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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2 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!

    Liked by 1 person

    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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