Guitar Project #3: 90s Fender Duo-Sonic

Didn’t expect this in-between guitar project, I didn’t even know of the existence of this particular reissue. I came across this guitar when browsing the local Craigslist-variant on the look-out for a neck for my Fender Jaguar. Unfortunately, still haven’t found one but more on that later. The Duo-Sonic parts were pretty cheap, so I figured why not? If I don’t like it in the long run I could probably sell it for a nice profit.

These Duo-Sonics were introduced in 1993 by Fender Mexico and made until 1997. The color options were Arctic White, Black or Torino Red, although there was also a (very limited?) series featuring the ‘Competition’ colors with the racing stripes. The body is made from poplar like most guitars from Mexico at the time. This ‘reissue’ is a weird mix from the different years of the original run of the Duo-Sonic from the 50s and 60s. The neck is the strangest thing on this guitar. It has a scale length of 22.7 inches, 20 frets and has a rather big nut width compared to its shortscale size. I’d almost compare it to the nut width of a modern Stratocaster.

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As you can see in the pictures the Duo-Sonic was missing a few parts; I only got the body, neck, pickguard and bridge. Luckily, the electronics were few and the Kluson tuners cheap. I decided to use the two Lace Sensor single coil pickups I originally intended to use in my Billy Corgan tribute Strat which is still in the works. More on that later as well.

The original 90s reissue had Stratocaster-style pickups and a matching set of Strat volume and tone knobs, as seen above on the page header. I’m really used to the black Jazz Bass-style knobs on my Fender Mustangs so I opted for these instead. The three-way toggle I bought is a more heavy-duty toggle compared to the mini toggles found on most Duo-Sonics, which are rather flimsy and small. The body rout is a bit small to accommodate some larger switches, bit of advice if someone wants to switch these out. The tuners used on these 90s Duo-Sonics are crappy and have a strange shape and size. Finding replacement tuners that fit exactly is impossible. The bushings are also very small (didn’t come with the guitar) and I had to rout the tuner holes to fit the Kluson bushings. I couldn’t find any smaller bushings, but I had to drill new holes for the tuners so I figured modding the neck for new bushings wasn’t that big of a deal.

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The sound of this particular Duo-Sonic is very interesting because of its super-shortscale size and the Lace pickups. It packs quite a punch for its diminutive size and I’m really loving the neck profile. The string tension is quite low with a regular set of .010’s, I’d recommend something a bit thicker if you’re going to play in E standard. I was also worried about the intonation because of the two-strings-per-saddle bridge design and the shorter scale in general. The strings haven’t settled in perfectly but the intonation and tuning stability is definitely far better than I expected. I also really, really like the color combination of the red, white and black with the maple fretboard on this guitar!

A small update on the Ronald Jones Jaguar and Billy Corgan Stratocaster: I still haven’t found a neck for this guitar. It really bums me out as I would have liked to have finished it months ago. If I can’t find one in the area in the next month I guess I’ll have to try eBay but that’s pricey… The Stratocaster body will be refinished in the next few weeks, hoping I can get the electronics done by then. Although I just cannibalized two of these Lace Sensors for this Duo-Sonic I found an original 90s set of Red, Silver and Blue Laces like Corgan used! I’ll post some pics when I finish the body and install the new hardware.

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5 thoughts on “Guitar Project #3: 90s Fender Duo-Sonic

  1. Love it! I have two of these myself, a red and a white one. Regarding the string tension and intonation, I’ve got the red one strung with 12s and a wound G so both strings on the middle saddle are wound strings, red is in E standard. The white one has a Toronado bridge on it which has the same footprint as the original bridge and is a straight swap but is string through! Bit of gentle drill press action later and it’s now tuned with 9s to F# standard. Happy with the intonation esp as it was my first diy mod😬
    Great blog amigo, happy rocking!

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    1. Thanks man! I’d love to get another one of these Duo-Sonics because they are so fun to tinker with. Too bad you don’t see them around too much over here. I was thinking about adding a Toronado bridge as well. Originally the guy who sold it only posted pics of the body, neck and pickguard, so I was debating what bridge to add. Luckily he still had the original bridge but with these brass Tele-style saddles. They are compensated so the intonation is pretty much perfect now. The guitar is now strung with a set of .10’s and tuned up to F# as well, which is a really cool tuning for these shortscale guitars. I got really inspired playing this Duo-Sonic and I’m loving the whole DIY build-your-own-guitar as of lately. There are 2 more guitars in the works which I can’t wait to finish. Stay tuned! (pun intended haha)

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    1. The Vintage Double-Lines if I’m not mistaken, really nice tuners. You do have to drill new holes on the back and widen the front for the Kluson bushings if you want to mod one of these Duo-Sonics.

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