Devotees to the cult of the Fender Telecaster tend to be loyal and zealous. The same can be said of baritone guitar players. Many consider themselves ambassadors of the deep-tuned bari guitar.
So, what happens when you make a baritone Telecaster? Does the result inspire devotion, disappointment, or something in between? In this article, we will take a look at the Fender Blacktop Baritone Telecaster and find out if this Tele/bari combo lives up to its potential.
We will also ask if this baritone Tele is worth the $850+ price it’s currently fetching on the used market and we will conclude with three factors that will help you make the call on this telecaster baritone.
The Blacktop Baritone Story
Blacktop Baritone Features/Specs
Blacktop Baritone Telecasters were built in Mexico. They sold new for around $600 and rolled out the factory with the following specs:
Tone: A little bit of Tele, A Whole lot of Baritone
The neck and middle single-coil pickups deliver a classic fender tone. It’s not exactly a classic Tele sound. This is most likely the result of body materials and scale length - both of which impact an electric guitar’s tone. Instead, the Blacktop Baritone ends up dishing a detuned Tele-Strat hybrid sound.
The bridge position humbucker might leave some Tele purists disappointed. It's meatier and warmer than what you’d expect from a telecaster. Distorted, it dishes out chunky tones. If a gritty over-driving rock sound is your jam, the Blacktop Baritone’s bridge humbucker won't disappoint.
Of all the demos and samples I’ve heard from the Fender Blacktop Baritone Telecaster, the best tones seem to come from the neck and middle single-coils - especially with just a hint of overdrive. In this almost clean tonal state, the Blacktop Baritone shines, offering a beautiful mix of clean sparkle with a hint of creamy overdrive.
Check out this video for some great examples of the Blacktops tonal offerings.
Quality of Build
If you do a google search for “Fender Blacktop Baritone Telecaster reviews” you will find a mix of devoted fans along with pointed critiques of the guitar’s quality. The devoted fans love the mix of modern and classic tones delivered by the Blacktop’s complement of pickups. Others love guitar’s sharp looks and classic Tele aesthetic - and for good reason. The Blacktop Baritone Telecaster is a great looking guitar (in my opinion, the “ghost silver” and "classic copper" finishes are particularly sharp).
At the same time, some have reported quality issues in tone pots and pickup selectors. Others have reported “creaking” sounds during tuning - a potential indicator of poor quality in tuning pegs or less-than-exceptional work in the nut, string tie, or bridge.
All these reports came from folks who purchased the Blacktop Baritone Telecaster when the model was new and still in production. The Blacktop Baritone listed for $600 in 2012. At that price point, these quality concerns shouldn’t have been an issue.
Naturally, one has to wonder how the Blacktop Baritone has aged over the years.
Conclusion: This Tele Baritone Comes Down to 3 Things.
Today, a used Blacktop Baritone Telecaster will set you back upwards of $850 bucks. I think the decision to shell out that short of cash comes down to three essentials:
All things considered, I think you can do better for your money.
If you are a fan of Fender products, consider picking up a Squire Vintage Modified Jazzmaster. It features great quality and great playability. And, at $449, it's hard to beat. In fact, we named it the best baritone guitar for under $500. If you don’t believe me, check out the full baritoneguitar.org review here. The Eastwood Sidejack Baritone represents a quirkier (but still great) option under $500.
If you have closer to $800 to spend, check out our review of the Ibanez RGB6 Baritone. Listing at $699, it might be the most playable baritone you will get your hands on - especially if you love highly technical styles.
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10/14/2022 02:50:42 pm
While I agree that the electronics are not the greatest, that is easily resolved and the guitar’s playability more than makes up for it. The neck is phenomenal and the scale enables just the right amount of string tension for B to B tuning. I upgraded the pickups to an HH configuration which has worked out extremely well. This guitar is a sleeper and well worth t asking prices IMO. Not that I’ll be selling mine anytime soon.
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Matt is a musician, educator, and baritone guitar enthusiast living in Washington state.
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