If you’re looking for a compact electric guitar with a great reputation and tons of character, Fender Duo-Sonic HS should definitely be on your radar. This modern remake of a classic vintage guitar originally presented in 1956 offers exceptional playability and superb sound supported by its great pickup configuration. Is it the right guitar for you? Read our Fender Duo-Sonic HS review for all the details.
Original Fender Duo-Sonic presented a simple yet perfectly efficient electric guitar of a ¾ size with two vintage-style single-coil pickups. Originally produced and promoted as a student guitar, Duo-Sonic went on to exceed all the expectations and attracted many professionals including some of the greatest guitarists of all time.
Thanks to its great popularity, the model was reissued in three updated versions and several modern remakes. The Fender Duo-Sonic HS we are focusing on in this review was first released in 2016 as a 24-inch scale remake with a characteristic pickup setup that attracts mostly those who are keen to experiment and broaden their creative horizons.
Here’s a shortlist of core specifications that make this guitar what it is:
Key specifications of Fender Duo-Sonic HS
|Bridge type||Six-saddle string-through-body hardtail|
|Neck||“C”-shaped maple neck with 22 frets|
|Pickup setup||A single-coil neck pickup + a tappable humbucker bridge pickup|
|Controls||Master Volume + Tone, three-way toggle switch|
|Latest price||Click here for the latest price|
Core features of Fender Duo-Sonic HS
Stunningly beautiful, incredibly playable, and exceptionally versatile. Those are the three superlatives that immediately come to my mind when I think of Fender’s Duo-Sonic HS.
This guitar might be forever overshadowed by the legendary Stratocaster or Telecaster series, but I truly believe that in some regards, this might be the best choice for many different types of players.
Let’s focus on each of its features one by one to explore this instrument in detail.
The Fender Duo-Sonic HS is a beautiful, very traditionally looking guitar with a characteristic thin waist of an offset instrument. It’s a solid body guitar that feels incredibly friendly in your hands mainly due to the great shape, perfect size, and smooth satin finish of its C-shaped maple neck. The perfectly ergonomic proportions of this guitar really make it one of the most playable guitars I have ever held in my hands.
Fender Duo-Sonic HS dimensions are 42.10 x 15.20 x 4.50 inches, and the guitar weighs 9.78 pounds. This makes it a great choice for anyone who prefers smaller instruments, whether it is a player with smaller hands, a junior player, a female guitarist, or simply someone who likes the freedom to experiment and bend the guitar however he or she wants.
To address the design of this guitar, it basically copies the traditional Duo-Sonic aesthetics: Its sleek offset curves, stylish pickguard, and nice finishes will surely make you happy. On the other hand, when it comes to color variations, your options are very limited here. The guitar is currently available only in transparent red, metallic icy blue, and sunburst variations.
The main differences between classic Fender Duo-Sonic and Fender Duo-Sonic HS are all related to the technical equipment of these guitars. First of all, this newer/modernized version of the model diverts from the traditional single-coil pickups configuration, replacing one of them (the bridge one) with a humbucker that allows coil-tapping for even more possibilities and versatility.
But although this humbucker is definitely the guitar’s biggest star, you shouldn’t underestimate the HS’s single-coil neck pickup either. As we’ll discuss later, it contributes to the guitar’s perfectly balanced sound and tonal qualities just as much as its coil-splitting counterpart.
Fender Duo-Sonic HS guitar also has a characteristic bridge. While the original Duo-Sonics have classic three-saddle bridges, the HS model sports a six-saddle hardtail bridge with through-body stringing.
Besides all of the above, you’ll also find a traditional set of controls on this guitar – Master Volume and Tone knobs plus a three-way toggle switch.
In my honest opinion, in regards to equipment, this guitar has everything it needs – and everything you need to unleash its full potential. The only additional equipment that I can imagine on this guitar is a tremolo system. I personally do not miss it here, but I understand that it might be a dealbreaker for someone who uses it regularly.
Body, neck, pickups, bridge, and controls – in the end, it all comes down to the quality of the sound these components can produce together, right? The best thing about the Fender Duo-Sonic HS guitar is that all of these partial elements really do complement each other in the best possible way, which shows off in the form of endless tonal possibilities this instrument offers.
The humbucking pickup provides you with all the grit and rumble you might need, while the fresh and crispy single-coil brings on the typical brightness and clarity we usually adore with Fender guitars.
Each of the controls you have at hand gives you additional options to bend, articulate, adjust, and transform the voice according to your taste or needs. And there’s also an extra 22nd fret for an even wider range of tones and options.
Whether you’re playing with riffs and layers or you’re after some masterful solos, this guitar ignores any limitations and jumps smoothly from one role into the other. This also makes this guitar perfect for pretty much any genre you can imagine – rock, folk, country, you name it.
I’ve also tested this guitar with several different types of amps (including the Fender Champion and Fender SuperChamp X2), and I have discovered that it sounded bold and classy with basically any quality setup. Whether you’re a beginner or professional, performing, recording, or just a home-jamming musician, this guitar can thrive in any hands and environment.
Fender might not be perfect, but if you’re after construction quality and reliability, I believe that it is still one of the most recommendable brands on the market.
Moreover, thanks to its compact body and design, Duo-Sonic HS seems to be even less prone to some possible defects and imperfections than some other models.
Nevertheless, always check twice the source you’re buying your guitar from to avoid disappointment – especially if you’re eying a second-hand instrument.
Market prices fluctuate and change quite often, so posting the current price for this guitar would not make much of a sense in the long run. But all you really have to know is that Fender Duo-Sonic HS, in general, roughly fits into the family of mid-range guitars.
Given its wonderful abilities and equipment, the price feels just right to me, but I understand that students or beginner players might feel a bit discouraged by the price tag.
Pros of Fender Duo-Sonic HS
Here are the main qualities you can expect from your Fender Duo-Sonic HS guitar:
- Wonderful playability – This compact offset guitar with an ergonomic C-shaped neck just perfectly fits into your hands. Whether you’re struggling with standardly sized instruments because of your smaller proportions, or you’re looking for a slightly downsized guitar to broaden your creative possibilities, Duo-Sonic HS is a great choice.
- Unbeatable versatility – Everything about this guitar screams “I am ready for anything”. The combination of single-coil and humbucking pickups, the powerful controls, the extra fret – these features will help you excel in any style of play or musical genre you choose.
- Choice of the legends – Fender Duo-Sonic guitars were played by many legendary musicians including Patti Smith, Jimi Hendrix, Kurt Cobain, Martin Gore, or David Byrne. If you like the idea that you’re playing an instrument with a strong reputation and inspirational history, this is a perfect guitar to get.
- Reliability – Fender guitars are, in general, built to last. If you’re willing to invest in quality, the Duo-Sonic HS guitar is a good purchase. Moreover, its versatility and durability also allows you to reconfigure the instrument in the future by replacing the pickups or making some other alterations to the guitar, in case your taste or needs change over time.
Cons of Fender Duo-Sonic HS
No guitar is perfect. Here are a few downsides related to Fender Duo-Sonic HS that might possibly discourage you from the purchase:
- Limited choice of color variations – I must admit that I never bought (or considered to buy) any of my instruments just because of the way they look. It’s the sound and sound only that makes me fall in love with a guitar. Nevertheless, if you’ve already set your mind to getting a guitar with some particular color shade or finish, you might be disappointed with the limited variety of designs Duo-Sonic HS guitars currently offer.
- The price is higher – Fender Duo-Sonic HS is definitely not the most expensive guitar on the market. Nevertheless, don’t get fooled by its “student instrument” reputation. It is a mid-range priced guitar that would probably be out of budget for many beginners and students.
- It has no tremolo – If you’re one of those guitarists who understand the tremolo system as an inseparable part of their instrument, Fender Duo-Sonic HS is probably not going to be your guitar of choice.
Are there any alternatives?
Apparently, the closest you can get to Fender Duo-Sonic HS is Fender Duo-Sonic. Why should you prefer the original model? Well, the biggest difference lies in the pickup configuration – unlike HS, Fender Duo-Sonic has two single-coil pickups, which gives the instrument a rather traditional feel and playability.
Some of the most common reasons for choosing the original model are, however, more related to aesthetics – classic Duo-Sonic was simply produced in a wider selection of finishes and color variations. We’ve compared the Fender Duo-Sonic with Fender Mustang in this article. Check it out for more details on this guitar.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V
Although Yamaha is one of the most reputable brands on the acoustic guitar market, their electric guitars are usually quite underestimated. Nevertheless, Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V is a great budget-friendly instrument that really has a lot to offer to anyone who is looking for a decent replacement for Fender Duo-Sonic HS.
Although these guitars have many differences, they also have one very important thing in common: a split-coil humbucker pickup at the bridge. For full specifics of Yamaha Pacifica, check out our in-depth Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V review.
Frequently Asked Questions about the Fender Duo-Sonic HS
Still have some unanswered questions? Check out these common Q&As about Fender Duo-Sonic HS:
Answer: Fender Duo-Sonic HS is basically a modern reissue of the legendary 1950s model. What makes it really special is its pickup configuration – while the original Duo-Sonic had two single-coil pickups, the HS model sports a coil-splittable humbucker at the bridge.
The bridge itself is different too: traditional Duo-Sonics have three-saddle bridges, whereas the HS model has a six-saddle hardtail bridge with through-body stringing. These elements contribute to improved intonation and enhanced versatility of the guitar.
Answer: Fender Player Duo-Sonic HS guitars are currently produced in Ensenada, Baja California, Mexico.
Answer: Fender Duo-Sonic HS has 22 medium jumbo-sized frets. This setup gives you access to four octaves, which broadens your musical possibilities quite significantly.
Answer: No, it does not. Fender guitars are, in general, usually not shipped with any gig bags or hard cases, so you must buy any such accessories separately, if needed.
Answer: Fender Duo-Sonic HS measures 42.10 x 15.20 x 4.50 inches. It weighs 9.78 pounds.
Final thoughts: Is Fender Duo-Sonic HS the guitar you’re looking for?
Fender Duo-Sonic HS is a guitar that can really surprise you with the wide range of qualities, options, and benefits it offers. It surely surprised me and left me wondering why on Earth have I not discovered this great guitar much earlier. Whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner who’s willing to invest in a top-quality first instrument, or you are a professional guitarist looking for a new challenge, this is a guitar that can really bring some joy to your musical life.
Who is this guitar probably not so good for? Due to its higher price, it’s definitely not the most budget-friendly instrument on the market. If you want to buy this guitar while staying on a budget, you’re probably going to be limited to second-hand purchases. Duo-Sonic HS also has no tremolo, and there are no super-fancy color variations to choose from either.
If any of these factors is super-important to you, maybe you should focus on the Fender Jaguar guitar instead. It shares many similarities with Duo-Sonic HS while having a tremolo system and a great selection of bright colors too. For more Duo-Sonic HS substitutions, check out the ‘Alternatives’ section above.
Jodie is a trained classical guitarist. She is also a full-time blogger and loves to write about different types of guitars. Just give her 60 seconds of your time, and she’ll tell you all that you need to know about any guitar of your choice.