Fender AVRI vs Custom Shop [Main Differences]

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When looking for a high-end Fender guitar you might stumble upon the dilemma of going for a reissue or a custom shop.

I know how hard of a choice something like this could be and I’m here to help you out with some extra information that might tip your scale either way.

If you just want a brief answer about the main differences between Fender AVRIs and custom shops, here it is:

The main differences between fender AVRI and Custom Shop are that AVRIs are mass factory-produced instruments while Custom Shops are built in a more artisanal way. AVRIs replicate classic vintage Fender models denominated with specific years. Custom Shops are personalized and can be made with any spec.

For those who want to stick for a bit longer, in this article, I will talk about the main features of both these lines and their differences.

Finally, I will give you my insights into what I think would be a better option for different kinds of players.

Are you ready to get started?

Let’s go!

Fender AVRI series main features

AVRI stands for American Vintage ReIssue, and I think that name is self-explanatory. AVRIs are the official replicas of Fender vintage instruments.

And when I say replicas I mean it. These guitars, while still factory produced, are a step above in terms of quality and attention to detail than the rest.

The models within this lineup are commonly referred to by the year in which they were inspired. For instance, when talking about vintage strats, you will surely see classic models such as the ‘54 maple neck strat or the ‘62 strat.

These guitars are era-correct, as I mentioned, with every detail taken from the average of the year they represent, or at least the consensus about what the most definitory features for a certain model were.

And I said that last thing because, as you might know, Fender’s production in the early years was kind of volatile or at least not at standardized. You could find differences in construction on materials within models manufactured the same year or even months apart.

AVRIs are not that specific, but take the most characteristic features from the year they represent.

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Of course, this attention to detail is not cheap, and AVRIs always hover above in price than the rest of Fender’s lineup, but as a vintage enthusiast, I can assure you that they are the real deal, and if you enjoy these kinds of legendary instruments, you would love them.

Fender Custom Shop series main features

The Fender Custom Shop (CS) is la crème de la crème. It won’t get better than this.

The guitars that come out of this very exclusive line are Fender’s most expensive, unique, and rare instruments.

Here the options are limitless, and so the cost. If you get to make a “special order” for a guitar, you can go crazy. They will build you anything you can imagine, as long as you could pay the price.

The custom shop also makes dealer-specific models or series for specific guitar stores that work closely with them.

With these guitars, you can choose at the moment of placing your order if you want it to be “team built” or “master built”. A “team built” guitar means that any or many builders from the team would work on your instrument. 

“Master builts”, as the name suggests, means that most of the guitar will be done by one of Fender’s top builders.

You can’t get more luxurious and exclusive than that.

The quality of the materials is the highest possible, and the attention to detail, second to none.

If you have the opportunity of getting a CS or even playing one, you shouldn’t turn it down. However, these incredible instruments, as I mentioned, might come at prices not suitable for the faint of heart.

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Many old school players will simply laugh at the idea of a Telecaster with a price tag of over $3k

Main differences between Fender AVRI and Custom Shop series

Talking about the differences between AVRIs and CS is not an easy task. There is not a set of features I could compare strictly and just give you an objective verdict.

What we should compare about these 2 lines are the different experiences you get.

To get it out of the way, Custom Shop Fenders would be usually more expensive than AVRIs. 

Also, you could order an almost identical guitar to a Vintage Reissue from the CS.

But would they be the same?

Probably not, AVRIs are exclusive but they are still made in a factory. Custom shops are made in Fender’s not small, but low output, most premium shop.

This, to begin with, is a big difference. The lower output of the custom shop means more attention to detail, and probably slightly higher quality woods.

In addition to this, remember that you could customize anything you want in a CS order. So, maybe you want a ‘62 strat with a humbucker, coil splitting, a treble bleed circuit, and an ebony fretboard? They can do that for you.

With the AVRIs you get what they make, and that is guitars with era-correct specs. Of course, you can do your own modding after you get the instrument, but isn’t that a sacrilege?

I don’t have a definitive question for that last question. However, what I can tell you, as I did many times until this point is that these 2 lines of Fender guitars are amazing and you won’t go wrong with any of them.

Just ask yourself how much extra are you willing to pay for some additional quality and customization.

Which one should you choose?

Here in GearAficionado, I don’t like making the hard choices for you. Picking a new guitar, and especially at this price point is a very personal matter that only you can resolve.

What I try to do, with varying degrees of success is giving you the clearest information so you can make a better choice down the road.

I always recommend you go and try the instruments before pulling the trigger since there are a lot of subtleties that you could only hear and feel in person that you would not get from reading an article like this or even watching a YouTube video.

However, if you want my insights into which of these 2 options would suit different kinds of players better, here they are:

  • If you are into vintage instruments exclusively, go for an AVRI
  • If your dream guitar is not within the Fender lineup, have the Custom Shop build it for you
  • If you want a premium Fender guitar without anything too crazy, try out an AVRI
  • If you need something unique, that stands out, look within the Custom Shop
  • If you want a guitar that would be easy to resell, check out some AVRI
  • If you are a collector, or you plan on keeping your purchase long term, call the Custom Shop