The Fender American Professional II Series was introduced on October 13th of 2020. These electric guitars and basses feature forward-thinking, player-friendly specs that showcase Fender's commitment to the wants and needs of modern players. The Professional Series kept the torch burning for the American Standard series, the much loved and popular series that stuck around for decades before being discontinued in 2017. Here we are three years down the road and Fender has revamped their most player-friendly guitars to be even better!
A quick glance at the upgrades...
The American Professional II is available as a Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Jazzmaster for the electric guitar and the venerable Precision and Jazz models for the electric bass. Heck, even Left Handed versions of the more popular model are available! These instruments are the next step in the evolutionary process of the American Professional Series with cool stuff to explore and discuss with every spec. So let us dive in and learn everything we need to know about the American Professional II Series!
Tonewood is always a part of the discussion surrounding guitars. Fender has used Alder and Ash primarily since 1950, but with Swamp Ash becoming scarce, they are looking for alternative options. The Professional Series II instruments are constructed using Alder with an option for Roasted Pine on one Strat and Tele model. If you aren't hip to the world of roasted, caramelized, toasted, heat-treated, cooked, or any other name for wood that has had its moisture content reduce via slow cooking, then you are missing out! Pine is one of those oft-misunderstood tonewoods that gets the short end of the stick. After becoming Tele-obsessed, I learned the early Snakehead Teles were made of Pine, then got to play a reissue that was one of the most tone-full guitars I had heard till that point. Since then, I have played every Pine Guitar I have come across, and I still find it to be less harsh than Ash, less assertive than Alder, with a sweeter top end then both and a clearer sounding low end.
The Professional II Series instruments feature a new satin finish on the back of the neck that Fender calls "Super Natural". Not as in ghosts but in a natural feeling finish that is super.
We concur this satin urethane IS super. Fast, dry, never sticky or tacky, this finish feels much like what one would experience on a Fender Custom Shop that has had the neck heavily aged or relic-ed in which the finish is mostly missing. Also, like a Custom Shop, the edges of the fingerboard are perfectly rolled for an exceptionally comfortable feel in the left hand. Rolled Edges are an easy thing to overlook until you play a guitar without them! The neck heel has been reduced for easier high fret access, so getting to the 22nd fret is a breeze!
All of the necks for Professional Series II guitars and basses start with a Maple platform. Each model is available with a Rosewood fingerboard (in certain colors) as an option. These necks are carved to the much loved Fender Deep C Profile. The neck measures in at .850" at the 1st fret and .920" at the 12th fret with slight variations from guitar to guitar. The fingerboards feature a 9.5" fingerboard radius which seems to be the perfect radius for the majority of Fender Players these days. 22 Narrow Tall Frets are installed. These are tall frets that allow the player to use a light touch, especially when strung with 9s or 10s. The action can still be set pretty low, and we have been extremely pleased and impressed with how playable this updated series is!
We have a smidge of extra nut width at 1.685". This extra width is not immediately noticeable to most players, but if you have chunky fingers you'll appreciate the little bit of extra room. These guitars come with Bone Nuts from the factory, another typical after-market upgrade that is not necessary!
Redesigned V-Mod II pickups come stock in every Professional II Series Instrument and they are refined, nicely. These single-coil pickups offer perfect string to string balance and are very well balanced from pickup to pickup as well. These pickups are clearer sounding, with a more open and airy top-end, retaining their sweet bell-like chime. Each guitar is complete with easy to understand and navigate controls that should be familiar to the average player.
To up the coolness-factor, each model has some cool switching options to make each instrument more versatile than one might expect...
The Strat SSS: 5 Way Blade Switch w/Push/Push Tone Control that adds the Neck Pickup to Positions 1 and 2 (think Tele!)
The Strat HSS: with the pickup in humbucking mode, the overwound bridge coil is tapped at a lower output that matches the other paired coil. With the pickup in single-coil mode via the Push/Push control, the overwound bridge pickup coil is untapped for a sweet but powerful single-coil sound.
The Tele: Push/Push on Tone Control which goes to Series Mode in the middle position, offering a boost in output (like position 4 on a 4-way switch).
The Tele Deluxe: Dual Push/Push knobs allow for individual coil tap for each humbucker.
The Jazzmaster: Slider Switch Up: In this position, the pickups are wired in series and the Volume and Tone are adjusted with the two thumbwheel controls. All other controls are bypassed except for the Push/Push tone control. Series mode boosts the guitar’s output for maximum fullness and volume, allowing the player to get to overdriven distorted sounds.
Slider Switch Down: In this position, the pickups are wired in parallel and the Volume and Tone are adjusted with the knobs below the bridge. Parallel mode yields more traditional, rich-mid Jazzmaster tones. A Push/Push pot on the Tone knob boosts the bridge pickup for a hotter output. The lower bout three-way toggle facilitates straightforward switching options in this setting.
Do we need another new Strat and Tele? Well, when the result is this apparent, the answer is a resounding YES! While the body shapes have not changed much (or at all), the improved pickups and neck make all the difference in the world. We have a pretty good wrangle on what makes guitars play better than others, and a lot of the perceived magic has been replaced by science. With Fender being well-aware of what Players are looking for, the Professional II Guitars took a few of the areas that could be improved upon and did just that! More playable, better sounding, new colors, all great forward-thinking additions to an already stellar line-up of instruments.
For me, the addition of a Pine version is the shining star of the updated versions. We find Pine to be tone-full, more interesting to look at than Alder, and the (typically) lighter weight of this wood sure is attractive when it will be hanging around your neck all night! ALL the Professional II's are cool but make sure to play a Pine Version when you can!
And take a watchful listen to each one of these new guitars via Fender's Demo Videos posted below.
This Blog is penned by Mathew Jenkins. Certified Gear Head, Guitar Junky, and SEO Keyword Enthusiast.