Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster review (a beautiful guitar with one BIG problem)

Can I be honest with you? I love Telecasters. I love how they look. I love how they sound. I love Fender’s history (the Tele is the first mass produced electric guitar!). And I love the Butterscotch Blonde color. But that doesn’t mean I love every Telecaster, you know what I mean?

The Classic Vibe series is the high end of Squier (owned by Fender) and they generally do not disappoint. They offer a great build quality at a lower price than a Made in USA or Made in Mexico Fender. I talked a little bit about that in my Squier Classic Vibe ’60s Jazzmaster review. But that Jazzmaster had a few issues. And, welp, I love this ’50s Telecaster after I gave it a setup, but it had a major issue which I’ll get to shortly.

But first! I got a ridiculous deal on this guitar from ProAudioStar. They had these Teles on sale for just $279.99+tax. Regular price is $429.99 so I jumped on it when it went on sale.

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Why You Should Trust Us

Hey, I’m Karol (like Karl not Carol). I’ve been playing guitar for 20+ years, but I’m still an amateur and learning every day. In my younger years I played in a band, but nowadays it’s for fun. I’m not a guitar snob, and I think everybody should just have fun with it.

Why should you listen to this Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster review? Because I don’t care about selling you anything and I want to help you make an informed choice about this and every other guitar I review. I started Art Of Shred because I was unimpressed with the obviously biased paid for guitar and musical equipment reviews online. I only get paid if you use one of my referral links to buy a guitar. Everything I write here is unbiased. Keep in mind, of course, that these are just my views. I don’t know everything and my opinions are my opinions.

Squier Classic Vibe '50s Telecaster

7.9 out of 10
$429.99$279.99

Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster in Butterscotch Blonde

Weight: 8.9 lbs

Made in: Indonesia

Looks
9.5 out of 10
It looks so good this really should be a 10.
Setup (out of box)
3 out of 10
Lots of high frets required a full fret level.
Feel
9.5 out of 10
It feels like a Fender Telecaster. Wonderful if you like Teles.
Sound
8.5 out of 10
Great pickups, but I’ve heard better on a Telecaster.
Price
9 out of 10
I’m basing this on the regular price, not the sale price.

Pros

Looks gorgeous

Plays well

Sounds wonderful

Cons

Needed a fret level due to many high frets

Squier is not known for great quality control (hopefully that will change!)

It's heavy which might be uncomfortable for you

Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster Video Review

Don’t want to read? This 8 minute video review of the CV ’50s Telecaster on ArtOfShred’s YouTube channel covers most of what you need to know, including an extensive sound demo. The sound demo includes a semi-produced track with drums as well as guitar-only segments with clean and dirty sounds using the various pickup options. Note: if you hate when people play heavy riffs on a Telecaster you’re going to hate me. 😉

The Basics of the Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster

The Telecaster is an absolutely iconic instrument. I know I know the first version was called an Esquire and then Broadcaster before settling on the Telecaster name, but what does that have to do with a guitar review? NOTHING!

Fender actually got sued by Gretsch for using the Broadcaster name, which is why they renamed it the Telecaster.

Factoid from The Telecaster Book by Tony Bacon

Anyway, I completely understand folks who don’t like Telecasters. They have a unique twangy sound that’s not for everyone. But if you drench the pickups in distortion you can get a nice heavy bite, which is why I think you’ll find so many heavy shoegaze style bands using them nowadays.

As for the Squier CV ’50s Telecaster? Well, it’s a good reproduction of the classic Fender Tele. No you’re not getting American made. No you’re not getting high end hardware. But you’re getting a quality instrument that does all the basic Telecaster things well.

The spec breakdown:

  • 25.5″ scale length (like a Stratocaster)
  • “C” shaped Maple neck
  • Pine body
  • 21 narrow tall frets
  • 9.5″ fretboard radius
  • Bone nut
  • Tinted glass urethane finish (also comes in Aged White Blonde, and Vintage Blonde)
  • Vintage style tuning machines
  • Vintage-style “ashtray” Telecaster bridge with barrel saddles and nickel-plated hardware
  • 2 Fender-designed alnico single coil pickups
  • 1 volume and 1 tone control
  • 3 way pickup switch
  • Made in Indonesia

First Impressions

You may or may not know, but I’ve purchased and played a lot of Squiers. It’s always sort of a crapshoot when ordering one online. Am I going to get one that passed quality control or one where the QC inspector fell asleep? Never know! It’s part of the fun. (Just kidding.)

Anyway, out of the box this guitar is beautiful. Gorgeous. So pretty. Stunning even!

But once I tuned it up, plugged it in, and started playing? Well, unfortunately it had a lot of fret buzz and required me to do a full fret level, crown, and polish. That is never fun. It’s possible that’s why the one I bought was on such a spectacular sale because I know others who have purchased these without the egregious high fret issues I had.

All that to say, I don’t want to scare you about this guitar. Every online retailer has a return policy if you end up getting a dud. Or if you know how to do setups like I do you can decide whether to take the 1-2 hours and just fix everything yourself.

Cons

The only legitimate con is that I got a guitar that needed an extensive setup. I fully admit that is a big con and it’s an unreasonable ask for you to do a fret level on a brand new guitar. Not everyone believes the same as I do, though. Ask pros that pay thousands of dollars for their guitars and before doing anything they get them professionally setup, even if there are no glaring problems.

My personal belief is that budget guitars (this is a higher end but still budget guitar) should be generally fine out of the box. Nobody is expecting miracles, but nobody is expecting egregious issues either.

A couple of nit-picking cons:

  • Vintage style tuners always annoy me. There is nothing wrong with them, but they require you to measure and cut when changing strings. It’s difficult to explain but you need to cut the end of your string before inserting it into the top of the tuner and then turn the post. It’s not difficult, just annoying to me.
  • The vintage 3 barrel saddles on this and lots of other Telecasters make them slightly more difficult to intonate. But the barrel saddles are one of the things that give Telecasters their charm.

Pros

Lots to like about the Squier CV ’50s Tele!

  • It sounds great. Truly nice sounding pickups. Maybe not the best Telecaster pickups, but they are wonderful.
  • It looks stunning.
  • It’s a quality instrument and a still affordable price point.

What Kind of Setup Did I Do?

As already explained I needed to level, crown, and polish the frets, which takes about an hour or so. And, as with every guitar, I needed to set the intonation and set the string height to my preference. Really easy to do with the included allen wrenches. I did not have to mess with the truss rod because the neck was straight.

If you need a quick tutorial on how to set intonation, watch this video:

There is some quirkiness with setting intonation on a 3 barrel saddle bridge like what this and other Telecasters have, but that video will still help you.

How Does A Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster Sound?

These Fender-designed alnico single coil pickups sound like a Telecaster is supposed to sound! I love how it sounds and plays. Watch the full Squier CV ’50s Tele review for extensive sound demos or listen to this semi-produced track:

What Would I Upgrade?

If you’re just a beginner: nothing

If you’re not a beginner: nearly nothing, haha!

Listen, there is not much this guitar needs, but if you were to force me to do some mods then I’d replace two things.

  1. Pickups – I actually bought replacement pickups from DiMarzio for this guitar, but I liked the sound so much I decided not to replace them. So scratch that, no need for a pickup replacement. 🙂
  2. Tuners – This is blasphemy to some people but I would replace these vintage style tuners with locking tuners to make string changes easier.

Like I said, this Telecaster does not need upgrades.

Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster Photo Gallery

Final Thoughts on the Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster

If you’re looking for a better quality Telecaster than the lower prices Squier (or off brand) options this will get you into a Fender quality Telecaster for less than half the price. I have no problem recommending this over a MIM (Made in Mexico) Fender Telecaster, particularly if budget is a concern.

Overall: 7.9 / 10. A near professional level version of an icon.

Do you own a Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster? Please let me know below what you like and dislike about it.

1 thought on “Squier Classic Vibe ’50s Telecaster review (a beautiful guitar with one BIG problem)”

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