For us electric players, acoustic guitars can many times be an afterthought. You pick one up out of the bargain bin at your local music shop to play at night, when you go camping, or any situation that requires no power. Even after all that time and money meticulously tailoring the sound of our electric rigs, sometimes you just gotta bust out an acoustic.
Fender’s new Paramount series is the answer to many of us electric players who want a quality guitar at a price that doesn’t make too much of a dent in our wallets. We demand quality and tone in electric guitars, so why not demand it in acoustics? Feel and sound are just as important if not more in an acoustic guitar, especially since you can’t swap out pickups or perform other such tonal changes that we take for granted on an electric. Essentially, with acoustics what you see is what you get, and that can be detrimental for some due to low quality manufacturing standards and the insane quantity of shoddy Far East guitars flooding the market.
While Far East manufacturing may be a deterrent for some, the new Paramount acoustic guitar falls under the guidelines of Fender’s strict quality control standards, and this guitar is an indication that our crafty friends over in China have upped their game significantly, with Fender’s Chinese-made guitars at the forefront.
The model reviewed is a mahogany model PM-3, which is considerably warmer and darker due to its all-mahogany body. It has a beautiful ‘60s style checkered binding around the body, and a quality three-ply binding around the neck and headstock. Upon pulling it out of the case, I was taken aback as to how light this guitar was. I could tote it around with almost no effort, and carrying it up and down the stairs multiple times didn’t even get me to break a sweat. The weight really helped with the “feel” of its portability, and it begged to be taken outdoors and to different rooms in the house to be played everywhere.
The fretwork here is on par with some much more expensive guitars, and dare I say better in some ways. There are no sharp edges or misalignment anywhere to be found; even all the way up the neck (this is where a lot of budget acoustic builders cut corners) Fender calls these frets “vintage style”, which are sort of in the same family as Fender’s 6230 frets found on the ‘50s reissue Strats. The 6230 are my favorite frets coincidentally, so I almost immediately fell in love with the size and the feel of the frets on this guitar. The tiny mother-of-pearl dots inlaid on the rosewood fingerboard added to the ‘60s aesthetic of this guitar, which helps solidify it as a good-looking package. The neck was comfortable and the frets and radius were clearly very well thought out. It really felt familiar (coming from a full time Strat player) and pleasant to play for long sessions. As we know however, looks and feel aren’t everything.
The sound of this guitar is somewhat unique when compared to a regular acoustic with say, a Sitka spruce top. It’s got a lot of warmth and presence in the mids, with slightly rolled off highs and subdued lows. The voice of this guitar is not full-bodied, deep, or bright like many acoustics can be, but its earthy presence allows for it to really easily cut through and have a very defined midrange voice. Changing the strings will add more brightness and perhaps balance out the dark, mid-forward nature of this guitar, but in my opinion that’s one of its biggest strengths. Testing it in a mix, I barely had to EQ it just because of the amount of punch and presence it had in the midrange. It’s not an acoustic that fills a room and it wasn’t ever meant to be. It’s a utility for music, and it easily holds its own amongst other frequencies in a dense mix.
If I had to complain, I’d say that the factory setup is not perfect (although it’s pretty close), and you will need to adjust the setup of this guitar to taste if you want to play open or alternate tunings. It can sometimes feel a little loose in the hand and the tuning stability can be a little wacky depending on how you play and the tunings you prefer. However, this is true of almost all guitars and is the farthest thing from detriment. This is a solid guitar that is fun and easy to play, with a punchy and guttural midrange that really croons when you dig in. You cannot go wrong with this guitar, and it’s really a triumphant example of Far East manufacturing done right.
WHAT WE LIKE:
Awesome retro ‘60s look with cool mother-of-pearl inlays. Gorgeous binding on body and neck and a great color on the guitar. Tone is mid-forward and punchy, easily cuts through a mix and sounds great when you really dig in. Warm and subdued highs and lows, making this feel like a parlor guitar on steroids.
Can be finicky with alternate tunings. May require a good setup to match your play style.