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The Best of Both the Past and the Present: Fender’s Justin Norvell Dishes on the New Vintera Series

by Christian Wissmuller • in
  • August 2019
  • Upfront Q&A
• Created: August 11, 2019

In June of this year, Fender introduced the world to its new Vintera Series of electric guitars. This vintage-inspired lineup features specs from classic models of years gone by: colors and finishes such as Seafoam Green, Burgundy Mist, Fiesta Red, Mocha, Inca Silver, and Blue Metallic; period-correct neck shapes; and carefully engineered new pickups with decade-specific tonal qualities. MMR recently chatted with executive vice president of Fender Products, Justin Norvell to talk about this impressive new line of affordable (honestly!) axes that have replaced the venerable Mexican-made Classic Series.

The market for vintage instruments has been enjoying a healthy stretch for a while now and the Vintera Series obviously taps into that. Had Fender been hearing – either from players or dealers – that they wanted more “vintage-esque” models?

Making models that hark back to those storied eras and our origin story is always something that people want from Fender. It had been more than a decade since we had re-vamped what used to be our Classic Series, and we knew we’d just come so far from a design and development perspective that we could really top those with a new Series. That’s how the idea for the Vintera Series was born. The fact that they fall into such an attainable price point just makes them all the more attractive.

Can you describe for our readers how these new Vintera instruments are more period-correct than the previous Classic Series?

We redesigned all of the pickups with the period correct materials and specs, and used vintage guitars as reference for all of the new neck shapes. We brought back vintage colors we hadn’t used in a long time, as well. For a series the size of Vintera, that’s a ton of work! We also sweated the small things, like dialing in the amount of tint on the necks for that vintage-style look and feel.

One thing that’s cool about this new launch is that, for every “period correct” model, there is a modded counterpart that offers modern features. Can you talk about how offering that breadth of options will mean connecting with more end users?

We know that over the decades of life of a vintage guitar and multiple owners, players would modify their instruments, so we wanted to have models that look “of the time,” but have more modern specs, as well – from expanded tonal options and switching to bigger frets, flatter fretboards, hotter pickups. All of these features make this series appeal to a wide array of players, and not just the hardcore vintage enthusiasts. The modded versions are a different consumer group altogether.

Specific to the new pickups, how did you go about replicating tones specific to particular decades of Fender production?

It starts with the recipe – the right magnets, magnet stagger, wire, bobbin, et cetera – and from there we get into sonics. However, the recipes are different for each era – Alnico 3, Alnico 5, flat stagger, beveled vs. flat magnets, et cetera.

This marks the second year (summer) in a row where an established M.I.M. Fender series has been “replaced” – last year with the Player Series stepping in for the Standard, this year with the Vintera replacing the Classic Series. In broad-stroke terms, what was the catalyst behind re-examining these Mexican- produced models?

We are committed to making the best instruments that we can, and are always tinkering and tweaking. As time passes, we realize that we have made massive improvements from where we were years ago, and so we want to share that with the players. The Classic Series was doing fine as far as sales and reviews, but when we knew we could do better, it became incumbent upon us to share what we’d learned and release it.

Anything else about the Vintera Series you’d like our readers to know?

I encourage players to go look at the lineup on fender.com and go try some out at an authorized dealer to see and hear for themselves. They’re fantastic instruments, and we’re really proud of what the team has done.

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