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Review: Fender FA-100 – is this the best guitar for beginners?

Fender are better known for reserving budget models for their Squier brand, so I have to say, I was incredibly surprised to find Fender branding on a guitar of this price.

They make some of the best guitars in the world, and are one of the big two in guitar manufacture. They don’t need to be associated with cheap instruments.

In saying that, the higher priced Fender that you think of are always going to be their electric offering. It’s not that their acoustic instruments have been bad, or poorly received, it’s just that they do electric better, in the same way that the likes of Martin just do acoustics better.

Core features and specs

You’ll see it across some of Fender’s cheaper instruments, where the most important thing they seem to be able to say about it is that it’s a Fender. That kind of works with the likes of their original designs, like the Strat, but less so with a classic acoustic. In fact, their main brag with this instrument seems to be that it is a classic acoustic design.

What body style is it?Dreadnought
What top wood does it use?Sitka spruce
What body wood does it use?Basswood
What wood is the neck made from?Maple
What wood is used for the fingerboard?Rosewood
How many frets does it have?20
Does it have electronics?No
Dexterity?Right-handed only it would seem

I guess it’s important to note, this isn’t just the guitar: it’s a pack that also includes a gig bag, some picks, a strap, and a tuner.

Parts

I’ve mentioned in other reviews about unbranded parts on Eastern-made instruments, and how it can imply a couple of things. The main implication – and at this price, it would not surprise me – is that the guitar was mass-produced in a factory in China, where the various guitar companies can then slap their branding on it.

You’ll find that unless it’s made in the USA, most guitar brands are actually fairly cagey about where their instruments were made.

I’m sorry, that makes it sound like the parts on this guitar will be garbage, but that’s really not the case.

My point is, don’t expect the same quality as you’d get with branded parts from companies who dedicate themselves to making those parts awesome.

For a guitar of this price, the parts seem perfectly adequate. There’s nothing overwhelming about any of it. Think of it this way: would Fender put their name to something awful? Not a chance.

In saying that, with such cost cutting measures like mass-production, you may get a guitar made in the exact same factory, with a different name on the headstock that won’t jack the price as much as that Fender decal.

Fender Guitar
Image Credit: Fender

Construction

I might have been a little snarky when I was writing about the parts just there. I’m sorry.
Moving onto an examination of the construction of the guitar, and I can’t really fault anything. It’s a solidly built guitar with all of the aforementioned unbranded parts securely attached. It’s hard to ask for much more than that. It lack the wow factor of a Martin or a even an Epi Hummingbird, but it’s still a clean build.

I always look at the neck joint first on any guitar I’m reviewing. This demonstrates the exact kind of work you would expect from a Fender instrument: clean, nothing forced, no glue residue. That’s all I need from a neck joint. That’s a great start!

Looking elsewhere, the craftsmanship is just as tidy. I’d guess – put money on it even – that even with cheaper instruments, Fender have some level of quality control.

There’s a black binding around the body of the guitar. It’s not that it looks bad, but on a purely personal level, I think a nice white or off-white binding looks a lot smarter.

Tones

When I’m talking about the tones of a guitar in a review, I do think it’s only fair to give you some idea of the kind of room I’m listening to it in. This is especially important with acoustic guitars: unlike electrics, there’s nothing else in a technological context that will influence the sound.

There’s nothing remarkable about the room. It’s just an average living room with carpet, curtains and some furniture. This adds up to a pretty dead sounding room. There’s no danger of any reverb here.

So, now that you know about my living room, let’s talk about this guitar.

To start off, I just strummed a few chords: nothing too heavy, nothing too light. No more than the parts and construction, I thought the sound was OK. I wouldn’t describe it as a tone that sings. While there certainly was clarity in the higher strings, it was definitely a bass-heavy sound coming out of it.

With this evidence now in hand, I switched to playing power chords, especially on the lower strings, and I thought that was actually a pretty cool sound. But alas, it’s unlikely to be what a beginner will be playing.

While there was a relative clarity in the notes as they rung out from single strums, the FA-100 will never win any competitions for long sustain.

I think it might actually be an alright guitar for certain recording. If I needed some low end acoustic, I certainly wouldn’t dismiss the FA-100, that’s for sure.

It’s the sort of tone that would be fine for a sing-a-long in a pub where people are focused on the singing.

Fender Guitar
Image Credit: Fender

Playability

This is not the easiest guitar in the world to play. It’s not impossible, but it doesn’t have the lowest action in the world. It’ll never be described as a dream to play.

Considering this instrument is primarily aimed at beginners, that’s not actually the worst thing. As far as

I’m concerned, it’ll help them to develop good strong fingers, so pretty much any guitar after that will be easy to play. Can you imagine if your first instrument was a perfectly set up Les Paul, but your fingers were hurting from playing it? Tragic.

Given the price of this guitar, it feels a little bit less finished than more expensive instruments. Again, this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. I feel like it makes it slightly more of a fight.

Intermediate guitarists might find it OK for recording demos, or having around for casual playing, road trips or campfires. I have a feeling that more experience intermediate guitarists would throw a few bucks at having that action lowered though.

Conclusion

I would absolutely recommend the Fender FA-100 pack for a beginner guitarist. I think it’s safe to say that any guitar that markets itself on including picks is aimed fairly squarely at beginners.

The gig bag is great for keeping dust off it between practicing, and I think every beginner’s guitar should include some kind of a tuner. One of my biggest pet peeves at local gigs is singer-songwriters who don’t seem to realise their guitar is out of tune, and watching bands share one tuner between them!

I’d say this is also good for intermediate guitarists looking for something to have just for knocking around.

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Fender FA-100

Parts
Construction
Tones
Playability

Great for a beginner; OK for intermediates

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