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What is the differences between a FSR and a regular Fender guitar production model?

At fender.com they say that:

"FSR" stands for Fender Special Run. These products are specially commissioned by individual dealers and built to their specifications.

What do they mean about "built to their specifications"? Does this only relate to the different components on a guitar like tuners, pickups, bridge, knobs and so on? Do they have any different finish than the regular models? Is the tree type for body and/or neck different?

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  • I'm confused. If I were going to answer the questions you have about things on the Fender web site, I'd go to the Fender web site. Are you missing the button that says "Specs", which will give you a list of tone woods, etc? Simply click that for each model and compare. Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 12:39
  • Ah, don't be confused mate. I just want to contribute with some questions about things I've been wondering about. Coming from another SE site, I want to contribute with questions that may come in handy for other people, and hopefully with some excellent anwers, which you have given me. :-)
    – scheien
    Commented Jun 6, 2015 at 20:08

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Unlike many other guitar models, for Fender guitars the easiest part of the manufacturing process is almost definitely final assembly. For example, a Gibson USA Les Paul has a complicated glued-in neck join (called a "set neck"), whereas Fender necks simply bolt on with four bolts. If you have the right cut for the neck and the neck pocket in the body, and the right size four bolts and neck plate, anyone could bolt on a Fender neck.

This also makes a lot of Fender parts interchangeable. In most cases, a Telecaster neck won't go on a Stratocaster body, but the vast majority of Strat necks and bodies have identical shapes, meaning any Strat neck can be bolted to any Strat body. The same goes for the pick guard/electronics assembly (excepting different pickup configurations) and so on.

Just one component can have several different qualities. Necks are a great example. Fender makes necks with different combinations of neck and fingerboard wood, different neck profiles (the shape of the back), different fingerboard radii, fret size and construction, inlay type, and so on. When you take into account all the different necks, bodies, electronics, and hardware types that can all be mixed and matched, there are thousands and thousands of combinations, each one a different type of Strat. Maybe the differences are too subtle to notice for most people, but they exist and that opens up a marketing opportunity for Fender.

The FSR thing is a deal between Fender and different resellers. Lets use Guitar Center as an easy example. Fender and Guitar Center pick out a combination of Strat components from the thousands of possible combinations that Guitar Center thinks people will want to buy and Fender doesn't think everyone will want to buy and they agree that the combination they have picked will only be sold through Guitar Center stores. That means if you want one, you have to go to Guitar Center. I'm not sure what Fender gets out of the deal but maybe GC pays them money up front or Fender can test strange products this way and see if they are popular. GC is hoping to boost foot traffic in their stores by getting people to come in and play and maybe buy a guitar that can only be seen in their stores.

It looks like at some point an FSR model will released to more vendors after a while or the exclusivity isn't 100%, since the FSR American Standard V-neck for example is clearly meant for Sweetwater Sound but is available other places (although not at Guitar Center).

To see what exactly is different about a particular Fender model on their web site, look for the "Specs" button. You can also filter by Series, Woods, Orientation, Neck Shape, Pickup Type, and Price. A better way to scope out the Fender product line is to go to a store and play a bunch of them. You'll never know if you like the V, C, or U neck profile best until you try them. (just one example)

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FSR stand for "Fender Special Run". At first FSRs were custom guitars made on dealers requests. So you can buy a specific FSR models only from the dealer that made the request for this FSR. Howver, in the last years, Fender is using the term FSR for a few Japanese guitars intended for Japanese market that can be found, for a limited time, on Western market, too. Here you can find an interesting interview with Andy Mooney, CEO Fender, who was talking about Fender FSR.

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You ask about built to their specifications. Let's step back and think about Gibson. Gibson redesigned the Les Paul in 1961. Les did not like the new design, and they took his name off the new design and made it the SG. Gibson stopped making the LP as we know them. Meanwhile, a bunch of British blues-rock players started discovering what happens when you plug a late 50s LP into a Marshall, so you had a lot of people wanting guitars that looked and played like the old ones.

Thing is, for reasons that could include "we stopped doing that for a reason", maybe "we got bought out too" and maybe "the people who made the 58s are gone", the 70s copies of late 50s LPs were not close, but there are specific music stores that had specifics features from specific 58s that they wanted specially from Gibson. This is neck profile, pickups, I think ABS bridge. (I honestly don't recall if I got these details from Trogly or Five Watt World, but I got most of my LP history from YouTube.)

I know that Chicago Music Exchange has opinions about Fender pickups, thinking that getting overwound pickups can get you a bit of the SRV thing, known as the Texas Specials, but you lose some of the glassy tone of classic Strats, so they have special runs with Chicago Specials, which I think are underwound. I don't know what the difference is, but I know it's a CME thing. Another thing I see as a CME spec is the headstock being painted the same color as the body, instead of being a natural maple.

I've heard Wildwood as another dealer with exclusive runs, but I'm not sure what specifics are them. Maybe nitro finishes? There was an FSR series of 72 Custom Teles with very bright sparkle finishes, while they normally come in butterscotch, sunburst and black. I think another FSR I've seen and played was a honeyburst Telecaster with a carved top, maple cap and humbuckers, almost like if PRS made it.

So, the specifications that can show up are largely electronics and finish, either to match vintage instruments or to go in an interesting be direction.

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Fender will allow large dealers (Sweetwater, Guitar Center, Musicians Friend, etc.) to order a custom specified item that only they sell.

If could be a unique color finish, overstock of wood, unique combination of hardware, etc.

Here's a sapphire blue strat ... $850. https://weakleysmusiccompany.com/products/fender-deluxe-stratocaster-sapphire-blue-transparent-w-maple-fingerboard

But this one for Sweetwater had a roasted maple neck ... and was probably a $1000 more.

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/detail/StratAPRMSAB--fender-american-professional-stratocaster-exclusive-sapphire-blue-with-roasted-maple-neck-and-fingerboard

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