Fender Duo-Sonic review
A little Fender that's good - when plugged into the right amp.
Last weekend I tried out three guitars and two of them were Fender Duo-Sonic models.
The last time I played one of these, it was a Squier Duo-Sonic in gold. I really wasn't too impressed with that guitar mainly for the reason I just didn't like the look. And speaking of which, the look of the Fender Duo-Sonic is the first thing I'll start with.
The Torino Red version looks unbelievably cool in person but awful in online photos. Not even Fender themselves got good photos of this guitar. You absolutely can't tell at all from internet photos that the pick guard is a 3-ply mint green. And it looks killer. The red and the mint guard go together very nicely.
There are two versions of the Duo-Sonic. One is a humbucker/single Duo-Sonic HS model and the other a single/single. I chose the single/single because that's what I like, and that's the one I'm going to talk about.
This guitar is a short scale 24.0" (for reference, a Stratocaster is 25.5" and a Les Paul is 24.75"). Neck is one-piece maple with 9.5" fingerboard radius and loaded with 22 medium jumbo frets. The bridge is "hardtail Strat", and yes the strings do go through the body. The body is made from alder wood.
Atypical is the fact the guitar comes loaded with 10-46 strings instead of the usual 9-42 size. This is actually something I totally agree with because 9-42 on a short scale is a bit floppy, even for me (and I prefer super light strings).
What I liked
My favorite part of the guitar is the 3-way switch. No plastic on it at all. It's a big, chunky, all-metal switch and feels good to use. Given the fact the vast majority of electric guitars use plastic-tip switches, to actually use one that's 100% metal is nice. It just feels more solid.
I liked the knobs, too. They're Telecaster style flat-top with knurled sides. And yes, they have side screws for easy adjustment. The turn of the knobs had good give to them also. Slightly heavier than usual.
The sound of the pickups is good, leaning more toward a Strat-like tone. However, I found that the tonal character is greatly affected by what amp the guitar is plugged into. The Duo-Sonic seemed to hate a tube-type VOX combo but loved a tube-type Orange cube combo.
What I didn't like
The short scale 1-piece maple neck just felt odd. But this is due to the fact that short scale necks usually don't agree with me.
My main guitar is a Jazzmaster. That guitar has a 25.5" scale, but also has offset waist construction, meaning the neck is "pushed out" slightly further than a Stratocaster or Telecaster. And I really like it.
The Duo-Sonic, while having an offset waist construction, has a neck position I didn't really care for. The tuners felt way too close to me, I found myself getting lost on the neck sometimes, and I was also hitting wrong notes because of the closer fret spacing.
If I owned this guitar then yes, I eventually would get used to it. But it was definitely not something I felt instantly comfortable playing.
Another thing I didn't like is that I would sometimes whack the front pickup (i.e. the "neck pickup") when playing.
It's a good little guitar that has some genuine mojo to it.
The only thing that really surprised me is how different the guitar sounds when going from amp to amp. This is true of any electric, but with the Duo-Sonic it was really obvious. There's just something about the "Duo-Sonic Single-coil" (that's what Fender calls it) that makes one amp sound great and another sound like total garbage.
Build quality was good. There were no flaws in either of the two I tried. One was Arctic White and the other Torino Red as described above. But again, the red one just stole the show with how good it looked.
Could you buy this guitar unheard/unplayed and be comfortable with the buy? With some guitars you can't do that, but you could with this one. You have to bear in mind I played one at a guitar store that wasn't set up to my preferences. Once set up right, I'm certain I could make it sound just fine with any amp.