My first, and honest look at the 2023 reissue Tom Delonge Strat
Note: Article originally written August 2023

I'm of the generation where a number of my formative years were spent loving pop punk bands, namely of course the band that defined the genre for so many, Blink 182. I loved the original Tom Delonge signature Fender model, something I have wrote about on the blog before. Needless to say, even just for the nostalgia, it was great to see Tom and Fender join forces again and reissue his iconic stripped back punk rock Strat amidst the Blink 182 Reunion shows and tours. 

Summary, announcement, price and addressing the QC
Thankfully one of my regular customers kindly brought his Daphne Blue reissue in for inspection and setup, and I had a great time having a closer look at it. I feel pretty safe in saying that from the announcement of the reissue, to the guitars landing in dealers and customers hands, it has been a rollercoaster ride. Excitement for so many seeing the model available again, to somewhat of a dark cloud hanging over it thanks to a few key details being reported by their new owners and online guitar personalities/reviewers alike. Notably it's retail price, and then the reported QC issues found by so many new owners.

Originals, depending on condition have been consistently selling in recent years used between £1500-2000, showing there is strong demand for the model that once retailed new for around £400-500 in the early 00s. Ultimately any relatively old, popular and discontinued model will see an increase in the used market. Simple case of supply and demand, but I do think when you consider inflation, and the notes mentioned prior, the current used prices are what you'd expect to see really. They're as much of a collectors item as they are a functional guitar these days for those seeking the nostalgia trip back to the early 00s rock music scene. Accounting for inflation that original £400-500 price tag would sit somewhere between £750-900 in 2023. The reissue comes in at £1300, as a result this has been enough to cause a stir among the guitar community, particularly for a Mexico made, very stripped back Strat. What is 'affordable' for one person, isn't to another so I won't get into that discussion here, you can make your own mind up, but it's understandable why the price struck up a lot of discussion before it even was available. 

Moving on from price, brings us to the QC. If you followed the first run release of these, then you will have no doubt seen that there have been a great number of QC issues reported by those that snapped the limited edition model up. I am very sure the originals weren't without their faults here and there, members of the community will have no doubt seen a recent guitar page refinishing their original example only to find a 7 piece (!) body lurking under the finish. But back to the reissue, hearing of these QC issue reports is a real shame to hear for fans who have waited so long to pick one up. Whether the factory rushed them out, or simply put QC has dropped dramatically, we'll have to wait and see. Either way it has been really sad to have seen a lurking shadow aside the otherwise exciting re-release pf the already polarizing signature model. Most notable QC reports are neck and bridge alignment issues. 

It was interesting to see some of the small changes made compared to the original early 00s run Fenders and overall I do like those changes on the reissue.
Factory setup, as always, left a lot of room for improvement. This is the case for any production guitar though to be honest, I see plenty of brand new guitars from numerous brands and specs come through and all need a tweak here and there and little finishing touches carried out. So I can look past that here for sure. But post setup I found this specific example to be an incredibly resonant guitar, and hope that is the same for others out there. So in summary, it's nice to see/hear that a hardtail strat again lives up to it's reputation of being resonant. 

This particular example had a lovely dark rosewood board, just how you'd want one really! Dark with that nice reddish brown tint that quality rosewood is, presumably Indian Rosewood due to it's colour and pattern. Fretting overall was good, only some very minor high spots which I've come to expect at a bare minimum from new guitars from any factory these days. Nut string spacing suitable and the tuners function nicely. I'll admit to being incredibly disappointed in recent years with Fender's QC when it comes to string spacing at the nut. So many passed through my hands with spacing issues that simply shouldn't be there on a new instrument. But on this example, it was absolutely fine which is good to see and again, hope that is consistent across the models production.

The string tree hole wasn't drilled quite deep enough preventing it to be fully fitted. Hopefully the image above shows how the string tree 'winged' piece has a gap between it and the spacer. I presumed this was simply because it hadn't been tightened down, but it was actually because the hole wasn't deep enough so it wouldn't allow it to be tightened any further. An odd QC misshap, so I corrected that and now the tree is correctly fixed in place.

It has a very neat neck pocket/fitment, something it seems many haven't but this one is perfect. Alignment of the bridge is a smidgen out, again, something which has been much, much worse on many others out there. Things like that really shouldn't be seen on a new instrument from a major brand let's face it. Thankfully it isn't enough to spoil setup on this specific guitar, but could be better. To resolve would require a hole fill and re-drill, which let's all agree, shouldn't have to be done on a brand new guitar. On this ocassion, as it isn't far enough out to negatively affect setup or play-ability, it was left as is. But some examples I have seen shared were truly awful, and rightfully sent back to Fender or their purchasing dealer. 

One thing I didn't spot in photos during the launch was the satin finish neck, which feels great in use I must say. Super smooth in your hand, ideal for sweaty punk rock gigs. The satin look to the headstock might not be to everyone's visual preference, particularly those who perhaps hoped it would have replicated the original models, which did have a gloss finish. In use, it feels great toplay.

The new bridge is a nice change from the originals too. Modern block saddles, akin to what Tom's actual Custom Shop built Strats had, so this is a nice detail over the original production run. The body was routed as per most production Mexican Fenders these days, with a HSH pickup cavity route. So no Delonge single pickup specific body route, although the original Fender TD signatures didn't (but interestingly the Squier TD signatures did which I always thought was interesting).

In particular I was keen to see if they had continued the same treble bleed spec as per the original too, but Fender are equipping these with their 7711095001 PCB treble bleeds instead, as with most of their newer production models really. Other than being a PCB, the specs are quite different to the original run, seeing a 1.1nF cap, 150kOhm resistor wired in parallel and a 47kOhm additionally wired in series. The originals had a 680pF ceramic cap w/220kOhm resistor wired in parallel. I really can't see any specific reason as to why they would change the spec, Tom never had treble bleeds on his own strats back in the day, so the change wouldn't be to better align with his choices, so suspect it literally is simply because they're using these PCB treble bleeds on a number of models so easier to carry that on. They likely just referenced the original models spec sheet, saw it had a treble bleed, and just used what they do as standard on other MIM models, which does make sense for production. It's still of course a bridge position Seymour Duncan Invader, and in use I think the new PCB treble bleed functions well through the volume taper. 

In my opinion, and this is coming from someone who is professionally wiring up guitars daily, I think on this example everything was neatly wired up and installed. One thing I did notice through the setup process though was that with this specific guitars neck pocket angle etc, the Invader did need to be set incredibly low into the pickguard. The top of the bobbins flush, or perhaps even a smidgen lower than the pickguard top to achieve a decent pickup height against the strings. They're insanely high output pickups so you really don't want/need these close to the strings. So to get this one set to a comfortable gap, it really did need to be decked, which as a result meant I was at the very end of the available threads on the adjustment screws. 

To summarise, safe to say from looking at all of the examples and social media sharing these reissues received upon release, this specific guitar was a good one. As some/many shared were unacceptable in terms of QC for a £1300 retail new guitar. I can really sympathise with those people that received bad examples, it isn't acceptable that they left the factory, went through a dealer all un-noticed, or not cared for, with these issues in mind. Thankfully for my customer, this was a lovely example, setup well and overall felt nice after a setup. Some very minor niggles, which again is a shame for a new guitar but they weren't quite enough to spoil the guitar I don't think. It's an iconic signature model for players of my generation. I've been in this industry for over 8 years at this point, and so so many customers I have come in look back fondly on these TD Strats, so it's clear they left a mark on a lot of us. Nice to see Fender bring them back to life with a new run, just a shame they clearly did rush it judging by the QC on many, many shipped out. Price point is a tough one, I don't think I could personally justify £1300 on a single pickup MIM Fender, but as touched on earlier in the article, rate of inflation, value of the originals etc, it all makes some sense as to why they were priced this way. At the end of the day, the original run sold out so it shows the price didn't concern a large portion of people that's for sure. 

I enjoyed taking a closer look at the reissue, making notes of how it compares to the original and my thoughts on the build, QC and specs. Overall I did honestly like it, but this is because it was a good example. I'm sure my report would be drastically different should it have had the major alignment issues that so many others did. My main recommendation to anyone looking to buy one of these, is to go to a shop that has them in stock and physically inspect the guitar you are hoping to buy. Look at the neck pocket, nut string spacing, bridge placement and overall details. I'm sure with these details inspected, you'll be handing over your very hard earned money for a guitar which will be well made. Ordering one online at the best price you can find, might not yield good results as there truly aren't many big box shops that inspect stock anymore sadly. Support your local guitar shop, and have a good look at the actual guitar. If it's not good enough, walk away and wait for a better example to arrive in, it'll be worth it :)
But I hope this article helps if you wanted to learn a little more about the specs of these!


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