Fender Sonoran SCE Expert Review: Acoustic Guitars Under $500

Published Categorized as Dreadnought Reviews, Fender Acoustic Guitars, Guitar Reviews, Guitar Reviews under 500, Laminate Back and Sides Wood, Mahogany Patterned Laminate Back and Sides, Sitka Spruce Top Wood, Solid Wood Top Wood

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Hello, and welcome to my Fender Sonoran SCE review.

In my latest trip to my local music store, I tried 3 new guitars costing less than 500. And one of those was the guitar I am reviewing here.

My first impression of the Sonoran SCE was that it looked like it was cheap but my impression had changed a lot by the time I was hanging it back up on the hook.

Table of Contents

What this Review Will Cover

In this review I will take a look at the following characteristics of the Sonoran SCW:

  • Sound (including videos so you can hear it for yourself)
  • Playability
  • Who the guitar is most suited to
  • Whether or not this guitar is value-for-money

The Sound of the Sonoran

acoustic guitar's tonality

As I said, when I first picked this thing up, my first impression was that it was cheap.

The tuning pegs looked cheap, it had a cheap glossy look about it, and the electric style headstock (with all the tuners on one side of the headstock) just reeked of tacky to me.

Now, I didn’t know what materials the Sonoran had before I picked the guitar up, (something I purposefully do on all my reviews so that I am not biased in my opinion) but I got the impression they weren’t very nice ones.

But, to my surprise, the guitar had a nice tone to it, and was actually quite pleasant to play.

It didn’t have a distinctive sound, which makes sense (now knowing the materials that are used in its construction), but it had an even tone that you could strum pretty hard without it losing its poise, and was slightly brighter than it was warm, though it wasn’t overly bright, but not too warm either.

To my ear I’d say about a 7 out of 10 on the brightness/warmth scale length with 1 being muddy as hell and 10 being sharp and tinny.

The Materials

O.k. let’s take a quick look at the materials used and see what you can expect from this guitar.

Shape: Dreadnought – so it can pack a punch – not more than you’d expect from your average dreadnought, but enough so that if you want to get some good volume out of it you definitely could.

Top (soundboard): Solid Spruce – not saying you can’t, but when such a high percentage of guitars on the market have a spruce or mahogany top, it’s hard to get a unique sound. Of course you can but the Sonoran doesn’t – but it does have a nice solid sound. The Spruce does however enable a crispness of sound and a large dynamic range.

Back and Sides: Laminated Mahogany – can’t expect solid-wood back and sides on a guitar that costs less than $400.

Saddle & Nut: One of the nice little surprises I got was that the Sonoran SCE has a compensated bone saddle and a bone nut. Love the premium features on affordable guitars! I’ve seen guitars twice this price with cheap plastic nuts and saddles – so kudos to deciding on one of the best material for guitar nuts and saddles!

Bracing: Another pleasant surprise was that it uses Scalloped X Bracing

Bridge: The bridge is made from rosewood – but that is to be expected. When a guitar is cutting costs on the bridge then I’d start to get a little worried. Thankfully that’s not the case here.

Fender Sonoran SCE headstock

Headstock: O.k. there’s no way around it, the tuners look like cheap plastic and they are cheap plastic. Luckily they’re easy to replace, which would be the first modification I would make to this guitar.

And the rest of the headstock, well….. I’m sure it doesn’t affect the sound but it doesn’t do it for me looks-wise. Now, don’t get me wrong, I do actually play electric guitar sometimes, and that headstock look works on electrics – but on an acoustic it looks like it’s trying too hard.

But that’s completely a personal preference thing, and some people think that this is actually a great feature of this guitar so each to their own on that one.

The Sonoran’s Playability

In general, Fender acoustic guitar history is huge. So, no wonder I was pleasantly surprised with how the Sonoran played. The action was still too high for my liking but this is normally the case.

Action

Given its height, I was surprised with its acoustic playing style. I would still have it lowered (the second modification I would make after changing the tuning pegs) but if you like it a little higher then this might be fine as is.

Neck

The neck is basically like an electric guitar neck. So if you’ve been looking for an acoustic that feels like an electric to play then this could be it. Of course the strings will steel feel different but otherwise it was a lot like playing an electric.

The neck really did feel like an electric and is even made from Maple (which is the most common neck wood for electrics but quite rare on acoustics). Can’t say I liked the look of it – glossy maple necks look good on electrics but not so much on acoustics (in my opinion).

The nut width is 1.69″ (43mm) which is a mid-width guitar neck. This is pretty standard and I like this width so that was good. It is a bit odd that the Sonoran S (one without the cutaway and electrics) is 1 5/8″ (41mm). I’m unsure why they make them with different widths.

Fretboard (Fingerboard)

The fretboard is rosewood, so if you decide on this guitar, you will have to learn how to clean rosewood fretboard. The typical electric guitar would have maple on the fretboard too (that said there are plenty of electrics with rosewood as well) so using rosewood is definitely a very acoustic quality.

Videos of the Sonoran in Action

Check out the vids below to get an idea of the sound of the Sonoran for yourself.

The first video isn’t in English but it’s the best example of the Sonoran’s sound and you can just skip the non-English speaking parts and just listen to the guitar parts (unless you speak Czech that is).

To my ear, this second video makes the guitar sound brighter than it did in real life but it may just be that it’s plugged in. This doesn’t sound as nice as it did to me or as in the first video but for others they might prefer the sound like this, which would be achievable plugged in and playing with the EQ.

Who this Guitar is Most Suited to

In terms of tone this guitar is pretty good across a few different styles. Yeah, it’s a dreadnought, so maybe not ideal for folk – and the tone is probably not warm enough for folk.

But it’s pretty well rounded and could handle blues, rock, bluegrass, country and pop really well.

Not necessarily a beginners guitar but wouldn’t be a bad guitar for a beginner provided the action was lowered. And the price is right for a beginner.

Anyone who’s looking for an acoustic electric instrument feel or look in their acoustic then this is definitely up your alley!

Value for Money

value for money tick

Yeah, totally. As much as I don’t want to say it, this bad boy is pretty darn good for the price-tag, considering other premium features.

You get a solid top, a compensated bone saddle, and a bone nut which isn’t bad at all (materials-wise) and it sounds and plays really nice for the price, overall.

fender sonoran review

Final Verdict

Disclosure: Links may be affiliate links, meaning I get a commission if you make a purchase through my links, at no extra cost to you.

As much as I really want to dislike this guitar and everything is telling me I should dislike it, I just can’t help but like it.

Given that it’s Fender, and considering Fender’s electric legacy, I would trust the durability of the guitar; and given the sound, playability, and the value for the price, I’ve got to give it the thumbs up.

So if you’re looking for a dreadnought acoustic for any of the styles mentioned above, and it’s the price you’re looking for, and you dig the sound, then this would be a really good buy, in my opinion.

Thanks for reading, and I hope you enjoyed the review and found it useful. Any questions or comments very welcome in the comments section below.

More Info and Where to Buy

If you’re looking for more info on the Fender Sonoran, want to research current prices and availability or are ready to buy, then check out Fender Sonoran SCE at Amazon.com

If you’re looking for more options in the under $500 range, or if you want to read more about the Fender acoustic guitars, our website is offering suitable results for all you guitar-driven interests.

FAQs

Where are Fender Sonoran made?

The Fender Sonoran acoustic guitars are made in various locations, depending on the specific model and production year. Historically, Fender guitars have been manufactured in several countries, including the United States, Mexico, Japan, Korea, and China. However, please note that manufacturing locations can change over time as companies adjust their production strategies, so it’s always a good idea to check the most recent information or contact Fender directly for the most accurate and up-to-date details about their manufacturing locations.

What gauge strings are on a Fender Sonoran?

As a general guideline, Fender typically equips their acoustic guitars, including the Sonoran series, with light gauge strings.

By Nate Pallesen

Nate is just your average (above average) guitar player. He's no Joe Satriani, Jimi Hendrix or Jimmy Page - wait this site is about acoustic guitars (sorry) He's no Django Reinhardt, Chet Atkins, or Michael Hedges, wait? who!? He's no Robert Johnson, Eric Clapton or Ben Harper - more familiar? Anyway you get the point :-)

12 comments

  1. Hey thanks for the great review. I got this guitar a few years ago…maybe more than 4+ years and I’ve only started playing more regularly now. I noticed that as it got near the 12th fret the action is high to a point I’m buzzing other strings with my fingers. Could this be a sign that I have not kept this guitar in good condition and it had warped to a point that affected the action or is it just the quality of the guitar? Hope you get this comment and again – great review!

    1. Hey Leon

      You’re very welcome. I would say that the most likely reason your action is off will be a slight warping in the neck. This is pretty common especially if your guitar hasn’t been adjusted in over four years. This isn’t necessarily the reason but is the most likely reason – check out the link below to check to see if your neck is straight. If it’s not straight – or with a very slight relief as most guitarists prefer. The link below should explain it. You can fix this by doing a Truss Rod adjustment. The article below shows how to do this too, but a lot of people prefer to get someone else to do it for them so they don’t risk making things worse.

      >>How to check your neck for Straightness and do a Truss Rod Adjustment

      The guitar shouldn’t be out naturally. The Sonoran is certainly of enough quality that it should play correctly.

      Hope this helps,
      Nate

  2. Hi
    Do you recomend this guitar over the fender cd 140sce?
    I saw that both of them cost almost the same.
    Thank you 🙂

    1. Hi Kelly

      I haven’t played the CD 140sce, so I couldn’t say for sure. But in theory, based on the specs, they seem to be quite similar guitars (both dreadnoughts, both with a solid spruce top and laminate mahogany back and sides). I’d say the main difference to weigh up is the look. The CD-140sce is a more classic looking acoustic guitar, whilst the Sonoran is more unique in its appearance. I can’t say which I would recommend because I haven’t played both – but I suspect that the main choice will come down to aesthetics in this case.

  3. I really love your insight in your guitar reviews, as well as the other information I’ve found here. You have been added to my Bookmarks Bar. I’m currently looking to buy an acoustic, and I see great options from your reviews. But there’s a guitar that looks really nice, imho. If there’s a chance you could review the the Fender Fa-345CE 3 Tone Tea Burst, your experience would be much appreciated. It’s look calls to me, but after googling it’s specs, definitely second guessing it compared to the Fender Newporter player. If you don’t review it, at the very least, I’m glad to have free access to this amazing content. ????????

  4. The Sonoran is my third Fender acoustic guitar and I have loved them all. Acoustic is primarily an at home practice guitar for me. I wanted a cutaway and active electronics and then I got stupid lucky and bought a Sonora Bubinga at my local music store. I got a nice sounding very playable guitar in a (almost) one of a kind finish that really stands out. I’ve played it on stage amplified and the Fishman electronics sound great through a big PA. Great guitar for the money, if you can find one. Do they still make it?

    1. Hey William.

      Though I’m unsure of whether they still make this instrument, it sounds to me like you’ve already got yourself a keeper – let other people have a chance at playing what sounds like such an amazing vessel for performing and creativity!

      Thanks for stopping by,

      Nate.

  5. I have a Fender Sonoran which I recently purchased . The label inside says Fender acoustics.. California Series . Model ..Sonoran SCE Shoreline Gold . Serial number CSF 08000619. I haven’t been able to find anything on this model . .I would greatly appreciate your expertise on this if possible “Doc” .

  6. Is there such a thing as a Fender Acoustic guitar with the inside sticker lists:
    Style – Standard
    Number – S7 77425
    This guitar has a set of white stripes down it’s back and is sunburst in front.

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