Fender Duo-Sonic HS Review (2020)

Echoes the original Duo-Sonic HS model released in 1956, the 2016 version of the Fender Duo-Sonic HS is compact with powerful sound output. Instead of the 25.5-inch scale length of the original version, this has only 24-inch for fast and easy playing experience.

Aside from the scale length, you’ll also notice that this version uses both a single-coil and humbuckers for tonal versatility. You’ll also see how efficient the string-through-body design is, to add more sustain as you play.

In this article, I’m going to give you a detailed review of the design, its playability, and sound of this guitar.

Note: All photos provided by FMIC

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Pros
  • Shorter scale for effortless playability
  • Neat and excellent craftsmanship with cool design
  • No setup required, everything is perfect out of the box
  • Smooth and perfect neck with a beautiful finish

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Cons
  • Some players prefer longer scale length
  • Guitar sound differs from amp to amp
  • The humbucking pickups are somewhat noisy

Design & Construction

This student-turned-classic instrument comes with a solid alder body and gloss Polyester finish. It has a double-cutaway body shape with sparkly Surf Green finish. I have the Surf Green, but, you can opt to have Daphne Blue or the Black.

I’m specifying the color variant I used in this review, because even though they only differ in color, I cannot speak of the other two. I’ll share with you everything I know and discover about the Surf Green variant.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS Electric Guitar

Anyway, though it’s solid, it’s lightweight and only weighs around 6.7lbs — among the lightest guitar on the market. Indeed, this is designed for students and small players with smaller hands.

The Maple neck has a slim C-neck profile that is designed for comfort and better performance. The headstock has a glossy look, but the back of the neck has a satin polyurethane, so that you can still play well even when your hands are sweating. Among the features I think, Fender is right about this one.

The bolt-on neck has 24-inch scale length, shorter than the original (though there was an option of the 22.5-inch length for the earlier versions). It features a very good Pau Ferro fretboard with 22 medium-jumbo frets, dot inlays and 9.5-inch radius.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS Headstock

Still featuring the classic smaller “pre-CBS”-style headstock, it has a set of modern-looking Fender Standard cast/sealed tuners. It has the six-saddle string-through-body hardtail bridge with bent steel saddles that offer stability, good intonation, and better sustain. Personally, I prefer hardtail over the more common tremolo bridge system.

You can see the striking three-ply mint green plastic pickguard that has the chrome-plated flat-top volume and tone controls and the three-position pickup selector switch. The neck single-coil pickup and the bridge humbuckers are very neat on the pickguard, too.

The humbucking pickups are coil-splittable via the push/pull tone knob. This allows the players to access different sound quality. I like jumping from warm and clean blues to country and classic rock. Overall, I think Fender Duo-Sonic HS is one of the most versatile electric guitars in this price range.

Playability & Performance

From the first strum, I know that this is an excellent guitar. Though the appeal seems very strong to me, I sense that there is more to the appearance that this guitar offers. The neck is slim C-shaped with just 24-inch scale length to accommodate young players and those with smaller hands.

The jumbo frets are great and the fretboard is desirable. There are no sharp fret edges or rough surface, so you can enjoy even faster play. The back of the neck has a satin finish, so even if you’re sweating, you still can play your guitar without any problem.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS back

The fretboard, the neck finish and the smaller scale length help players to learn guitar easily. They also keep you playing since the overall feel and weight of the guitar is lightweight and just comfortable to the wrist and shoulders. It’s balanced and sturdy, even for more aggressive players.

I’ll talk about the action and the strings on this guitar. Straight out of the box, it has a lower action — not too low without buzzes and chock-free via the C-shaped neck profile. It’s 35.4mm wide at the nut and 52mm at the bridge.

The strings through the hardtail bridge have better sustain and stability. Additionally, the metal tuners are reliable enough to keep the strings in tune even after several hours of jamming and rigorous playing. The hardtail and the tuners are high-quality and give the guitar an edge for its tuning and playability.

Sound

Kurt Cobain sparked the interest in entry-level student-model Fenders, and he became successful with his modified Fender guitars. Dropping the scale length to 24-inch is what Kurt also did back in his days. This move makes the strings easier to bend and still retain that brightness towards the low-end tones.

With the shorter scale length and the pickups, you can produce a more Strat-like sound. While the pickups sound fat, there’s more clarity when you do the coil-split. The neck pickup and the humbucking bridge pickup can produce flexible tone for different music genres.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS Review

The push/pull tone knob activates the single-coil pickup on the humbuckers to unlock more tonal varieties. These tones can be shaped through the master volume and tone controls to get the sound that you like. I admit that getting the hang of coil-tapping operation takes time, but, it’s worth trying and worth knowing.

After playing this guitar for months, I started to appreciate its versatility with reliable tone and volume controls. I love how I can get clean and fresh sound even with slight distortion. With the right setup, it delivers a brighter tone, which helps you stand out on solos or even when you’re playing with the group.

Value for Money

This is among the guitars worthy of your money. Straight from the factory, everything is perfect out of the box including the action, strings, bridge, intonation, and tuning. No need for a professional setup, since it’s playable and sounds amazing.

Body construction is very reliable. The hardware, controls and the pickups onboard are designed to give you a great guitar without breaking the bank. The combination of a single-coil pickup and dual humbuckers is very powerful, giving you a wide range of sounds.

Fender Duo-Sonic HS Electric Guitar Review

All good things and just minimal drawbacks. An easy to use and playable guitar, just the right guitar, especially for students and those with smaller hands.

Verdict

A great guitar made with quality materials and reliable hardware onboard, Fender Duo-Sonic HS is a versatile one. It features the hardtail bridge and steadfast tuners to secure the strings in position. The action is low out of the box, so string bending and fast play are possible without additional setup needed.

Among the minor turn-off of this guitar is the inconsistency of the sound quality produced depending on the amp used. But, if you’re using it at home or in-studio, you need a trusted and most reliable amp. Not a big deal and it won’t make the guitar little less.

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Quick Review

Fender Duo-Sonic HS electric guitar has a lot of desirable stuff onboard. It has shorter scale length, slimmer neck, and lighter weight for easier playability, especially for beginning guitarists. It features a single-coil neck pickup and coil-splittable humbucking bridge pickup, so, you can achieve great performance and good sound quality.

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Features & Design
Performance
Sound
Value for Money
Quick Review

Fender Duo-Sonic HS electric guitar has a lot of desirable stuff onboard. It has shorter scale length, slimmer neck, and lighter weight for easier playability, especially for beginning guitarists. It features a single-coil neck pickup and coil-splittable humbucking bridge pickup, so, you can achieve great performance and good sound quality.

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