What Features do Fender American Ultra Guitars Have?
Fender’s American Professional II models have a contemporary twist, but the brand’s American Ultra guitars go one step further. These instruments are heavily-modified to suit the needs of 21st Century players; covering lots of sonic territory and providing unmatched performance. If you like old-school Fenders – these guitars really aren’t for you!
A host of new Fender colours were introduced for the American Ultra series. This included Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Ultraburst, Plasma Red Burst and the stunning Texas Tea, all of which remain exclusive to Fender’s American Ultra guitars and basses. However, there are less total colour options available compared to the American Professional II series – which has an eclectic mix of both traditional and modern finishes.
Contoured Alder & Ash Bodies
The only parts of Fender’s American Ultra instruments that remain traditional are their body materials. With Alder used for the solid-finish guitars and Ash employed for the natural/transparent colour models; these tonewoods hearken back to the classic Fender formula from the ’50s – with bolt-on Maple necks keeping their signature construction intact.
This isn’t a case of Fender playing it safe, but rather the brand wishing to keep the core elements of its guitars the same as they are what make a Fender – a Fender! However, American Ultra bodies are heavily-contoured at the rear – around their lower horn, neck and belly-cut sections. This gives them a sleeker and more elegant feel when compared with their American Pro II cousins.
Modern “D”-Shaped Necks
American Ultra guitars and basses are unique in the Fender catalogue for their non-typical Modern “D”-shaped necks. This thin profile offers optimal support for contemporary players, but is unlikely to appeal to traditionalists who prefer thicker, vintage-like neck carves or even the somewhat neutral Deep “C” profile that the American Professional II electric guitars have. But similarly to those models, Fender’s American Ultra instruments have smooth satin-finished necks that allow for fast playability.
Rolled fingerboard edges and tapered neck heels are also standard features across the American Ultra range. It could therefore be argued that Fender decided to tweak its American Professional line based on these updates that were introduced for the American Ultra series. However, the Ultras have neck heels that are more dramatically-contoured and thus offer virtually zero upper-fret restriction!
Compound Radius Fingerboards
An additional plus-point, so to speak, of Fender’s American Ultra guitars and basses are their 10″ – 14″ compound radius fingerboards. Rounded at the lower end of their necks to make chords easier to play, their fingerboards flatten out in the higher register to make intricate lead lines more manageable to finger. This design also helps to prevent notes from fretting out when performing string bends, making it a very practical design.
On the subject of fingerboards, Fender’s American Ultra models come installed with ‘Medium Jumbo’ frets. These are bigger than the ‘Narrow Tall’ frets fitted on the American Professional II guitars, with their modern size providing a more controllable feel and enhancing tone/sustain.
Ultra Noiseless Pickups
Taking Fender’s “Noiseless” design to new heights, the ‘Ultra Noiseless’ pickups found in the American Ultra models promise classic yet versatile tones – without any hum! Making them apt for use with overdrive and high-gain amp settings, these noise-free pickups eliminate a common issue that has afflicted old-school Fender single-coils for years.
Fender’s American Ultra Noiseless pickups are split into two types. Their Ultra Noiseless “Vintage” models deliver authentic single-coil sounds, while the Ultra Noiseless “Hot” versions dish out more output – catering for modern performance needs. These pickups are therefore a little more flexible than the V-Mod II single-coils found in Fender’s American Pro II guitars, and are better-suited for heavier genres with their noiseless technology.
American Ultra guitars boast Fender’s ingenious ‘S-1’ switching circuitry. Allowing you to access more pickup combinations for greater tonal versatility, these electronics therefore work very similarly to the “Push/Push” systems found in Fender’s new American Professional II guitars. It can thus be said, again, that Fender heavily drew upon its American Ultra models when conceptualising the Pro II series.
The Fender American Ultra basses go a major step forward though, with their super-tweakable electronics likely to find favour with fastidious players. Sporting active/passive switches, these allow you to quickly change between vintage and modern voicings with a simple flick, while flexible 3-band EQ systems enable you to precisely sculpt their tones to perfection.
A number of stellar hardware appointments really make Fender’s American Ultra instruments something to behold. The most noteworthy of these are Fender-designed Deluxe locking tuners – fitted as standard on the electric guitar models. Ensuring sublime tuning stability in conjunction with their low-friction bone nuts, these ergonomic machine heads also allow for lightning-fast string changes. These are not factory-fitted on the American Pro II guitars, but can be purchased as an aftermarket upgrade.
The basses haven’t been left behind either when it comes to their hardware. With both the American Ultra Precision Bass and Jazz Bass models boasting HiMass bridges, these specially-designed components guarantee piano-like sustain and huge, bellowing lows. Lightweight tuners are also installed on these basses, which prevent neck-dive and thus make the instruments more balanced in standing positions.
It’s clear that Fender’s American Professional II and Ultra instruments are exceptional. Based on classic designs and subtly-modernised with forward-thinking features, these contemporary guitars and basses can strike a chord with players of all disciplines and styles. But is one of these flagship Fender series’ clearly better than the other? No, not really.
As it turns out, these US-crafted models are fairly equal on paper. The American Ultras have a slight edge when it comes to their pickups and hardware appointments, but that is reflected in their pricing. You could then perhaps argue that the Fender American Professional II guitars, which have been refined with Ultra-like tweaks, offer more “bang-for-your-buck” and are clearly better than their predecessors from the original American Pro range.
There’s also greater diversity within the American Professional II series, not only in terms of colour options, but also with Telecaster Deluxe models and more 5-string/fretless bass variants available. However, although less product variation might seem like a downside for the streamlined American Ultra range – it could be said that it forms a more robust lineup.
Overall, we’d probably say that the American Professional II instruments are solid Fender thoroughbreds with a 21st Century twist, while the American Ultra models are designed primarily for players seeking top performance and versatility. Modern guitar and bass players have never had more exciting creative tools at their disposal!
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