When U2 guitarist The Edge joined FMIC’s board of directors in May of 2014, industry observers speculated that his new relationship with Fender would lead to a signature model guitar even though The Edge’s role with the company was more ambitious and involved than the typical artist endorsement.
It turns out that the observers were only half right—the relationship actually led to this year’s announcement of the Fender The Edge Strat guitar and the Fender The Edge Deluxe guitar amp.
In both instances, these products are not reissues of The Edge’s personal vintage Fender guitars and amps but rather newly developed models that borrow heavily from the past while also including several upgrades to provide performance that’s up to speed with today’s studios and arena stages.
The Fender The Edge Strat is based on the bevy of black Seventies Strats that The Edge has taken out on tour with U2 for decades (a ’73 model being his favorite). The Edge Strat’s basic foundation is similar to a Seventies-era Strat, featuring an alder body and a one-piece quartersawn maple neck with the distinctive “oversized” CBS-era headstock, a 9 1/2-inch radius, and 21 medium jumbo frets.
However, numerous refinements upgrade the guitar to modern player preferences, including a rounded neck heel with asymmetrical four-bolt neck plate that provides more comfortable access to the uppermost frets, a modern C-shaped neck profile, “all short-post” locking tuners, polished stainless steel block saddles, and a modern two-point synchronized tremolo with pop-in arm. Like the Strats in The Edge’s stage arsenal, this model is available in any color you like as long as it’s black.
Perhaps the most significant feature of The Edge Strat is its pickups. The neck and middle pickups are Fender Custom Shop Fat ’50s single-coils, while the bridge pickup is a DiMarzio FS-1. Unlike the standard versions of both models, which have staggered polepieces, the pickups made for The Edge Strat have flat polepieces.
The Edge Deluxe is based on The Edge’s favorite 1957 Deluxe (with the 5E3 circuit), which is one of several late-Fifties tweed Deluxes that he owns. The Edge admits that he discovered the allure of the tweed Fender Deluxe rather late, specifically in 2003, but he immediately put it to good use to record what is arguably U2’s greatest single of the last 12 years, “Vertigo.”
The Edge Deluxe offers many features found on the original late-Fifties 5E3 tweed Deluxe, including a 12-watt hand-wired circuit powered by two 6V6s, two 12AX7s, and a 5Y3 rectifier, four inputs, single tone control, individual Mic and Instrument volume controls, finger-jointed solid-pine cabinet, and lacquered tweed covering. However, it also features several modifications and refinements, including a standby switch, a 12-inch 15-watt Celestion Blue speaker (instead of the original’s blue cap Jensen), an updated tone stack with tighter bass response, custom-tapered volume control, protective rubber switch covers that keep out dust, and The Edge’s hand-designed grille logo badge.
The Edge Strat absolutely nails The Edge’s tones on U2 songs like “Bad,” “Pride,” “Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For,” and “Where the Streets Have No Name,” but more importantly it provides the best Strat tone, particularly for rock, that I’ve heard from a new Fender guitar in years. The pickups produce a beefy, fat midrange and treble that sparkles without being thin or shrill, and when played through an overdriven amp the tone is ample and voluptuous—like Marilyn Monroe compared to the stick-thin super model tone of many modern Strats.
The Edge Deluxe is by far the best tweed-style amp to come off the Fender workbench in the last 10 to 15 years. I own an original 1957 tweed Deluxe, and while Fender’s recent versions have come close they lacked a certain magic of the original. The Edge Deluxe has that elusive magic—namely the lush, harmonically rich distortion—while also offering what many would consider sonic enhancements. The tighter low-end response prevents the speaker from “farting out” when the low E string is popped too forcefully as well as the rectifier sag that can make power chords sound flabby. Like a good Deluxe, it starts to distort at “3,” but this version is also considerably louder than vintage examples, which is great for guitarists who want to gig with a Deluxe.
STREET PRICES $1,799.99 (The Edge Strat); $2,399.99 (The Edge Deluxe)
MANUFACTURER Fender, fender.com
• Pickups on The Edge Strat consist of Fender Custom Shop Fat ’50s (neck and middle) and a DiMarzio FS-1 (bridge), all with flat, unstaggered polepieces.
• The Edge Strat is based on a Seventies Stratocaster but offers several upgrades, including a contoured neck heel, short-post locking tuners, and modern two-point synchronized tremolo.
• The Edge Deluxe is faithful to the beloved late-Fifties 5E3 tweed Deluxe, featuring a 12-watt circuit driven by 6V6, 12AX7, and 5Y3 tubes.
• A Celestion Blue 12-inch speaker provides enhanced tonal range and sweeter midrange response than the Jensen blue cap speaker in the original Fifties model.
THE BOTTOM LINE
Regardless of whether you’re a fan of The Edge or not, if you love the timeless tone of a great Stratocaster and a tweed Deluxe (one of the greatest recording amps of all-time) deliver exactly what you’ve been looking for.