Lately, Fender’s been releasing reissues of some of their more obscure models from the past. Let’s kick off this Fender Player Lead III Review with an introduction of this quite unique guitar.

It first appeared in 1982 in an attempt to reclaim some of the market from the Asian brands that were exploding due to very competitive prices. These affordable Fenders made appearances in the hands of stars like Eric Clapton, David Byrne of Talking Heads, and Roger Miller. Despite this, it never gained mainstream popularity, and production stopped in ‘82. Now, it’s finally back and better than ever.

Fender Player Lead III Physical Features

  • Body material: Alder
  • Scale length: 25.5” (648mm)
  • Neck: Maple, Modern C-profile
  • Fretboard: Pau Ferro or maple
  • Frets: 22
  • Nut width: 1.65” (42mm)
  • Nut material: Synthetic bone
  • Pickups: 2 Humbuckers
  • Tuners: Vintage-style

The Fender Player Lead III has a double-cutaway body shape similar to a Stratocaster, but the horns are more even. It's also a bit thinner. Unlike a Strat, it has a hardtail bridge. So, there's no tremolo arm, but the tuning stability is better.

Now, this isn’t an exact remake of the original Lead III. Fender has replaced some components with modern ones. For example, the neck has a modern Slim C profile, and the fingerboard consists of Pau Ferro.

Overall, it’s a pretty simple ax that prioritizes solid performance at a low price rather than lots of features.

Electronics

The original Lead III, just like the Lead I, stood out from other guitars with its large ceramic pickups. The new Fender Player Lead III has hot Alnico 3 Player series Alnico humbuckers instead. These are slightly overwound pickups, which create a rich and punchy tone.

Also, the Fender Player Lead III has a coil-splitting function. You can split the coil of either pickup by flipping the switch up or down, while the middle position leaves them both alone. Splitting the coil effectively makes the pickup a single-coil, in case you want some of that sweet Fender twang.

The other switch is a standard three-position pickup selector, letting you play the sound through either or both pickups. As for knobs, there’s master volume and master tone control.

Finish

The Fender Player Lead III has a high-gloss polyester finish. You can get it in white, purple, or cherry sunburst. The sunburst has a classic maple fingerboard, while the others have Pau Ferro instead.

How the Fender Player Lead III Plays

The slim C-shape of the neck, medium-jumbo frets, and 9.5-inch fingerboard radius give the Fender Player Lead III a very universal fit. You get that renowned Fender playability regardless of hand size and thumb placement. The neck has a smooth satin finish for fast left-hand movements.

However, the fit and finish aren’t as consistently smooth as a standard Fender. After all, this is a budget-friendly option. That being said, it’s still a very playable ax straight out of the box.

Tone Quality

Without a doubt, this is where the Fender Player Lead III really outshines its predecessor. If you love the versatile tone of a Stratocaster or Jazzmaster, the Lead III won’t disappoint.

In the bridge position, you get a lot of bite and warmth with the standard humbucker. Split the coil, and you get that timeless jangly surf-rock Fender twang. Conversely, the neck pickup provides a thick and buttery sound with somewhat scooped mids. Using the two together produces a rich yet mellow tone that’s perfect for strumming.

Rock, country, soul, blues, funk – it’s all possible with a Fender Player Lead III. Dialing the tone control back a bit makes it very jazzy but also works great for soulful solos.

Pricing

Click here to see the current price at Amazon, it is certainly very affordable for a Fender. It’s a simple guitar, but it performs well, and the build quality isn’t bad either. So, it’s a pretty good price.

Fender Player Lead III VS Fender Player Stratocaster HSS

The HSS Strat is a good comparison guitar for a Fender Player Lead III review. It has similar features, and it’s in the same price range.

The greatest difference is in the pickups. There’s a single-coil in the neck position, another in the middle, and a humbucker by the bridge. The latter is very similar to the ones on the Lead III, but there’s no coil-splitting. However, you get more pickup combinations to choose from with the five-way switch, and two tone knobs for better sound-shaping.

Also, there’s a two-point tremolo bridge. It’s more playful and versatile, but the tuning isn’t as stable.

Other than that, there are no notable differences. However, the Strat does cost around 100 bucks more. If this ax is more up your alley, check it out here.

Pros & Cons

Struggling to remember what’s good about a Fender Player Lead III? Here’s a quick summary.

Pros

  • Cool aesthetics
  • Upgraded playability
  • Formidable pickups
  • Coil-splitting
  • The price

The simple, beginner-friendly format works excellently. Due to the clever electronics, it’s also suitable for virtually any genre. With thicker strings and a good distortion pedal, it’ll even handle heavy metal really well.

Cons

  • Somewhat quirky
  • Minimal features

There’s nothing outright bad about the Fender Player Lead III. However, it’s not for everyone. It’s quite different from typical Fenders and doesn’t have a lot of features. But it’s all a matter of taste.

Fender Player Lead III Review: The Bottom Line

All in all, this is a fun and versatile guitar. The improved electronics and modern playability lift this forgotten classic to new levels. It could easily become a popular alternative to the usual Strats, Teles, and Jazzmasters. While it’s notably different from other Fenders and comes at a very competitive price, it retains those typical Fender qualities. Therefore, it’s definitely worth a try.

Are you looking for a different guitar? Keep browsing my electric guitar reviews to find your ideal ax.