The Fender Heartfield Talon II: A Classic Super-Strat Guitar
Heartfield by Fender
The Heartfield Talon is a rare find in the guitar world, but if you have the chance to get your hands on one you should scoop it up.
Heartfield guitars were Fender-designed instruments built in Japan from 1989 to 1993. In addition to the Talon, the line included several guitar models, and a couple of bass guitars.
Fender is well known for some American classics such as the Stratocaster and the Telecaster, and though those guitars have certainly been employed in heavy music over the years, Fender did not and does not to this day make an instrument to compete with brands such as Ibanez or Jackson.
The Talon appeared to be their crack at the heavy rock market, under the cover of the sub-brand of Heartfield.
Over the past twenty years the Talon has faded into obscurity, but there are a handful of collectors and enthusiasts out there who still cherish this little gem.
Personally, I see where they are coming from. I’ve been a Talon owner since 1993, and it is the one guitar in my collection I can never part with. It has been beaten up, torn down, thrown around, rebuilt and pushed to the edge over the years, but it still sounds great, and is a joy to play.
This article tells the story of my Heartfield Talon, and the Talon legacy in general. If you are on the fence about grabbing up one of these guitars, maybe by the time you read through this the decision will be crystal clear.
Different Talon Model Numbers
The Heartfield Talon came in a few different flavors. Some models had 22 frets, some 24. A few different tremolo systems were used over the years, mainly Floyd Rose and Kahler, along with different pickups, inlays on the fingerboard, hardware, and some even featured reverse headstocks. Talon models are identified with Roman numerals from I to V, plus the original Talon which had no number.
My Talon appears to be a Talon II, though I didn’t know that until recently when I did a little research. It has 24 frets, a rosewood fingerboard with dot inlays, two DiMarzio humbuckers with a Fender single coil pickup between them, a 5-way selector switch, Floyd Rose Original Tremolo, a 3-ply black/white/black pickguard, Gotoh tuners, a basswood body and “Montego Black” finish.
This poor guitar has taken a lot of abuse over the years. Over the past decade or so it has sort of been put out to pasture, but there was a time when it was my go-to guitar and I played the heck out of it. It's hard to see from the pics, but it has plenty of "character" dings all over the body, especially on the back.
Over the years I’ve had to replace the Floyd Rose Original (with another Floyd Rose Original), replace the plastic volume and tone controls with black knurled knobs, and I’ve added some Dunlop Straplocks. Other than that, the guitar is stock.
Heartfield Talon Sound and Playability
The Talon is a dark-sounding guitar. About ten years ago I went out searching for a replacement. Seemed to me anything similar would probably sound the same. Honestly, it’s tough to find anything similar.
When I realized this I set off to learn more about tonewoods, and how they impact the sound of a guitar. I learned the Talon has a soft basswood body, which contributed to the warmth and depth of the tone. Unplugged, I’d compare it to the woodiness of a stand-up bass in some ways. I have other basswood guitars, but they don't quite have the same resonance.
The Talon II has a DiMarzio Super 3 in the bridge position, a pickup known for midrange growl. The tone knob has a nice feature, too. On just about every other guitar I’ve ever owned I crank the tone knob to ten most of the time. But the Talon has a middle notch on the tone control, as though it has active electronics (which it does not). I keep the tone knob at that middle notch, and then can turn clockwise for a treble boost when I use the neck pickup.
The neck is beautiful, and the best of any guitar I’ve ever owned, including Gibsons, Fenders and custom Carvins. It’s flat and fast, like an Ibanez Wizard neck. The Floyd Rose is rock-solid, as expected. Even though I changed out the bridge a few years back, it still has the same locking nut it shipped with, and it has held up very well.
The only real fault I have with the Talon is the sustain, but that may be because I’ve been spoiled by set-neck guitars with stop-bar tailpieces over the years. Locking trems do tend to lack sustain, but even so I always felt like it was a little weak in that regard.
My Talon Story
I bought my Heartfield Talon in 1993. The shop owner had suggested the Talon because I played in a metal band. Looking back, I think I may have had a little luck in landing this guitar. Later in 1993 the Heartfield line was discontinued and the guitar shop where I purchased it may have known this was coming. Based on some sources, the guitar should have retailed for close to a thousand dollars, but this store let it go for less than half of that.
According to the serial number my guitar was made in 1991, so it must have sat around for a while. It could have been a case of being there at the right time, when the shop wanted to ditch the guitar for a low price.
I had been playing an Ibanez PR1660 at the time, and the Heartfield Talon was definitely a big step up. The name Heartfield on the headstock didn’t mean a whole lot to me, but the two little words underneath it did: by Fender. The presence of their little logo convinced me that the Talon might be just what I needed.
I eventually moved on to other guitars as time rolled by, but I was surprised to find out a few years ago that the Heartfield Talon line had earned a small cult following. My Talon is still kicking, and still sounds as good as it did twenty years ago. It has its share of battle scars, and I had to perform some modifications and upgrades on it over the years to keep it going. I don’t know how many are still out there, but I’m glad I held on to mine over the years.
How to Identify Your Heartfield
If you need help identifying your Heartfield guitar I recommend checking out the Axe Identifier at Heartfield-Central. It's a great informational site for Talon owners and Heartfield history. There's also plenty of cool pics of Heartfield guitars to drool over.
The Legacy of the Heartfield Talon
I’ve had a couple of offers over the years from people looking to buy the Talon. Truth is, I would never sell unless there was some insane offer on the table and, though Talons are prized by a small percentage of guitar collectors out there, I really don’t think they’re worth that much. The sentimental value, and the memories of days gone by, is worth much more to me. If I ever had to start selling off my guitars the Talon would be the last to go.
The closest thing to a Heartfield Talon in today's world is probably the Ibanez RG. While there are obviously some key differences, the RG has a similar feel and sound and a very similar build. It's an amazing Super Strat, just the like the Heartfied Talon.
But if you have the chance to grab up a used Talon I really suggest you go for it. Chances are you are going to get it for a good price. It’s not like we’re talking about vintage Les Pauls here or something. Much of the value of the Heartfield Talon is in the eye of the beholder, and if you are smart enough to be that beholder you can get yourself a great deal on a cool guitar.
Looking back, my life when I first bought my Talon is one big blur, and not in the way you might be thinking. I was so busy back then, and constantly in motion. My time was maxed out writing music, practicing on my own and rehearsing with bands, plus taking college classes and trying to manage a "real" job. I really didn’t give too much thought to what I had at the time in my Talon.
I'm glad I still have it, and I’m glad there are still musicians who appreciate this guitar. They are getting harder to find, especially in anything close to original condition, but it is nice to know there are Fender Heartfield Talons still out there.
Thinking about a Heartfield Talon?
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