Instrument Reviews / Reviews

Fender Brad Paisley Esquire review: A Secret Agent lurks beneath

Fender Brad Paisley Esquire FI

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is packing a “Secret Agent” pickup lurking under the pickguard for added versatility.

Techaeris Rated 9.4/10

It’s been a minute since I’ve done a guitar review, and Fender was nice enough to send one of their new models for 2021. Unfortunately, this one fell through the cracks, and I’m a little late in getting the review done. Better late than never, so the saying goes. The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is a signature Fender guitar that literally sparkles and comes with a surprise inside.

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is packing a “Secret Agent” pickup lurking under the pickguard for added versatility. Esquire’s are generally known for only having one pickup in the bridge, and that’s it. But since Paisley wanted the Esquire looks with the utility of a Telecaster…the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire was born. Read on for our full review!

Fender Brad Paisley Esquire Specifications

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire has the following features and specifications:

  • Body Material: Spruce/Paulownia/Spruce
  • Body Finish: Road Worn Nitrocellulose Lacquer
  • Body Shape: Telecaster
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Neck Finish: Road Worn Nitrocellulose Lacquer
  • Neck Shape: Enhanced “V”
  • Scale Length: 25.5″ (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard Material: Maple
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5″ (241 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Fret Size: Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Material: Synthetic Bone
  • Nut Width: 1.650″ (42 mm)
  • Inlays: Black Dots
  • Bridge Pickup: Custom Brad Paisley Spec Vintage-Style Telecaster
  • Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan Custom Shop Brad Paisley Secret Agent
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone
  • 3-Position Switch: Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups, Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Bridge: 3-Saddle Vintage-Style Strings Through Body Tele with Compensated Brass Barrel Saddles
  • Hardware Finish: Nickle/Chrome
  • Tuning Machines: Fender Vintage-Style
  • Pickguard: Clear with Black and Silver Paisleys
  • Control Knobs: Knurled Flat-Top
  • Switch Tip: Black
  • Strings: Fender USA 250L Nickel-Plated Steel (.009-.042 Gauges), PN 0730250403
Fender Brad Paisley Esquire
The Brad Paisley branding can be seen at the tip of the headstock.

What’s In The Box

  • Fender Brad Paisley Esquire
  • Deluxe Fender Gig Bag
  • Truss Rod and Saddle adjustment tools
  • Documentation and Manuals

Design

If you’re thinking, what a second…that’s a Telecaster! Well, you would be technically correct. The Fender Esquire is basically a Telecaster but what sets it apart is it only has one pickup at the bridge. Fender Esquire players generally love these guitars for their twangy bridge pickup sounds. These players have no need for the Telecaster’s neck pickup so Fender left it out.

Along comes Brad Paisley, who happens to love the aesthetic of the Esquire and the versatility of the Telecaster. Paisley and Fender put their heads together to come up with the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire.

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire features a paulownia and spruce body finished in a black sparkle Road Worn lacquer. The paint job on this guitar is wonderful! I’m not a huge fan of purposely making a guitar look “worn,” but it works okay here.

Fender Brad Paisley Esquire
The Road Worn finish actually looks good on this guitar.

This Esquire also comes with a custom Enhanced “V”-shaped maple neck with a 9.5” radius fingerboard. The fingerboard radius is typical of Telecasters and Stratocasters. Lately, I’ve been playing guitars with 14″ radius fingerboards and am actually preferring it. That’s not to say this fingerboard is bad, not at all; it was built to Brad’s specifications and rounds out higher up for better solo playability.

The hardware is also vintage style to add to the aged look of the instrument. I’m usually not a fan of this sort of look, but it works in this case. The black sparkle finish is really eye-catching, and the paisley pickguard ties the look together.

Overall, this is an attractive guitar, and I was honestly surprised that I enjoyed the “Road Worn” aesthetic. It feels nice and balanced with little to no neck dive, and it’s not heavy at all. In fact, it is one of the lightest guitars I’ve played. This instrument will look amazing on stage or in someone’s home, with a really well-done design and aesthetic.

Brad Paisley
The vintage bridge and saddles.

Out of Box Setup

I’ve talked about setups in the past; they are very subjective from one player to another. I usually am not a fan of the out-of-box setups on most guitars because I am particular about a few things.

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire did not come set up the way I would have liked it, but that being said, it was playable right out of the box. I’d go as far as to say that it’s gigable right out of the box.

There was no fret sprout on our example, and the fret ends were nicely polished, making moving up and down the neck comfortably. Intonation was also great, and tuning stability was rock solid. The action was just a hair too high for my liking, but as I said, not too high that I didn’t enjoy playing it.

Things like intonation and action are very fixable, even fret sprout is fixable. You may encounter fret sprout on some guitars due to temperature changes in transit, take your guitar into a luthier and have a setup done and you’ll be golden.

Overall, the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire played really nicely right out of the box. The only issue I had, which doesn’t affect the score, is the action height.

Secret Agent pickup
The Secret Agent pickup is under the pickguard.

Sound/Playability

So, the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire isn’t your typical Esquire. Most Esquire’s have a single bridge pickup and nothing in the neck position. The bridge pickup is a custom Brad Paisley-specific vintage Tele pickup. It gives you the sound you would expect from an Esquire bridge pickup, spanky and bright.

But Brad wanted the look of the Esquire with the pickup configuration of a Telecaster. So how did they accomplish this? Enter the Seymour Duncan Custom Brad Paisley “Secret Agent.”

Now, I’m not convinced there’s anything really that special about this pickup. It actually sounds like it has a lower output than the bridge, which probably has something to do with it being hidden under the pickguard. It doesn’t sound much different from any other Telecaster neck pickup; it adds a thicker sound than the bridge, helping to balance that spank if you use the two together.

From my perspective, the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is basically a Telecaster made to look like an Esquire. Brad loved the Esquire’s look so much but preferred the tonal options a Telecaster gives, so Fender came up with a way to provide that.

Tonally, you’re getting everything you’d expect out of an Esquire and Telecaster combined. Overall, if you’re a fan of Esquire’s aesthetic look but like having two pickups, the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is an excellent buy.

Esquire Fender
I will miss this guitar, it is a lot of fun.

Price/Value

Given that the Fender Brad Paisley Esquire is a signature guitar, it commands signature pricing. This baby is going to run you US$1,499.99. Fender adds value to this package with the extra pickup, special finish, signature “V” shaped neck, and premium appointments.

Of course, value is very subjective as well. Some of you may be looking towards other Telecasters with better electronics for around the same price and without the signature tax. Totally and completely understandable. Fans of Brad Paisley will love this guitar, though, as will those who want that look.

Wrap Up

The Fender Brad Paisley Esquire isn’t for everyone. There are other options out there with better specs, but it is certainly worth buying, especially for those who want the Secret Agent pickup and Paisley’s signature guitar. Most people looking to buy this guitar will understand that the price tag is a bit higher due to it being a signature model.

I will admit, I hate to send this one back. It’s a fun guitar and I’d love for it to stay here awhile longer.

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Fender Brad Paisley Esquire

US$1,499.99

Design

9.5/10

Out of Box Setup

9.5/10

Sound/Playability

9.5/10

Price/Value

9.0/10

Nailed it

  • Beautiful design, love the sparkle finish and the paisley pickguard
  • Lightweight and balanced
  • Comfortable V-shaped neck
  • Came setup nicely out of the box
  • Sounds amazing and the Secret Agent pickup adds versatility

Needs work

  • Price tag is a little high considering it only comes with a gig bag. A hardshell should be included with signature models in our opinion
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