Fender Bullet Deluxe
The FENDER BULLET DeLUXE GUITAR - Alright, eh, Squire?
Considerable changes seem to have been taking place over in Fender-land during the past few years. For a start there's been the management re-shuffle and the appointment of Dan Smith as head of guitars (see issue 12) and there has also been quite a renaissance in the whole product line of the company, partly attributable to Dan's influence, no doubt, and that of his opposite number, Paul Revera, who looks after the amps.
Anyway, back last Autumn, when Fender unleashed a whole shower of new gear (mainly in the guitar line), it came as a bit of a surprise for us to see that the original Telecaster-like Bullet cheapie (which we'd favourably reviewed back in Issue 4) was about to be replaced by another design (still to be called the Bullet) which was closer to the Strat in shape and, we were told, 100% U.S.A. manufactured.
As it has turned out, it's really only now that the new Bullets are hitting the shops over here and even then there are still some of the older Tele-like models still on sale.
As things stand this new line-up of Bullets is very complex and, as you're likely to be seeing quite a few new models bearing this name, it may well be a good idea for us to explain how this new line-up will appear. First-off the basic model in the range will just be known as the Bullet Standard. This will have much the same equipment as on the model we're reviewing here, except that it will share that strange bridge design originated on the first Bullet Series, where the bridge is an integral part of the metal scratch-plate. This will be followed by the model we're checking out this month (and it's the one we're giving away in our competition, too) which is dubbed the Bullet De Luxe. This, like the Standard, features twin single coil pickups with a three-way selector but has a normal screw-on bridge.
In addition to these two Bullets, there will also be two models with humbucking pickups — the Bullet 2 and the Bullet 2 De Luxe. The '2' will have just one (bridge mounted) pickup and will have the unified scratchplate-bridge assembly, whereas the Bullet 2 De Luxe will have two humbuckers, two coil taps, a screw-on bridge and a three-way selector.
At the top of the Bullet range will be The Bullet 3, featuring three single coil pickups, a five way selector and the De Luxe bridge. Can't say it's quite as straightforward as it could be, perhaps, but there's nothing wrong in having a wide range to choose from, is there?
Anyway, our sample model came finished in the red shade which can be replaced with ivory or sunburst. It was well made, featuring the four-bolt neck which is a generic Fender characteristic, a white and black sandwich-type scratchplate (yum, tasty — better than bread any day) and a fairly nice-looking bridge assembly which will be typical of the type fitted to the De Luxe versions of ail the Bullets. It's a fairly standard Fender bridge in that it offers individually adjustable saddles for total control of string height and intonation. The strings fasten through the body. Very good, too, are the machines (better than on some old Strats we've seen and fought with!) and the Bullet sports a Maple neck with integral fingerboard which is certainly a better bet than having an applied maple fretboard, any day.
Overall constructional quality of our guitar was very pleasing, the strings were set quite high (not necessarily a bad thing, of course) and the intonation was accurately 'in'. One hopes that all the Bullets one gets to see in the shops will be as well set-up as this sample model was.
"...YOU'LL FIND FEW JAPANESE GUITARS OF BETTER OR EQUAL PRICE WHICH CAN MATCH THIS SOUND..."
The size and weight of the Bullet De Luxe is rather confusing initially. The poplar body makes it a strangely light guitar (too light, some may at first find) but it balances very well and that could well endear it to very young beginners who might find the weight of some guitars really too much to contend with on long gigs. But, because the weight is low and the body rather small you might, initially, think that this is another of Fender's occasional forays into the world of short-scale guitars. It isn't. The Bullet has a full Fender 21 frets on a standard scale and that means that you won't suffer any of those frustrating tonal losses you usually get with shorties.
To be quite honest about it, we couldn't say that the Bullet really feels like a full stage professional's instrument. It's too light and too small and, frankly, it takes a while to get used to these qualities if you're more used to normal Fenders like Strats and Teles. However, plug the Bullet in and the sound is really excellent — hearing it you'd be very hard pressed not to think that you were listening to a decent modern Strat. Unfortunately, you cannot jam the selector switch between settings for that old 'out of phase' Strat sound but what you do have is a really superb, searing attack from the bridge pickup and a warmer, but still full and dynamic tone from the neck one. Overall the sound the guitar makes is really fine and, for the asking price, by the time it reaches the street, you'll find few Japanese guitars of better or equal price which can match this sound — Japanese single coil pickups are often failures (especially the cheaper varieties) and it will take a fair bit for any of them to better the sound of this model near its price.
Overall the little Bullet De Luxe very much continues the story initially set by the first Tele-shaped model. It's inexpensive, nicely made, has a fine sound and should satisfy many a beginner or impoverished player (maybe a hard-up owner of a humbucking powered guitar who fancied a Fender as a second instrument and couldn't afford a Strat?) Either way it looks good to us and should satisfy players who need the best they can get from a guitar for this sort of price level. If you get a sample as good as the one we tried (and we see no reason to assume that you won't) then this could well be one of the best buys on the market for the player wanting his first decent electric guitar. In fact it bears excellent testimony to some of those promises of improved ideas and quality control which Dan Smith made to us in that earlier interview we ran with him.
One final point is that the price includes a really nice moulded Fender case — a very worthwhile extra at the price and far better than some makers offering instruments costing twice the price sometimes manage to deliver. That alone must be worth a few Pounds so don't forget that when you're comparing this Bullet with other models from other makers, if they come caseless.
As we found with the Bullet Bass we reviewed earlier in MUSIC U.K., this model looks like it's showing the way things are going over there in the Fender plant and that's got to be good news as this is a very worthwhile instrument. A nice one.
(RRP £204-98 inc. VAT)
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