Pawn Shop Mustang Special Review

manufacturer: Fender date: 07/10/2015 category: Electric Guitars
Fender: Pawn Shop Mustang Special
My overall impressions of this guitar are very very good. It can do every style of song I want and it feels fantastic to play. It's really easy to play as well because of the size of the thing.
 Sound: 9
 Overall Impression: 9.3
 Reliability & Durability: 8.8
 Action, Fit & Finish: 8.3
 Features: 9
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reviews (4) pictures (3) 15 comments vote for this gear:
overall: 8.6
Pawn Shop Mustang Special Reviewed by: BigSmokeDawg, on november 09, 2012
1 of 1 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 650

Purchased from: Real Time Music

Features: The Fender Pawn Shop series of guitars are designed to be something someone would've knocked up in their she'd using parts from various guitars. My Mustang was made sometime in 2011 in Japan. It's got 22 Medium Jumbo frets on a rosewood fretboard, 24" scale length, Alder body, 60's "C" Shape bolt-on Maple neck, two Enforcer humbuckers (I'll come back to these later) and a synthetic bone nut. Aside from the short scale length, the main feature of this guitar though is the really awesome coil splitting function. Basically, above both pickups are two small three-way switches. In the rear position, the pickup uses the rear coil. In the forward position, the front coil is user. In the middle, the whole humbucker is used. Both pickups can be mixed with the 3 way toggle switch to allow for 18 different combinations. My particular Mustang is in the spectacular Candy Apple Red finish (The other available finish being Blue). Unlike the original Mustang, this model features a hardtail, string-thru bridge as opposed to the tremolo system. The guitar is also shipped in a Fender Deluxe Gig Bag. // 9

Sound: The coil splitting means that the Mustang can handle pretty much everything I throw at it especially Rock/overdriven stuff like Guns N Roses, Nirvana and Foo Fighters. The bright single coil mode really makes cleans shine, and it adds a lot of bite to the already crunchy overdriven tone. It can even, to my surprise, do metal. I doubt it'd handle the really heavily down tuned stuff, but it can easily chug out some Metallica and Megadeth riffs if you get the amp set up properly. It sounds absolutely amazing through my Peavey Vypyr 30 once I got the settings perfected. My only issue is that, at times, the guitar can sound a little too bright. However, I think this is down to my setup and playing as opposed to the guitar itself. // 9

Action, Fit & Finish: The 24" scale length put me off at first as the guitar was fitted with 9 gauge strings on in the shop. It was terrible and it felt like I was hitting rubber bands. But with the 11s on, it was like playing a totally different guitar. The action is exactly how I like it, and were no issues with the guitar out of the factory that I know of. My only issue was of course the short scale length in combination with the light strings, so to me, the guitar would've been unplayable out of the box. // 8

Reliability & Durability: I'm pretty much certain this guitar would live up to playing live. It's a Fender and it's built like a tank. If I ever get up to playing a gig, I'd probably take this guitar on its own. I'm not really sure how touch the finish is as I've not had it long enough to give it some real wear. It's survived a few knocks on my desk and things in the time I've had it though, but I don't think it'd take being smashed into a stage. // 8

Overall Impression: My overall impressions of this guitar are very very good however. I've only been playing a year and a half, so I still have a lot to learn about playing, and what makes a good guitar. Although at this point in time, I really do love the Mustang. It can do every style of song I want and it feels fantastic to play. It's really easy to play as well because of the size of the thing. I compared this guitar to a Classic Vibe Squier Strat and a MIM Telecaster. They both sounded great, but the pickup verity of the Mustang just made it Shine to me. If it was lost/stolen I'd certainly get it again if I had the money to do so. It's a great, slightly quirky guitar, and I absolutely love it. Apologies if I've not covered absolutely everything. I've never written a review before for guitar, but I felt like putting one up for this guitar as no one else has written one. // 9

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overall: 9.2
Pawn Shop Mustang Special Reviewed by: craignewman17, on july 10, 2015
1 of 1 people found this review helpful


  • Year of Manufacture: 2011
  • Body: Alder
  • Body Shape: Mustang
  • Finish Colour: Candy Apple Red
  • Body Finish: Polyester
  • Neck Shape: '60s "C" Shape
  • Number of Frets: 22
  • Fret Size: Medium Jumbo
  • Position Inlays: Vintage Cream
  • Fretboard Radius: 9.5" (24.1cm)
  • Fretboard: Rosewood
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Nut Width: 1.650” (42mm)
  • Scale Length: 24" (61cm)
  • Neck Plate: Four-bolt
  • Truss Rods: Standard Truss Rod
  • Truss Rod Nut: 3/16" Hex Adjustment Electronics
  • Pickup Configuration: H/H
  • Bridge Pickup: Enforcer "Wide Range" Humbucking Bridge Pickup with downsized Wide Range covers
  • Neck Pickup: Enforcer "Wide Range" Humbucking Neck Pickup with downsized Wide Range covers
  • Pickup Switching: 3-Position
  • Toggle: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Middle Pickup, Position 3. Neck Pickup
  • Special Electronics: Coil Selector Switch for Each Humbucker
  • Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone; Pickup Toggle Switch; Coil Selector Switch for Each Humbucker
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Bridge: '70s-Style Hard-Tail Stratocaster Bridge
  • String Nut: Synthetic Bone.
// 10

Sound: This puppy can do it all... Whether it's clean & soft, crunchy & rock or down-tuned & heavy, the versatility provided by the pickups and the pickup configuration allows you to cover nearly styles. At present I'm using 0.11 D'Addario strings in standard E tuning and it just sounds glorious. However, in the past, I've also tried 0.9 strings, 0.10 strings and even 0.12 strings on it, but I think 0.11 provides the prefect tension with the short scale neck.

The Enforcer humbuckers are excellent pickups and sound great when played clean or with a bit of mild crunch. You really get that classic fender sound. However, when you turn up the gain or tap that distortion pedal, these pick-ups turn your guitar in to a savage monster, capable of grunge, down-tuned stoner/sludge and even death metal... I know this because I had it down-tuned to standard c# for about a year and used it to play sludge, metalcore and death metal stuff. It wasn't until I bought my 7-string Ibanez Iron Label, that I tuned her back to standard E and began using this guitar for Foo Fighters style rock stuff again. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: I pre-ordered this guitar and I believe it was one of the first shipped to the UK. Despite being made in Japan, with it's reputation for having the highest standards of quality-control in the world of guitars, I actually found quite a few faults with this, when I received it.

The first thing I noticed is that it didn't come with the Mustang volume/tone knobs, like it was supposed to. It came with the strat style numbered knobs... Not a problem, I thought, I'll just change them. That's when I discovered that the knobs were glued on and not even the guitar technician, who does all my set-ups, could remove them with his removal tool. They must have used f--king concrete! Anyway, it's not a huge issue and I actually like having the numbers as a guide.

The second thing that I noticed was the metal plate, located at the jack area, was not placed so that it was flush with the pick-guard. They miscalculated one of the screw-holes, meaning there was a gap between the plate and guard. The guitar tech who did my set up, amended it so it fits much better... Not perfect but you have to look closely to see the flaw.

The guitar tech also replaced the jack, saying that he finds all Japanese fenders use really cheap jacks, and that he doesn't understand why because a decent jack does not cost a lot of money at all. Seems like a pretty silly thing to cut corners on. The metal circles at the back of the guitar (don't know what they call those things), where you string through the body, were not glued in. So when you removed the strings, they'd fall out. not a big deal but did Fender's Japanese factory run out of glue or did they use it all up on the volume/tone knobs? That was another thing the guitar tech sorted.

Soooo... In short, this guitar was not set-up to the kind of standards I would expect from Japan. I can only assume that, as one of the first models built, the factory might have had teething problems with the manufacture of these guitars, at the beginning of their run.

Despite the above, after paying £70 for a professional set up, which ironed-out the flaws, it now plays like a dream. To be honest, even if there wasn't any noticeable issues, I would have taken it for a set-up anyway, like I do with all my guitars. // 7

Reliability & Durability: Although I have not played it regularly live, I did play it nearly every day for about a year, in my home, and it's very durable indeed. Like I mentioned before, I've used about every tuning and string gauge there is and it's never given the impression that it couldn't take the punishment of brutal heavy playing styles either. Before owning this guitar, I didn't really like red finishes... Now I love it. It's definitely got that alternative rock/grunge look and I like that it's pretty appearance hides it brutal mean streak. You wouldn't look at this guitar and think it was capable of such ferocity. // 9

Overall Impression: Overall, this is a great little guitar and I'll never sell it. It's able to provide such a huge range of tones through it's unique pickup selector, while also providing massive versatility between musical styles, make it a solid all-rounder. Although a set-up is likely to be needed, I've seen these Japanese models listed on places like eBay, used, for around £400-£450. Do yourself a favour and buy one. Alternatively, you can by the made in Mexico, 3 colour sunburst model, brand new for about £680. // 10

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overall: 9.4
Pawn Shop Mustang Special Reviewed by: unregistered, on november 09, 2012
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Price paid: £ 638

Purchased from: GAK

Features: My Mustang was made in Japan in 2011, its got 22 medium jumbo frets with the Strat style bridge and string through body. I got mine in the Lake Placid Blue and it really looks great on stage with the chrome covered enforcer humbuckers. It has a 3 way selector switch and 2 humbucker splitting switches. It came with a pretty nice Fender gig bag but I have given it the hard case it deserves. // 9

Sound: I really cannot fault this guitar tonal wise. I bought it because I also play a Fender Jag and I was looking for a bit more beef for some songs so I added this to my arsenal and it fits the bill perfectly. I have been playing for 6 years and this is the best guitar I have ever owned/played. I recently played a Kurt Cobain Jaguar with a view to buy it but honestly therer was no point because this Mustang is superior. I play ska, reggae, rock, mellow, funk through my pedal board and a Bugera 333-212 valve and it sounds absolutely top notch. Its not noisy, its not too quite, no squealing or anything its just a joy to play. // 10

Action, Fit & Finish: It came very well set up, all I did was change the strings to a heavier gauge and made some minor changes to the intonation just for peace of mind but I can honestly say this guitar (as is the case with most Japan made Fenders) is built fantastically. The neck is absolutely superb and plays like butter. // 9

Reliability & Durability: I have played live with my Mustang and it was no problem. I would feel fine using it without a backup but as everyone should no you can't rely %100 on any piece of equipment because you never know. The finish seems lovely and I think its going to age really well. The ONLY problem I can imagine is the 3 way selector feels a bit flimsy to me but I have had it for 6 months and it has yet to go wrong. // 9

Overall Impression: This guitar is perfect for me and I can see no reason why every guitarist shouldn't have one of these. It has the great offset body looks, humbuckers with great sounding single coils at the flick of a switch. Also its really light (but not in a cheap way) and it really is a joy to play. Because of the shot scale neck you can get all kinds of nice sounds with bends etc. If mind was stolen or lost I would %100 replace it with another, I have played lots of guitars and I can think of none which I felt better to play. Go out and get yourself one, you won't regret it. // 10

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overall: 8.2
Pawn Shop Mustang Special Reviewed by: RevPorter, on october 01, 2014
0 of 0 people found this review helpful

Purchased from: GuitarGuys

Features: Short scale, rosewood board on a maple neck, I believe 22 frets, "vintage style" tuners, body is probably Alder, lake placid blue finish with mint green pickguard. Coil splitting humbuckers, volume and tone knob, 3 way pickup select switch, two 3 position sliders for coil splitting. Made in Japan. Truss rod in heel of neck (@ body to neck joint).

Let's get started on the big stuff: 

I've once ever in 17 years had to adjust a solid body electrics trussrod on a guitar that's not been sitting in several pieces. Once. But, I like to know its an option. If I ever need this adjusted, its going to a shop. MiJ Fenders have this, MiM (which I like way better) have the rod adjustment at the nut, which is better. Find an old Mustang, and it may very well have the pickguard broken or cut out between the end of the fretboard and a few inches above the neck pickup. Why? Truss rod access. Easier to not unbolt the whole neck. The humbuckers make it impossible/impractical here, though. you'd need to use a bench grinder on the allen wrench to even almost have the room. 

Mint green is terrible. There, I said it. Looks like crap, it's not white and barely green, you can find strat knobs that match but nothing else for cosmetics (i.e. racing stripe, topper for 3-way switch, etc) and its an oddball shape, so you need to not use humbuckers or cut your own to replace it with something better (black and toroise shell would look 138% better on all colors this is offered in). 

I got blue, because I could physically touch and play it in a shop. Should have bought red and sold it if it sucked. Nothing against the guitar; blue isnt as "me" as other colors on a fender color chart. BUT, blue with mint means I feel obligates to modify it cosmetically (internally too, more later) and of course, most gear if you mod it you keep it. New knobs and pickguard modifying should hold me over.

Pickups suck. But, Fender humbuckers are terrible anyway, so I was prepared. More on coil tapping and how it compares to a "real" mustang in the sound section. Pickups LOOK appealing, which is neat. Logo on covers sells it. F on neckplate is neat too (I haven't bought a Guitar in awhile before this). Tuners are great. Never had issue with that style on other (albeit Mim) guitars. Prefer them to other stuff most days. 

Actions great. I've always loved the scale, feel, and even body ratio of mustangs, and this wins at those. Impressive, since I love heavy guitars more, but still enjoy this, eve if it feels like a toy next to my "tree with pickups and a neck" guitars I use. Solid fit, playable and enjoyable despite gripes. // 8

Sound: Borrowed a '75 mustang from my grandpa (who paid dirt for it at a yardsale in the 80s). I did this after being dissappointed by the sound of the Pawn Shop Specials "wide range" humbuckers, even with coil tapping. They are weak, offer less tonal coolness than the in/out of phase original mustang stuff (had to be careful, and not analyze the tone based on old wood and less "meh" pickup making. This is soley on diversity of tonal options offered) and also, its weak humbuckers on a tiny guitar, so tone is really lacking all around. Splitting them to singles or singe/humbucker setup makea it ok, but unimpressive. 


Fender humbuckers are junk. I put Gibsons in my Toronado. Fender charges you for non-weak/boring/blah pickups in single coils too (my first guitar was a strat, still has lace sensors to remedy "Fender pickup Syndrome") but they suck less at making them. I've found bad and amazing tele pickups, weak and accidentally flavorful strat pickups, all on MiM Standards. Humbuckers I've never found on a Fender that just stock sounded like they cared. I'm a fender fan, but this is in my top 3 gripes with them. 

I bought this and planned/still plan on upgrading the pickups, as money and time allow. (The less good due to feel and make "modern player" model, ran when this was made, has more interesting pickups on a junk guitar. they've considered doing good, but I'm unimpressed). Bottom line is they try to charge $800+ msrp for a student model (ummm, blame Cobain?) And skimp on pickups. Double ouch. // 7

Action, Fit & Finish: Put together fine. Actions great, scales what it should be. Bad for huge hands and banana fingers, I'd assume. Plays really easily, but I played non-setup ones, and wouldn't rely on factory setup on these. Its tuners I've seen bend and not break under impractical stage incident level-duress, so I'm sure they're good too. Again, bad design for truss rod access drives me nuts, even if I wont use it. And knowing old models have enough elbow room to get to the truss rod nut, Fender could have made the Japanese models go up top like the Mexis of this series, or given 7mm more space and came up with a good access idea. Sustain issues of the old mustangs I can't compare this to, so the hardtail bridge holds up to its early flaw I suppose. // 9

Reliability & Durability: Solid, for sure. MIM/MIJ stuffs reliably built. I've had bad things happen with minimal damage, historically. I don't gig without a backup, but given that this thing is solid and enjoyable to play, I'd use it AS A BACKUP in the event that a striking breaks or tone doesn't matter for a song and my main guitar has a noisy or dirty pot. Mustangs being small, the strap button doesn't sit all the way down on the upper horn, but screws are long enough for the lock button to stay perfectly steady. The 3 switches and 2 pots seem fine, plastic knobs are easy to replace pull off kind, tuners are the solid kind. It's good enough to take to the show, and with better pickups, could be a main guitar for someone, just not enough oomph and mass for my primary. // 9

Overall Impression: Not great sonically, but I play blues, rock, punk, alternative, psychobilly... Pickups can do whatever, just less good than better pickups. Neck and feel wise, I wouldn't use it for boring math-metal, but most evolutions of punk or rock its perfect. For good blues tone, Use something heavier (physically) for a humbucker solid-body. Or, if this is too nice to play to do that, better pickups would be decent. It's an almost great guitar, with issues cosmetically, electronic lacking, technical inconveniences with truss rod access, and I still bought it. Why? 

Other Mustangs offered currently are junk or more expensive. I don't recall if the Cobain oneha Mustang switching or not, but its the prettier and more expensive of the two good mustangs Fender had out as of spring 2014. Modern player ones would've been good, but all of them I tried were just crappy feeling, and didn't sound like they could. I'm not a fan of non Mexican/Japanese guitars in this price range for this reason. Plenty of HH or Blacktop models flood Fenders catalogue, geared toward people who don't care about anything but humbuckers and a body shape. At least this model offers interesting switching (I haven't opened it up, but I'm sure if you convert it to singles, the in/out of phase wiring is easier to do than the coil tapping, but its all cool optional stuff). I'd probably take an older reissue over this if I found one I liked, and certainly the pickups and wood of a 70s or earlier mustang make it 500X better than what Fender has to offer currently (Fenders curse is old fender just being better).  

I own many solid bodies, have sold several too. This is more enjoyable to play than my strat or tele. It's almost as good of a feel as my Tornado. The Tornado has Gibson 57 Classic Series pickups, and its heavy as hell, so its a tone monster that this mustang can't touch. The Tele has a good stock bridge pickup, and a weak neck one. The mass+ash of the tele can't make the neck pickup matter much, so neck only, this mustang in a single single or single double setup is better. The bridge pickup on said tele smokes this thing though, and I chalk it up to wood, the fender humbucker curse, and luck in my teles pickup. My strat has more sonic plate than this, but arguably the mustang can get better tones than some of what the strat can dial in, albeit weaker and needing more compensation via amp. These pickups are ok on the level of old stock B.C. Rich ones or the DD stick ESP LTD ones. can't compare it to my Ovation Breadwinner Limited because that things too damn weird to be in the same ballpark. The playing of this guitar is what makes it appealing, and why I bought it. I haven't ran it through anything but my 1980 Fender 75, but based upon what it sounded like through "instore" tube stuff, the hot rod deluxe would make it sound as good as any midline Ibanez or Fat Strat, then have single coil options. Of course, most $600+ Epiphones sound better with stock humbuckers, so there's ways that. I haven't ran it through my 67 Bassman 50, but I'm sure it would sound decent (most stuff sounds great on those circuit AB156 BF circuits, you dial in 2 knobs and find what you want pretty quick)

Basically, you plug in this and its ok, ou plug in a squire and this is better, then you plug in an Epiphone or something with good pickups and by comparison, this is quieter, less tonally rich, and sounds like it has less a-s to it (but it weighs alot less, for those folks not wanting to hang 15lbs of LP or whatever from themselves).

I grew up loving punk, Nirvana, Garage rock(inspired by surf rock) and Alternative stuff. I have small hands, and always wanted a mustang. This gives me one, but one I have to work at to perfect, which was more ok when I was 22 years old with more money. Doing it again, if the 90s reissue mustangs that are on ebay Now (October of 2014) were there in the spring, I could have bought 2 for what it'll take to make this what I want.

I'm saddedned by Fenders lack of original switching stuff in mustangs, jaguars, and jazzmasters. But this has something like it. They tried, at least, and I'm so far keeping a guitar that sounds inferior, looks less than good to me, and is hard to modify. So, I like the feel and shape enough to deal with a 50% not ideal guitar. I've been playing for somewhere around 16 years and some change, I know good guitars and amps by this point, and a solid Fender is never a bad thing to have, even if its pickups are lacking. Overall not perfect, but ok. // 8

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