Until now, uttering the words ‘I play a Marauder’ would leave any listeners’ faces twitching with baffled incomprehension as they tried to work out whether you were referring to an obscure and little-missed bolt-on Gibson from the ’70s, or whether you actually owned one of a handful of incredibly rare mid-’60s Fender prototypes… possibly even one of the legendary ‘invisible pickup’ models.
Not any more, because Fender has resurrected the Marauder name and attached it to a surprising and rather original guitar in the new Chinese-made Modern Player series.
So, down to business. If you’re a dyed-in-the-wool vintage Fender freak then your eyebrows will instantly elevate skywards, for this is a guitar for players who come to the Fender marque unencumbered by memories of the past.
The body is all-new: though it echoes the old Marauder, which appeared in the 1965 catalogue but never escaped from the printed page and into the shops, it’s been re-shaped into something that combines surfy underground cool with rock credibility, with a slimmed top horn and an artfully ‘sharkified’ lower cutaway.
In a first for Fender, it’s made of koto, a West African timber often seen on door veneers and the like, and at a shade under the 7lbs mark this is a very lightweight guitar indeed. As for colours you can choose from black or Lake Placid blue metallic, and the paintjob is flawless.
Picking up the Marauder for the first time, the overall feel of the neck and fingerboard reminds us of the Squier Classic Vibe Telecaster Custom or the ’60s Strat (also made in China, of course): thin in profile, glossy on the back, with a fairly flat radius and low frets.
The neck is perhaps a touch more sweetly rounded in the shoulders than the CV Tele Custom’s, but string-benders may feel the low frets create a little too much fingertip contact with the slab rosewood board for perfection. The maple is a lovely straight-grained piece, though cut on the slab not the quarter.
There are 22 frets, the scale is the regular long 25.5", and trussrod adjustment is located up at the wide Jazzmaster-shaped headstock with its smooth vintage tuners, twin string trees and large ‘spaghetti’ logo.
Fender’s cleverly-configured new Triplebucker crams three narrow coils with blades, not separate polepieces, into a regular humbucker-sized space.
The neck pickup is a Modern Player Jazzmaster single coil, and both are surrounded by a funky pearloid-topped four-ply scratchplate which butts, Jazz Bass-style, up against a chrome control plate with two Jazz Bass knobs. Unscrew this and you’ll find a properly paint-shielded cavity and two mini-pots of the familiar Far Eastern type.
The vibrato is a basic vintage Strat-type resting on six pivot screws, with bent-steel saddles and a screw-in arm with all the familiar drawbacks. Around the back, the spring cavity is covered by a pearloid plate.
The vibrato – set up with three springs – feels light and tight and returns to pitch pretty well, but the arm protrudes out as far as the neck pickup’s polepieces, leaving vibrato-holding players picking over the end of the fingerboard. We’d do a chop job and shorten the arm an inch or so.
Ergonomics are good. The Marauder feels neat and compact, and balances perfectly on a strap. The bridge saddles on our review guitar do protrude awkwardly into the palm, though, so shorter grub screws (or a mild neck-shim and set up) might be in order.
The horizontal selector switch requires a measured Tele-style sideways push as opposed to a faster Strat-style swipe, but that’s no great hardship.
Don’t assume the Marauder operates like a Jazzmaster with a monsterbucker jammed in at the bridge. It’s more sophisticated than that, and in effect it’s rather more like a superstrat arrangement, with the five switch settings laid out to give the two loudest sounds on the outside, growing incrementally – and intuitively – softer towards the middle.
Position 1 gives the humbucker in twin-coil mode, and it’s loud, bright, fat and proud. Use that for leads, then click to position 2 – all three coils but, surprisingly, with less output… a fine, chunky all-round rhythm slot.
Position 3 is the centremost coil of the Triplebucker on its own: skinny, pointy and the quietest setting of the five, and a useful sound for surf and edgy background parts. Position 4 is this coil again, plus the Jazzmaster pickup, and it’s reminiscent of the bridge/middle setting on a Strat.
Finally we have the Jazzmaster pickup alone, and its open, woody, twangy-yet-jazzy sound reminds us of just how impressed we are with all the pickups across the Modern Player range. This is a really adaptable guitar; from metal to rock and country to indie, you’ll probably find a pickup setting that works.
A spy working in a music shop reports a fresh-faced young band being sent in their advance to buy new instruments. ‘No Strats,’ they informed him. ‘The record company says it’s the wrong image.’ Here, perhaps, is a guitar that could satisfy the needs of the bright-eyed pop hopefuls and their clueless, meddling overlords: a trad vibrato plus all the adaptability of a humbuckered Strat in a package that combines indie cred with a whiff of kooky ’60s charm.
Fender’s Modern Player six-strings all add unexpected pickup layouts to familiar faces of the past: P90s in a Thinline, P90s in a Jaguar, three pickups with a humbucker in a Tele.
This one’s the most original of the four, and with build quality similar to the Classic Vibes, you can be sure that it’s good enough for the stage. If the low frets, flat board and slim neck appeal to you, then the light weight and fresh looks will likely push your wallet over the edge without even a squeak of complaint.