tap feature is probably a mistake in the advertising. Otherwise, the internals are all super tidy.
The Squier Contemporary Telecaster is really impressive when it comes to the pickups. I was expecting them to sound good, since the Jazzmaster from the Contemporary series has some unbelievably good active pickups. But the SQR passives are a humongous surprise, mainly because of the clarity they provide under high gain. This is something you usually only get with premium pickups that are aftermarket and expensive. The neck pickup is good, but the bridge pickup is great.
Squier Contemporary Telecaster: The Verdict…
Squier and Fender both aren’t exactly known for making guitars for metal and Rock music but that seems to be changing, at least with the Squier models. I think it’s easier to make these models under the Squier brand name, because Fender is all about historical legacy. Epiphone does the same thing by making models like The Prophecy series, something that Gibson would probably never do.
In the same vein as Epiphone, it appears that Squier has become it’s “own thing” now and is taking more risks with design. I am a huge fan of these kinds of designs because I love Fender guitars and all of the body styles that Fender makes. But Fender is usually not very friendly when it comes to Metal. I mean, it can be done… but why fight a Tele when you can buy a Schecter that was designed to shred?
That being said, of course you can mod a Fender to play Metal. But it’s easier to have a guitar designed for that purpose. If I owned the Squier Contemporary Telecaster, I would probably change the nut and add locking tuners. Everything else on the guitar is fantastic, and the pickups are more than serviceable. I would definitely gig with this guitar, without question, and enjoy every second on stage with it.
With that in mind, I would pay an extra $50 to have Squier add those things from the get-go. Then you would have a pro-spec guitar that still falls well into budget range. There was a time in the 90’s when Squier guitars competed with it’s Fender counterparts, and we might be seeing a resurgence of this trend if Squier keeps pumping out quality like this.
The Squier Contemporary Telecaster is a pretty amazing guitar, but like I said at the beginning of the article… I am not going to say “for the money”. This is a great guitar, period. I would love to check out the other models as well, like the Starcaster when I have the opportunity. I think Squier is on to something with this newer series, and they may gain some new players. If you have always loved Telecasters, but thought they couldn’t rock, this is the guitar for you!
Does The Squier Contemporary Telecaster Come With A Case?
No, but the guitar is a standard tele size so it would fit in any Fender case. It would also fit well in any generic “Tele Style” case.
Does The Squier Contemporary Telecaster Have Active Pickups?
While some of the models in the contemporary line do come with active pickups, the Telecaster does not. It comes with an SQR Atomic humbucker in the neck, and an SQR Rail Humbucker in the bridge that is a stacked single coil shape.
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