First Impressions: Squier Esquire in Butterscotch Blonde

Last week of August 2020, I bought myself one of Squier’s limited-run Esquire guitars (think single-pickup Telecaster), and I’ve been having a right blast with it.

It might be a cheap and cheerful guitar, but it’ll comfortably hang with anything out of the Fender USA factory line-up.

What Did I Buy?

I bought a Fender Squier FSR LTD Classic Vibe Esquire in a rather fetching butterscotch blonde, with a black pickup guard. Think classic 50’s blackguard Telecaster, only it doesn’t have a neck pickup at all.

Before I go any further, I just want to stress just how good this guitar looks. Seriously, they’ve absolutely nailed the butterscotch blonde colour on these guitars.

Image may contain: one or more people and guitar

That’s mine, on the right, in a photo taken by Tom of Astrings.co.uk for their Facebook page. Isn’t it beautiful? (And doesn’t Tom take cracking photos!)

What Are The Specs?

I don’t know.

The reason I don’t know is because I can’t find this guitar anywhere on Fender’s website. All I’ve got to go on is listings like the one on the Andertons’ website, and I’m not entirely convinced mine has the same specs.

In particular, I’m not sure what wood they’ve used for the body. The grain looks like poplar, but it’s pretty heavy for a poplar-bodied guitar. If it’s pine, it doesn’t look like any of the pipe bodies that come up in a Google images search.

I’m pretty sure it isn’t an alder body, which is good enough for me.

Why Did You Buy It?

All through lockdown, I’ve been pining away (pun intended!) for a Telecaster that doesn’t have an alder body.

I don’t feel that I’ve found the right Telecaster for me yet. Les Pauls, Strats, PRS, acoustic – I’m sorted on those fronts. But Telecasters? I just haven’t bonded with any of the Telecasters I’ve owned to date.

Recently, I’ve been wondering whether it’s down to the alder bodies. Alder’s a nice and consistent tone wood. It’s also a pretty neutral as tone woods go, and maybe the Telecaster sound in my head is the sound of a swamp ash body. Unfortunately, unless you find a second hand model, these days you’ve pretty much got to go Custom Shop to get an ash body Tele from Fender.

So I decided to try something very different – because an Esquire may look like a Telecaster, but it isn’t a Telecaster. And, of course, this doesn’t have the Fender logo on the head stock.

Aren’t Squier Guitars Made In China?

Squier is both Fender’s budget brand and Fender’s made-overseas brand. But don’t let that put you off, because so far I’m loving how it sounds.

Any QC Issues?

Yes there were.

  • The nut isn’t cut correctly. The B string isn’t evenly spaced out between the G and top E strings. To fix it, I’m going to have to have the nut replaced.
  • The bigger problem though is with the bridge. The A string at the bridge isn’t evenly spaced between the bottom E string and the D string. The bridge saddle just seems to be shorter than it should be.

I could live with the nut. It wouldn’t be the first guitar I own that has uneven spacing at the nut. It’s the weird spacing at the bridge that I’m struggling with. When I switch my picking from the A to the D string, I keep failing to pick it.

For me, these QC issues aren’t a big deal. I bought the guitar with the intention of modding it. If I wasn’t planning on that, then I probably wouldn’t have kept it.

New Bridge On The Way

I’ve heard it said that, with some component upgrades, you’d have to go Custom Shop to get anything better than these FSR Esquires. I’m going to put that to the test.

The good news is that I don’t think it needs all that much doing.

The neck and fretwork is fine. The frets themselves are a little scratchy, but nothing that a bit of a polish won’t solve. I’ll get that done as part of a setup in the next month or so.

The pickup is a lot better than I expected – and better than other reviewers have stated, in my opinion. Through my rig at least, it will happily hang with far more expensive instruments. In the shop, it smoked a Vintera 60’s Modified, and those things regularly smoke the USA Performer Telecasters! I may swap it out for something else down the road, but if I do, it’s only out of curiosity. So far, I think the pickup’s a keeper.

Even if there was nothing wrong with the saddles, I would have swapped them out anyway. It comes with non-compensated steel? saddles where the strings sit in pretty deep grooves. As a result, the intonation’s not the greatest, even for a Telecaster.

So I was always going to replace the saddles with a set of compensated brass saddles.

Now, you can pick those up for as little as £10 these days. But I like this guitar so much, I decided to replace the whole bridge with one from Callahan. They’re one of the top after-market parts makers, and you’ll find folks who consider their parts a serious upgrade from proper Fender parts.

The upgrade isn’t without a couple of risks.

  • There’s a chance that the replacement bridge won’t actually fit this guitar. I’ve no idea whether or not Squiers are built using the American system of measurement, or the metric system (America is pretty much the last place in the world using non-metric measurements).
  • Brass saddles will change the tone for sure, and there’s a chance that I might not like the change. I’m not too worried though, because I can always buy a set of Callahan steels saddles to fit to the new bridge.

I’m hoping that the new bridge will arrive for the weekend. [It has – Ed]

Final Thoughts

The only reason I knew about this guitar was thanks to Robert Baker’s YouTube channel.

He recently picked up one of these, and put out a video comparing it to his own 58 Fender Esquire. If you’ve got the time, have a watch and a listen to hear how it fared, and what his thoughts were on the Squier version.

There aren’t many of these kicking around. They’re a limited run of guitars, and my local shop only received two – and only one of those was in butterscotch blonde. Both were gone in a couple of days.

If you want one of these for yourself, I wouldn’t wait around.

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