When looking to buy a Fender Standard Telecaster, you're faced with two main options - the Mexican made (MiM) and the more expensive American made (MiA).
When I say more expensive, we're talking over $500 more. So what is it that creates this significant difference in price, aside from the obviously more expensive US labour?
Let's begin with a side-by-side run down of user reviews, specs and demos before moving on to a more in depth comparison...
|Model||MIM Telecaster||MIA Telecaster|
|Weight||3.7 kg/ 8lbs 3oz||3.5 kg / 7lbs 13oz|
|Tuners||Fender Standard Cast/Sealed
|Nut Width||1.650" (42 mm)||1.685" (43 mm)|
|Fingerboard||Maple||Rosewood or Maple|
|Fingerboard Radius||9.5" (241 mm)|
|Inlays||Black Dot||Pearloid Dot (Rosewood)
Black Dot (Maple)
|Pickups||Standard Single-Coil Tele x2||Bridge Pickup: Custom Shop Vintage-Style Tele
Neck Pickup: Custom Shop "Twisted" Single-Coil Tele
|Bridge||6-Saddle Standard Strings-Through-Body Tele with Block Saddles||6-Saddle American Standard Strings-Through-Body Tele with Bent Steel Saddles and Stamped Brass Plate|
|MIM Telecaster||MIA Telecaster|
With just two average rating points in it, both the MiM and MiA Tele are clearly regarded as high quality, dependable instruments for both the amateur and working musician.
As with many comparisons between low-mid range and high end guitars, the less expensive model can be quantified as getting between 90% - 99% of the way there in terms of look, feel and tone.
So there's no question of users being happy with their Mexican Tele, and there are even a few who admit they prefer the MiM to the MiA.
But the more discerning among us will place more attention and value on the extra 10% that can be obtained from an American made.
That value mostly lies in the pickups, bridge and tuners.
Let's take a closer look...
Just like the Fender Stratocasters, The tuners on the American Tele are staggered, which means the string posts get shorter from the low E to high E string.
This makes for a more optimum string angle and goes some way to eliminating fret buzz at lower string heights.
At the bridge end, the MiA's saddles sit on a stamped brass plate - some find the brass lessens the harshness of the Tele's twang, although the saddles themselves are steel, so the effect of the brass is minimal.
Again, as with the Strats, the American Tele has one extra fret than the Mexican - 22 vs 21 medium-jumbo frets respectively.
Although subtle, the additional fret may come in handy if you often find yourself high up the neck, allowing you to reach that bit higher in the pitch scale.
There's also a slightly narrower nut width on the Mexican Tele (a mere difference of 1mm!) - nothing to write home about.
This is where much of that 10% lies.
As you can probably just about hear in the comparison demos, the MiA Telecaster has a slightly brighter clarity to it than the MiM. This is down to the more expensive Custom Shop pickups.
However, "brighter" does not necessarily mean better, and at the end of the day subjectivity rules judgement when it comes to tone.
With the gain turned up, this extra clarity translates into a slightly more aggressive and open crunch. This in turn means greater note separation, more defined pick response for lead lines and a touch more sustain to boot.▲ Compare Sound
There is, of course, the option of spending some of the money you save with the MiM on upgrades and setup.
If you choose to do this, even if you install the same Custom Shop pickups as the MIA, the savings will still be significant.
But taking the Mexican with its factory stock spec, it's tempting to have the $700 worth of savings in your bank account which you could then perhaps use towards some other decent gear. $700 would get you a very nice, gig-ready amp, for example, and we all know that much of the tone is shaped through the amp.
Ultimately, the American Tele is a luxury item, and one that should perhaps be considered as an extra special treat rather than a "must have", compared to its Mexican counter-part.