Fender American Professional II vs Original ’50s and ’60s


If you’re looking for a top-of-the-range Strat, Tele or Jazzmaster then the American Professional II and American Original models are some of the best to consider, but what is the difference between?

In this article, I’ll take you through all the similarities and differences between the Fender American Professional II and Original ’50s and ’60s versions to help you decide which guitar is the most suitable.

Contents:

  • American Professional II vs Original Series Overview
    • Models Available
    • Woods and Finishes
    • Tone and Pickups
    • Neck Designs
    • Similarities
  • Comparing Specific Models
    • Stratocaster
    • Telecaster
    • Jazzmaster

American Professional II vs Original Series Overview

Guitars in the Fender American Professional II and American Original ’50s and ’60s series have different neck profiles, pickups and bridge designs. American Professional II guitars have a polyurethane gloss finish, whereas American Original guitars have nitrocellulose finish.

There are some model specific differences between guitars in each series (which I’ll discuss further into the article) and some differences which are seen across all models. Here is a table outlining the differences between each series which can be observed across all models (Strat, Tele and Jazzmaster).

FeatureAmerican Professional II StratocasterAmerican Original Stratocaster ‘50s/ ‘60s
BodyAlder/ PineAlder/ Ash
Body FinishGloss PolyurethaneGloss Nitrocellulose
Neck FinishSatinGloss
Fret Number2221
Fret SizeNarrow TallVintage Tall
Nut Width1.685”1.65”
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNo
Tremolo (Jazzmaster/ Strat)Pop-InScrew-In
Truss RodHeadstockNeck Heel
Tuning MachinesStandard Cast/ Sealed StaggeredPure Vintage Fender Deluxe
Sculpted Neck HeelYesNo
Stock Strings9-Gauge10-Gauge
Average Price (USA)$1700-$1800$2100-$2150
Average Price (UK)£1800-£1950£1850-£1950
Differences between Fender American Professional II and American Original ’50s and ’60s electric guitars

Models Available

The American Pro II and Original line-ups include Strats, Teles and Jazzmasters. You’ll find additional pickup configurations in the American Pro II series, whilst only the American Original series includes a Thinline Telecaster.

Both the American Professional II and American Original series include left-handed versions of the Stratocaster and Telecaster, however only the American Professional II has a left-handed version of the Jazzmaster.

Here is a table outlining which models are available in each series.

ModelAmerican Professional IIAmerican Original ‘50sAmerican Original ‘60s
Stratocaster (SSS)Right and Left-HandedRight-HandedRight and Left-Handed
Stratocaster (HSS)Right-HandedNot AvailableNot Available
Telecaster (SS)Right and Left-HandedRight and Left-HandedRight-Handed
Telecaster (HH)Right-HandedNot AvailableNot Available
Telecaster ThinlineNot AvailableNot AvailableRight-Handed
JazzmasterRight and Left-HandedNot AvailableRight-Handed
Models available in the Fender American Professional II, American Original ’50s and American Original ’60s series

Woods and Finishes

Guitars in the American Pro II line-up have alder bodies (except for one color option), maple or rosewood fretboards and maple necks. Guitars in the American Original ’50s series have either alder or ash bodies with maple necks and fretboards whilst guitars in the Original ’60s series have alder bodies, maple necks and rosewood fretboards.

The American Pro II models have gloss polyurethane bodies and satin neck finishes, whilst the American Original ’50s and ’60s models have gloss nitrocellulose finishes and gloss neck finishes. The gloss neck finish offers a more vintage look and feel, however the satin neck finishes feels faster and less sticky to play on.

In terms of the differences between nitrocellulose and polyurethane finishes, there is a bit of a debate as to which is best. Nitro finishes are softer so damage more easily, but some players prefer this “relic” look. I’ve written a comparison between nitro and poly finishes if you want to learn more about their pros and cons.

Tone and Pickups

The Fender American Professional II guitars have V-Mod II pickups which sound fuller and warmer than the pickups on the ’50s and ’60s American Original guitars which sound a bit brighter. The ’50s Original pickups are the thinnest and brightest sounding of the three variants.

On the American Pro II models you’ll also get some additional switching options which add some versatility to the guitars. These vary between models so I’ll outline them in the next sections.

Necks

You’ll find different neck profiles on the American Pro II, ’50s Original and ’60s Original models. All Pro II models have a deep C neck, whereas the necks on the Original series vary depending on the model in question. In general, the necks on the Original models are thicker than those on the Pro II models.

Other differences include:

  • Satin finish on the American Pro II models and gloss on the Original models.
  • 22 frets on the Pro II models and 21 on the Original models.
  • Narrow tall frets  (0.090″ x 0.055″) on the Pro II models and vintage tall frets (0.083″ x 0.045″)on the Original models.
  • The Pro II guitars all have a sculpted neck heel unlike the Original guitars.
  • 1.658″ nut on the Pro II guitars and 1.65″ on the Original guitars.

The sculpted neck heel on the Professional also aids upper fret access compared to the Original models. On the Original versions you only get 21 frets so the space between the frets is wider compared to the 22 fret neck on the Pro II.

Other Differences

  • The American Original models have a vintage truss rod which means you need to remove the neck to make adjustments, unlike on the American Pro II models which have the adjustment on the headstock.
  • The American Original models come with 10-gauge strings as stock, whereas the American Professional II models have 9-gauge strings.
  • The American Original models are approximately $300-$400 more expensive than the American Professional II models in the USA, but only £50-£100 more expensive in the UK.

Similarities

Here are the key features that all American Pro II and American Original Strats, Teles and Jazzmasters share.

  • Maple necks
  • 25.5″ scale length
  • 9.5″ fingerboard radius
  • Bone nut
  • Dot inlays
  • Chrome/ nickel hardware finish
  • Standard sized headstock
  • Hard case included

Comparing Specific Models

In addition to the key series differences, there are also some additional specification differences between the American Pro II and Original ’50s and ’60s guitars that are specific to each shape. Now let’s compare each model individually in the following order:

  • Stratocaster
  • Telecaster
  • Jazzmaster

Stratocaster

The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster has a gloss polyurethane body finish and satin neck whereas the American Original ’50s and ’60s Strats have a gloss nitrocellulose finish and a gloss neck. There are many more color options available for the Pro II version.

The Pro II Strat has a deep C neck, the Original ’60s has a thick C neck whereas the Original ’50s has a soft V neck. It’s a good idea to try out all three necks in a guitar store to see which you find the best, but generally the deep C neck on the Pro II is the more universally comfortable.

The pickups in the American Pro II sound the warmest and fullest and have the highest output followed by the Original ’60s then the Original ’50s pickups. You also get a push/ pull tone pot on the Pro II which allows you to activate either the bridge and neck pickup together (without the middle) or all three pickups at the same time. This feature is not found on either the ’50s or ’60s Originals.

Another notable difference is the bridge design. The Pro II has a more modern 2-point tremolo which is more responsive compared to the vintage 6-point tremolo on the Original series Strats which is more resonant. Check out my article comparing the 2 and 6 point tremolo bridge designs to learn more.

Here is a table outlining the key differences between the Fender American Professional II, American Original ’50s and American Original ’60s Stratocaster models.

FeatureAmerican Professional II StratocasterAmerican Original ’50s StratocasterAmerican ’60s Original Stratocaster
BodyAlder/ PineAlder/ AshAlder
FretboardMaple/ RosewoodMapleRosewood
Body FinishGloss PolyurethaneGloss NitrocelluloseGloss Nitrocellulose
Neck FinishSatinGlossGloss
Neck ShapeDeep CSoft VThick C
Fret Number222121
Fret SizeNarrow TallVintage TallVintage Tall
Nut Width1.685”1.65”1.65”
PickupsV-Mod IIPure Vintage ’59 Single-Coil StratPure Vintage ’65 Gray-Bottom Single-Coil Strat
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNoNo
Bridge2-Point Tremolo6-Point Tremolo6-Point Tremolo
TremoloPop-InScrew-InScrew-In
Truss RodHeadstockNeck HeelNeck Heel
Tuning MachinesStandard Cast/ Sealed StaggeredPure Vintage Fender DeluxePure Vintage Fender Deluxe
Pickguard3-Ply1-Ply3-Ply
Sculpted Neck HeelYesNoNo
Stock Strings9-Gauge10-Gauge10-Gauge
Color Options3-Color Sunburst
Olympic White
Mystic Surf Green
Miami Blue
Mercury
Dark Night
Roasted Pine
Black
Sienna Sunburst
2-Color Sunburst
White Blonde
Inca Silver
3-Color Sunburst Olympic White
Shell Pink  
Differences between the Fender American Professional II and American Original ’50s/’60s Stratocaster

American Professional II Stratocaster

American Original ’50s Stratocaster

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Considering other Stratocasters? Check out my complete guide to the different Stratocaster models to make sure you get the best option.

Telecaster

The Fender American Professional II Telecaster has either an alder or pine body (depending on the color option) with a polyurethane gloss finish. The Original series Teles have a gloss nitrocellulose body finish and the ’50s Original has an ash body, whilst the ’60s Original has an alder body.

The American Original ’50s Tele has a U-shape neck which is very chunky. The American Pro II Tele has a deep C neck which feels slightly thinner than the neck on the Original ’60s which falls somewhere in the middle of all three guitars (but leans more towards the Pro II neck).

The pickups in the American Pro II Tele sound warmer and fuller with more mid-range compared to the Original series pickups which sound more bright and twangy, particularly on the ’50s Original model. On the Pro II Tele you also get a push/ pull tone pot which activates a series mode to fatten up the tone.

Here is a table outlining the key differences between the Fender American Professional II, American Original ’50s and American Original ’60s Telecaster models.

FeatureAmerican Professional II TelecasterAmerican Original ’50s TelecasterAmerican Original ’60s Telecaster
BodyAlder/ PineAshAlder
FretboardMaple/ RosewoodMapleRosewood
Body FinishGlossGloss NitrocelluloseGloss Nitrocellulose
Neck FinishSatinGlossGloss
Neck ShapeDeep C1952 “U”‘60s C
Fret Number222121
Fret SizeNarrow TallVintage TallVintage Tall
Nut Width1.685”1.65”1.65”
PickupsV-Mod IIPure Vintage ’52 Single-Coil TelePure Vintage ’64 Gray-Bottom Single-Coil Tele
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNoNo
Stock Strings9-Gauge10-Gauge10-Gauge
Truss RodHeadstockNeck HeelNeck Heel
Tuning MachinesStandard Cast/ Sealed StaggeredPure Vintage Fender DeluxePure Vintage Fender Deluxe
Pickguard3-Ply1-Ply3-Ply
Sculpted Neck HeelYesNoNo
Color Options3-Color Sunburst
Olympic White
Mystic Surf Green
Mercury
Dark Night
Black
Miami Blue
Sienna Sunburst
Butterscotch Blonde
Roasted Pine
Butterscotch Blonde3-Color Sunburst Burgundy Mist Metallic Lake Placid Blue  
Differences between the Fender American Professional II and American Original ’50s/’60s Telecaster

American Professional II Telecaster

American Original ’50s Telecaster

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Jazzmaster

The Fender American Professional II Jazzmaster has a gloss polyurethane body and satin neck, whereas the American Original ’60s Jazzmaster has a gloss nitrocellulose body and a gloss neck. Both the Original and Pro II have C-shape necks however the profiles are slightly different. The mid ’60s C on the Original is slightly wider and that difference increases as you go up towards the 12th fret.

The Pro II Jazzmaster sound a bit darker and fuller than the Original ’60s Jazzmaster. The Pro II Jazzmaster has a modified wiring to allow you to activate the pickups in either parallel or series model. The Original Jazzmaster has the classic wiring with a rhythm/ lead circuit.

The Original Jazzmaster keeps it traditional with the vintage style bridge however this design isn’t really as good as the Pro II’s bridge. On the Original you may find that there isn’t enough tension to keep the strings in their slots.

Here is a table outlining the key differences between the Fender American Professional II and American Original ’60s Jazzmaster models.

FeatureAmerican Professional II JazzmasterAmerican Original ’60s Jazzmaster
Body FinishGloss PolyurethaneGloss Nitrocellulose
Neck FinishSatinGloss
Neck ShapeDeep CMid ‘60s C
Fret Number2221
Fret SizeNarrow TallVintage Tall
Nut Width1.685”1.65”
PickupsV-Mod IIPure Vintage ’65 Single-Coil Jazzmaster
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNo
BridgePanorama Tremolo SystemVintage-Style Floating Tremolo 
Strings9-Gauge10-Gauge
Truss RodHeadstockNeck Heel
Tuning MachinesStandard Cast/Sealed StaggeredPure Vintage Fender Deluxe
Sculpted Neck HeelYesNo
Color OptionsLake Placid Blue
3 Color Sunburst
Mercury
Dark Night
Mystic Surf Green
3-Color Sunburst
Ice Blue Metallic
Differences between the Fender American Professional II and American Original ’60s Jazzmaster

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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