We're compiling the best Holiday 2016 music gear deals. See them here.
I'm always skeptical about user-contributed reviews on forums, websites and the like, especially when it comes to an instrument that has been owned for a short period of time. How often do you come across an evaluation where the writer's enthusiasm seems to be fueled more by the endorphin rush of a recent purchase than by the actual quality of the product? "I got this guitar two days ago, and it is THE MOST AWESOME GUITAR EVER UNICORNS RIDING RAINBOWS SHOOT OUT OF MY AMP WHEN I PLAY IT ZOMG!!!!"
In my humble opinion, you don't really know much about a guitar until one has played at least a handful of practices and gigs with it, and put it under the microscope of a recording. And even then, it's debatable how well you'll understand the instrument.
With that said, I've owned my Coronado II for a few months now, and I've put it through its paces in all three of the main environments I described above. I feel pretty well qualified to review it by now, although I will say that you should take my opinion with a grain of salt, because the "new guitar" smell hasn't worn off yet--at least, not psychologically. That could be a good thing, though. In all honesty, the Coronado has quickly and unexpectedly become my favorite guitar. It's basically everything I've ever wanted in an axe, though I never thought I'd find it in this Chinese-made reissue of a late-60s weirdo model.
The original Coronado rolled out in 1965 as Fender's response to the British Invasion; many of those bands landed in the US playing hollowbodied guitars, and it seems Leo didn't want to miss the boat (or plane, as it were). However, it didn't really find an audience, and the Coronado was discontinued in 1972.
Fast-forward to 2013, when the popularity of indie rock hit an all-time high and a diverse group of artists could be clocked rocking vintage Fender hollowbodies like the Coronado and Starcaster. The California-based guitar manufacturing icon responded to demand by reissuing both of these instruments, albeit with some modifications made. The Coronado II, in particular, is fairly different from the original design in several ways; the biggest change being the inclusion of a center block, which adds heft and is alleged to dramatically reduce feedback.
I must confess that I've never played an older model. However, the instant I picked up the RI version, I knew it was the guitar for me. There are several things I love about this instrument. The first thing is the feel. Chinese-made products have a spotty reputation at best, so I was surprised by the high quality of the workmanship. The binding was beautiful and perfectly placed (even around the f-holes!) and the frets, which are normally ragged and snarly on a foreign-made, budget-priced instrument were filed perfectly. The intonation was flawless right off the rack, and even after I switched from the floor-model size .09 strings to my preferred D'Addario .11-.49s, I didn't need to make any adjustments. It was perfectly in tune.
The guitar feels wonderful; the center block brings it to over 8 lbs, but the instrument is large enough that the weight seems to be somehow more evenly distributed than something like a Les Paul. The balance is such that the neck never dips when hanging off your body via a strap--it always juts out into space, pretty much wherever you leave it after letting go. I cannot stress enough how much of a convenience this is when playing a live show, especially if you're a somewhat active stage performer. The neck profile is fairly slim, so if you like modern Strats (especially the MIM 70s Classic Player reissues), you'll be right at home on the Coronado. The body is obviously thicker than most Fender solidbody models, but somehow, it doesn't feel substantially different, the way a 335 does. It's still fairly compact, and its size didn't take more than a few days to adjust to. Already, I very much prefer it.
The Fidel'itron pickups are a big part of the appeal of this guitar for me. To call them "versatile" would be an understatement. If I didn't know better, I'd say that they were intuitively adapting to whatever I'm playing and however I'm playing it. If I need a sparkling-clean tone that with that classic Fender single-coil spank, the Coronado II delivers it. On the other hand, if I need a big, thick, sustained sound, it turns out the guitar is no shrinking violet--I can get "rawk" sounds just as easily. And the real magic happens when you're looking for those in-between tones. It's incredibly easy to dial in semi-dirty sounds, and the guitar cleans up in response to my pick attack or when the volume is dialed back a little. It's like the damned thing is reading my mind on the fly.
For the record, I play in an original pop/rock band that moonlights playing covers. We do a pretty wide variety of material in our covers sets, ranging from 70s/80s rock and new wave to modern pop and even a small amount of R&B/hip-hop. I used to switch between 3 guitars over the course of an evening to get the right sound and feel for each song; I now find myself playing 90% of the set with the Coronado II. And the only reason I switch is that at the end of the night, when I REALLY lay into my guitar in the home stretch, I don't want to beat my trusty steed senseless. (I save that aggression for the Strat.)
I really can't recommend this guitar highly enough. It's an absolute bargain at $699, and I bought mine as a B-stock for $599 due to a blemish in the finish that I'm still unable to locate, 4 months in. Pro life tip: the Coronado II also fits nicely into most 335-sized hardshell cases, making it really easy to protect and carry. Check it out if you get the chance.
This guitar has some amazing qualities. It's so versatile, you can virtually get any sound you could think of out of it. It's semi-hollow with a laminate maple body and alder center block, which control's the feedback just enough but you can still get it to scream if you want. The Fideli'tron pickups are very bright and sparkly but if you dial down the tone you can get some nice thick sounds. I personally love playing more chord oriented songs on this, but I've been able to do everything short of complete Van Halen shred with it.