Fender California Series King Vintage review – This guitar is sure to cut through the noise of a busy open-mic night, and there’s an abundance of character in the tone

Fender’s regal dreadnought is a love letter to the company’s past, and might just be the big-voiced acoustic you need in your life

Fender California Series King Vintage
(Image: © Future / Olly Curtis)

Guitar World Verdict

While excellent playability and drop-dead-gorgeous looks are no mean feat, at this price, the sheer value for money on offer is this King’s crowning achievement.

Pros

  • +

    Big voice.

  • +

    Classic looks.

  • +

    Great value electro.

Cons

  • -

    Lacks just a little low-end acoustically.

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Fender’s legendary electric guitars tend to take center stage when discussing the emerging guitar sounds of the early ’60s. 

So much so, that while the Californian guitar maker’s iconic models such as the Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Jazzmaster enjoy their time in the sun, the company’s acoustics are sometimes relegated to the shadows, forgotten to time. Well, not anymore. Fender has decided to shed some light on its early acoustic creations by introducing the California Vintage Series. 

This retro-inspired range is populated by three distinct models, the Malibu, Palomino, and the instrument we’re looking at here, the King. Snuggly sat in its vintage-style hard case with a sunshine yellow interior, this all-solid dreadnought looks every bit as retro as the real deal – albeit without the awkward screwed-on pickguard and garish neck plate of the original. 

There’s no doubt this guitar is a looker. Its aged natural top complements the handsome squared-off body shape, while the exotic wood grain of the Ovangkol back and sides shines through beautifully. The elegant Okoume neck is adorned with pearloid block inlays and crowned with a period-correct six-in-line headstock, culminating in a charming-looking guitar that will certainly turn a few heads. 

Fender California Series King Vintage

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)

Sticking to the vintage yet modern ethos of the series, Fender has chosen a modernized V neck profile, which is surprisingly comfortable and fits our hand like a glove. The fretwork is tidy and the action is impressively low. 

Under the hood, you’ll find Fender’s Performance-X bracing. This forward-shifted and scalloped design allows more top movement, which, in theory, should result in a fuller sound. To our ears, the King has a brighter quality than we’d typically expect from a dreadnought. 

The top-end sizzle is quintessentially Fender. There are plenty of mids, too. This guitar is sure to cut through the noise of a busy open-mic night and there’s an abundance of character in the tone. 

That said, we do feel it lacks the low-end of some dreadnoughts, and we find ourselves longing for bellowing, room-filling bass. Now, that’s not to say this guitar is completely devoid of body, and its lighter presentation might well suit your needs – we’d just prefer a little more oomph. 

However, the King sonically shines when plugged into an amplifier. The onboard Fishman Sonitone Plus electronics, with an under-saddle piezo and internal body transducer, do a fantastic job at producing a natural-sounding tone that is clean and crisp. 

This series breathes new life into a mostly forgotten model, bringing it up to date for modern players. While excellent playability and drop-dead-gorgeous looks are no mean feat, at this price, the sheer value for money on offer is this King’s crowning achievement. 

Specs

Fender California Series King Vintage

(Image credit: Future / Olly Curtis)
  • PRICE: $899 / £779
  • TYPE: Dreadnought acoustic guitar
  • BACK AND SIDES: Solid Ovangkol 
  • TOP: Solid Sitka Spruce
  • BODY FINISH: Gloss Poly 
  • NECK: Okoume  
  • NECK SHAPE: Modern V  
  • SCALE LENGTH: 25.5”  
  • FRETS: 20  
  • NUT WIDTH: 1.69”  
  • ELECTRONICS: Fender / Fishman Sonitone Plus  
  • CASE: Vintage-Style Hardshell 
  • FINISH OPTIONS: Aged Natural and Mojave
  • CONTACT: Fender

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Daryl Robertson

First and foremost, I'm a guitar enthusiast – a fanatic, some might say. I'm a firm believer that most of the world's problems can be solved with a Gibson SG and a catastrophically loud amp. As a Senior Deals Writer on Guitar World, I write about guitars for a living, but in a past life, I worked in music retail for 7 years, advising customers on the right guitars, basses, drums, pianos, and PA systems for their needs. I also have a passion for live sound; I'm a fully qualified sound engineer with experience working in various venues in Scotland, where I live with my wife and dog.