Fender has announced a new line of slimmed-down acoustic-electric guitars, dubbed the Highway Series.
On first glance, you’d be forgiven for thinking the series borrows a few ideas from the firm’s popular Acoustasonics, but while they might share the thinner bodies (coming in at just 2.25”), the Highways – currently limited to a dreadnought and parlor – are a completely new construction.
As Fender puts it in the press release, they therefore represent “not a revision, but a re-imagining of the acoustic”, essentially asking: what would a modern acoustic look like if you designed it from scratch?
The result (produced in Ensenada, Mexico) still features traditional tonewoods –rosewood fretboards, mahogany and spruce on the bodies – but is otherwise very different from the norm.
For a start, the back and sides are hewn from mahogany into a fully chambered design (as opposed to separate back and side pieces that have been glued together).
We’ve seen pictures of the builds in progress [unfortunately not shared by Fender in the press release – Ed] and you can see the final body piece has an L-shaped recess running along the join with the top – and the top then sits within that lip.
The idea is that it creates a more resonant connection between the body and the top and that allows you to reduce the required bracing. You’ll still find some, but the braces are smaller and lighter, utilizing what Fender calls a “tapered floating X bracing” pattern.
The other benefit is that, as with the Acoustasonics (which share some of this approach, but are not fully chambered), the guitar can be shaped in a more ergonomic fashion, removing many of the uncomfortable right angles of a traditional acoustic build.
Another key innovation appears to be the way Fender has incorporated the pickup. This is a Fishman Fluence Core design, developed specifically for the Highway Series and exclusive to Fender.
Instead of building an acoustic and then figuring out how to stick a mic and/or piezo inside, Fender has designed the pickup to nest further into the wood itself, near the neck heel.
The idea is that, again, it can transfer more of that full body warmth and resonance, but also offer significantly increased resistance to feedback.
Back on the neck heel, turn the guitars over and you’ll see it’s a bolt-on design and they come with the handy Micro-Tilt screw, for adjusting the neck angle.
“The Highway Series represents a bold step forward in the world of acoustic guitars, offering musicians a new avenue for sonic exploration and self-expression,” says Billy Martinez, Fender VP of Product - FMIC Acoustics & Squier.
“Among the many standout features, we partnered with Fishman to bring their cutting-edge electronic pickup technology, the Fishman Fluence Acoustic pickup to the realm of traditional acoustics and meticulously crafted the necks to deliver an amazing playing experience.
“These guitars are a testament to our dedication to pushing the boundaries of guitar design and manufacturing.”
Fender promises “the tactile charm and unplugged resonance of acoustics twice their size” from the design. We’ve had a quick strum on some of these and can tell you that the necks do indeed feel very playable – and the unplugged tone is surprisingly loud.
We can certainly see your average touring acoustic player, beset by feedback issues, quickly find a place for these – particularly as they look a lot less divisive than the more electric-inspired Acoustasonics.
Currently the range is limited to a Parlor and Dreadnought, both offering a choice of Mahogany or Spruce tops. Price-wise, all options are $999.
For more information on the Highway Series acoustics, head to Fender.