Fender Meteora Player Plus Review: Looks Can Be Deceiving In 2022!

By Christoper Horton •  Updated: 03/31/22 •  18 min read

The Fender Meteora is the newest in the Player’s Plus lineup, originally spawning from the Pawn Shop Series. Today we take a look at the strengths and weaknesses.


The Fender Meteora: Retro-Futuristic!

Some people think that I hate Fender, because I often complain about them. But this is because I have always wanted to love Fender guitars, and I do love Telecasters (Who doesn’t?). But I wanted to be a Strat player so bad, yet no model ever really fit me the way I wanted. So I don’t dislike Fender, I just always wanted to be a “Strat Guy” and I just don’t jive with them. Luckily, I found a compromise with my beloved NJ Traditional. But Fender has been taking some chances lately, and the Fender Meteora sounds exactly like something I would love.

We recently went over the complicated restructure of Fender, and how the different models are ranked by price. After checking out all of them with our Fender Affiliate rep, I found that the Player Plus line was probably one of the best values that Fender currently offers. You get a lot of features from the Plus models, that you would usually only find in a guitar that costs twice the price. When I heard that Fender was designing a Meteora for the Player Plus line, I was excited that it would be getting the same treatment, and have great attention to detail.

The Fender Meteora gets its name from a huge rock formation that goes by the same moniker in Greece. This huge rock formation is also home to one of the largest Eastern Orthodox monasteries, one of an original 24 that sit on top of pillars of mountains. Only six of these original 24 monasteries still remain today. Google a picture of the place, it really is pretty amazing. What does this have to do with the Fender Meteora guitar? Absolutely nothing. But I thought the whole thing was pretty damn cool so I thought I would mention it.

The Fender Meteora got its start as one of the “Alternate Reality” models in 2016. These were vintage guitars that fit the Fender aesthetic, but were never actually made. The whole idea was to take different models and splice them together, making a whole new instrument from the different combos. The lineup asked “What if?” with the models. Like what if you mixed a Jaguar with a Jazzmaster, but added a Telecaster headstock? This was a really cool idea, but Fender had actually already done this before with the “Pawn Shop” collection, and the Squier ’51 before that. It later became the “Parallel Universe” series, with different configurations and finishes.

Fender Meteora original
The ORIGINAL Fender Meteora

I was excited to get my hands on the Fender Meteora, because I owned one of those original Squier 51 models way back in 2006. I bought it brand new in the Hollywood Guitar Center for only $100. I bought it because it seemed like a silly gimmick, combing a Tele, P-Bass, and a Strat body. I figured that I would hang it on the wall in the studio, and it would be a cool conversation piece. To my surprise, I ended up bringing that Squier on tour with me. Guitarists that came to our shows always asked me what kind of guitar it was, and some people thought that I made it myself!

The Fender Meteora seems like it has the same appeal. It has a retro-futuristic design that looks like something out of a 50’s Science Fiction comic. But unlike my Squier before, the Meteora is a much more expensive guitar. I have some really high hope for this axe, and today we are going to take a look at the features and design, as well as the tones that you can get out of this beast. The original Meteora had a Telecaster pickup design, so a dual humbucker design should be much more suited to our tastes here at Electrikjam. Let’s dive in and check it out!


Fender Meteora: Features and Specs

Fender Meteora
The New Fender Meteora In 4 Colors

The Fender Meteora sits at the higher tier of the Made In Mexico line. All of the Player Plus designs that I have had the chance to try have been outstanding quality. The two Meteora models that I had to try out were the Sunburst with a Maple fretboard, and the Cosmic Jade with a Pau Ferro fretboard. These were both sample models right out of the box, and as usual, Fender had no idea they would be reviewed. These are just models sent to affiliates, for sample purposes. Before we get specific, let’s look at the features all models share:

The first surprise with the Fender Meteora right out of the box, was the sheer size of this guitar. I don’t know what I was expecting, but the Meteora is closer to being an Explorer style shape than I realized. I suppose I was expecting a Jazzmaster feel. Despite the size the Meteora is not very heavy at all, and the two we had to try out were around 7lbs on average. Just a heads up to everyone, this guitar is much bigger than it looks in pictures!

The neck feels just like the Player Plus Stratocaster necks, which is something that has really grown on me. the Modern C shape is a little slimmer than what you find on the regular MIM Player models. The 12” radius also feels great, and the medium jumbo frets make this a potential shred-style guitar. The neck has that awesome satin finish on the back, while keeping the headstock nice and glossy. I have been impressed with the Fender-made synthetic bone nuts, but I wish they would just go with TUSQ and call it a day.

Since we had both the Pau Ferro, and Maple fretboard models it was cool to see the difference between the two. The Maple versions have a slight gloss to them, but not like a Squier, where it will blind you when light hits it. The Pau Ferro would be more of my style, and the sample model had a lighter tint than usual. It almost looked like Roasted Maple from a distance, but the pearl inlays really pop on both versions. I dig the throwback “windy” Fender logo on the headstock.

The hardware and plastics are all solid, and the dome knobs are not something you see often on Fenders. The volume knob activates the S1 coil splitting for both humbuckers. I was surprised with the trem system, and I prefer the two point over the vintage-style any day. There is a full sized trem block in the back cavity, which is always nice to see after living through the early 2000’s MIM trem blocks. Those were pitifully tiny, and made of the least resonant material ever. To be honest, I used to just block the trem on any MIM guitar. This is a welcome change to the Player Plus lineup.

On the spec sheet, it says “Deluxe Gig bag” but don’t let this fool you. The gig bag is just fine, and it will get you to the show and home safely, but it isn’t “deluxe” by any means. These are the same bags that come with all of the MIM guitars. I’m sure this is all interesting, but how do they perform?


Fender Meteora: Tones, Build Quality, And Overall Testing

Fender Meteora
Fender Meteora In Cosmic Jade

If you check out the picture above, I think you can see what I mean by the Pau Ferro looking more like Roasted Maple (It’s rather light). Like usual, when testing out guitars I like to use two totally different amps, and today I used a Blackstar HT40, and the trusty BOSS Katana 100 that I brought from my home studio. I always like to use a tube amp, and a solid state just to see the comparison. Plus with this price range, I would say either of these amps would be what someone playing a guitar in this price range might use in the real world.

I wanted to try and play both models that we had evenly, to see if the results were the same with both. So I did go back and forth between the two a bunch. If I noticed something worth a remark, I tested the other guitar to see if it was the same. If it was the same on both models, you’ll see it all below. Build quality, and sounds can vary wildly between two different guitars, even if they are the same model. It is pretty rare that I get to try two of the same models when it comes to samples like these. So how does the Fender Meteora stack up?

The Good:

Straight out of the box, both guitars are setup “ok”. This is really what I expect from a MIM Fender, they usually need a little work right out of the box. So we tweaked a few things on both, and got them ready to play. Really, the only visible problem was the action. The high strings also needed to be intonated since they were both off by a few cents and it was definitely noticeable higher up the neck. After tuning up, and stretching the strings, the whole ordeal really only took about 10 minutes. No big deal, like I said…its expected.

There was zero fret sprout on both guitars, and the edges were rolled really well. This is still surprising to someone like me, who comes from the old school thought of MIM Fenders. But the attention to detail is definitely there, and there were no problems with the finish either. I don’t love the big Fender logo engraved in the pickups, but it isn’t as noticeable from afar. Having two tone knobs, one for each humbucker, is sort of… strange? But having two tone knobs will allow all kinds of different sounds.

Usually, my first complaint with a Fender is the volume knob position, but I am ecstatic to report that this one is positioned pretty far away from the bridge! I know I can’t be the only one that bumps their pinkie on the volume knob of most Fenders! But not here! The guitar is also very ergonomic, believe it or not. It balances really well whether you are standing or sitting…and doesn’t have any neck dive issues. The three way pickup selector concerns me, since it is offset and in a position where you may hit it while strumming. I guess we will see if it becomes an issue as we go along.

I have the most experience with the Blackstar, and that’s what I plugged up to first. On the clean channel, I am a super surprised by the Fender Fireball Humbuckers. These things are seriously treble-focused since I had to turn down the treble on the Blackstar, which is a very dark sounding amp. Even the neck humbucker is a little shrill to my ears, but this is a good thing! It is always easier to dial back treble and midrange, than it is to add it when it comes to the frequency spectrum. The Fireball pickups are definitely bright, but also a little thin.

The neck pickup in humbucker mode sounds gorgeous with the tone rolled off a little bit. You can get a lot of different sounds by using the tone control and volume, and I would say that there is probably an Orange Drop capacitor on the tone pots. I wasn’t allowed to open the guitar up to see, and it was not in the specs unfortunately. In full humbucker mode, you can do just about any style of music…even jazz if you roll the treble off enough. You can also get a fat sounding high gain tone out of the neck that really sings with the tone rolled off. We all know and love that Slash/Santana, creamy tone.

Fender Player Plus Meteora HH Pau Ferro
$1149.00

From its beginnings as part of Fender's limited-edition Alternate Reality series, the Meteora has been a truly standout design. As an integral part of the Fender Player Plus line, the design has been further advanced with playability features and pickups that take the space-age design even further towards its futuristic promise. Sharing critical features with the rest of the line, the Fender Player Plus Meteora stands as a testament to Fender's tradition of player-friendly innovation.

BUY NOW

The bridge humbucker was also incredibly “pokey” and has an almost P90 quality to it. The Fender Meteora certainly won’t have any problems cutting through a live mix. On clean tones, this pickup would be perfect for country music, but the disappointment hit when I tried it with high gain. This is definitely not a “metal” guitar, and the pickups are just entirely too bright to get a decent chug going. That being said, it sounds great with crunch tones. I was surprised at how low output both of these Fireball pickups are, because they certainly didn’t push the overdrive very hard at all.

The S1 knob puts us in single coil mode, and it does so without a lot of volume loss. This is usually my main complaint when it comes to coil splits, but again, there is some magic going on with the wiring that I wish I could see! The neck pickup in single coil mode almost does that signature Fender sound, but it is just a little too thin. The bridge in single coil mode is a little harsh, but again, you can just roll off the tone knob. Both pickups in single mode would be great for blues or country, with the neck being a fatter sound and the bridge could easily substitute a Telecaster tone.

The real star of the show in both single and full humbucker mode is the middle position. This gets that “almost acoustic” sound on the clean channels of both amps. The middle position is usually not very good for adding gain, but it really works here. You can get some great AC/DC style crunch going. I also think the middle position is great for a lead tone, which is something I never say. The two pickups together just really play off each other well in tandem. This is pretty unique to me when it comes to a dual humbucker guitar, but the tones are excellent.

Earlier I said that it was weird to have two tone knobs on a guitar like this, since there’s only one volume knob. But this actually opens up a lot of possibilities when you’re switching pickups. You can do a more treble focused tone for rhythm playing, and at the flick of a switch have a dialed back creamy tone. If you put it in the middle position using both pickups, you can tweak the tone knobs until you get a really unique tone. There are a lot of really cool options using the tones knobs, and since the pickups are so bright…you need the tone controls.

Overall, the Fender Meteora is not at all what I expected at all. The pickups are the biggest surprise since they are not very hot at all, but still very bright. If you want these to distort, you have to really dial up the gain. The neck feels great, and I am more at home with a 12” radius than the usual Fender 9.5. The body being so ergonomic was also a surprise, and I wasn’t expecting anything akin to an Explorer from Fender!

The Bad:

So the Fender Meteora sounds great for just about any genre but metal. Playing it, I ran into a couple of issues. The first is going to be the pickup selector switch. I was definitely right about accidently bumping it while playing. This could be a “me” issue since it also happens with a Les Paul with me. But I know other people have that same issue, and here the switch is even closer than it is on a Les Paul. I think if Fender moved the switch a little further up the horn, we wouldn’t have this problem. This might not be a problem for most people, but it was for me.

Tuning stability was also a bit of a problem, which is something I would think the synthetic bone nut would handle. But the high E and B strings seemed to want to bind at the nut after any big bends. Thinking this could be the stock strings, we switched to Ernie Ball 9’s. The issue persisted on both guitars, but the Cosmic Jade model seemed to struggle the most. This can be fixed pretty easily by filing the nut just a little bit, but it shouldn’t be a problem on a guitar at this price point. This occurred with regular playing, as well as trem use.

The trem system is going to be my final gripe, and this is a design issue more than it is a problem with these two specific models. The trem has a “screw in” trem arm, and this is always an issue. The trem dives, and goes back to zero point without any issue. But the arm itself wiggles around in the screw threads, and never feels fully stable. This can be fixed with a piece of plumber’s tape usually, but again its not something I would think belongs on a guitar at this price. A “push in” arm would have been a much better option.

The pickups are great to me, but if you are buying this guitar to play hard rock or metal, it is not going to cut it without a ton of EQ issues. These pickups are incredibly bright, and only really work with higher gain applications when playing solos or single note passages. The Fireball pickups just don’t have the bass response that you need for heavier stuff. To me, this isn’t bad since I would use this guitar for lighter music. I would also use this guitar in the studio for layering tracks, since it pokes through the mix so well.


Fender Meteora: Wrapping Up…

Well, I can definitely say that for the first time in a long time…Fender has surprised the hell out of me! The Fender Meteora is definitely not going to be for everyone, and that’s ok. It certainly is an interesting guitar all together, and it was not what I was expecting at all. I was totally floored by the choice of pickups in this guitar, especially since I was expecting a much darker tone. Most Fender humbuckers sound darker to me, and I’m used to them being a little more hot. Even the Shawbucker is hotter and darker than the Fireball pickups.

It would be easy to take one look at the Fender Meteora and think that it may be simply a rock axe, but Fender really subverted expectations with this model. I would definitely say that this guitar is better suited for indie, country, funk, or jazz. Which is weird considering the almost extreme shape. Now of course, you can probably play some heavy stuff on the Meteora, but that would take some pedal wizardry. Straight into an amp we have a bright sounding, low output, dual humbucker guitar that I would think was a Gretsch or something if I were blindfolded.

The Fireball pickups are much closer to a P90 sound, or Filter-Tron to my ears. Like I said before, this is not a bad thing at all. They have that signature Fender “quack” and they are also very treble focused. If they had a little more bass response to them, they might be the best pickup for metal ever made. Just because of the clarity you get. It was an interesting design choice with for the people at Fender, but I like it! The individual tone knobs for each pickup can be used for all kinds of creative applications.

I have been dialing back my own music lately, not really doing so much metal in the studio. I would love to have something like this to record clean tones for my album. Not only does it cut, but it just sounds totally unique. I’ve never heard humbuckers with this kind of character, and that’s saying a lot. I can honestly say that I have never really played a guitar like the Fender Meteora, and I have played a lot of guitars over the last almost three decades.

The QC issues are a little concerning, but I had a “fix” for all of the problems we found. Now this could be a bad situation for a beginner, that is brand new to guitar. But for those of us that would probably buy this, I think we all know how easy it is to fix the issues I found. The only one that would be a pain, is the pickup selector. But overall, Fender has proven that there can still be some surprises, even with a legacy company. The Fender Meteora is a totally different animal than what you expect, and that’s a good thing!

Fender Player Plus Meteora HH Maple Fingerboard
$1149.00

From its beginnings as part of Fender's limited-edition Alternate Reality series, the Meteora has been a truly standout design. As an integral part of the Fender Player Plus line, the design has been further advanced with playability features and pickups that take the space-age design even further towards its futuristic promise. Sharing critical features with the rest of the line, the Fender Player Plus Meteora stands as a testament to Fender's tradition of player-friendly innovation.

BUY NOW

Does the Fender Meteora come with a case?

The Fender Meteora is in the Player Plus line, which means it comes with a Fender deluxe gig bag. All of the Player Plus line comes with a gig bag.

Where is the Fender Meteora Player Plus made?

All of the Player Plus models are made in Mexico, but to the highest specs that the factory can produce. This means more attention to detail, like rolled edges on the fretboard, and better features all around.

Christoper Horton

Christopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.

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