Usually, new product announcements are made around either the Summer or Winter NAMM show, but Fender chose early November to release the Ultra range of guitars. The Ultra replaces the Elite as top-of-the-line regular (i.e. non-Custom Shop) range. Models available are the Stratocaster (SSS and HSS), Telecaster, Jazzmaster, Precision, and Jazz Bass. The specifications are similar to the Elite:
- Locking tuners
- Noiseless pickups
- D-shaped neck
- Compound fretboard radius
- Heel contour
- S1 switch
Colour choices for the Stratocaster are Aged Natural, Arctic Pearl (both Rosewood fretboard), Cobra Blue, Mocha Burst, Plasma Red Burst, Ultraburst, Texas Tea (all Maple fretboard).
The reception has been lukewarm so far. Fender has taken what is essentially a minor incremental update as opportunity to once more increase prices. Gone is the spoke-wheel adjustment of the truss rod, and the only really new feature is the contouring of the rear of the lower cutaway. Fretboard wood is once again, thanks to relaxed CITES regulations, rosewood instead of ebony. Worse to me is that, while the Ultra has a feature set that looks excellent for live use, it comes with a rather thin neck profile that is not to my liking. I really wish Fender would offer a thicker neck profile as well.