Most helpful customer reviews
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful.
Great quality for the price
By John S.
The American Standard strat is as much guitar as 90% of guitar players would ever need when used appropriately. Getting Custom Shop pickups on the standard-bearer of the American line is quite a plus. The maple neck has a glossy finish on the maple fretboard some may find off-putting. I do like the smooth satin finish on the back of the "modern C" neck. Came already set up from the factory in the sealed carton with all the case candy -- a cable, strap, hang tag, and more. I am a Gibson man primarily, and this is on par with the quality of an SG Standard from their Nashville shop. Both super for the price.
128 of 139 people found the following review helpful.
Good instruments but NOT worth the extra money
By James T. Walczak
Good instruments but NOT worth the extra money...
Alrighty, after having just spent the weekend playing one of these, I felt compelled to write a review here. Before I get into this, let me say that I do in fact consider myself to be a semi-professional musician. I've been playing for over 30 years now, both on stage and in the studio, with nearly 20 of those years being exclusively on Strats for my electrics. I am currently working as lead guitar (and guitar synth) player in a Southern Rock band and I currently have about a dozen Strats in my arsenal, ranging from some very nice Standards (Made in Mexico) to some very humble Squiers. Likewise I've done my own setups and repair for many years now and I've even built a couple of Partscaster in my day. I've even published an article on a certain manufacture's website on "How to Spot a Fake Strat". In other words, I do know a little something about guitars and particularly Stratocasters.
Now before someone starts sending me hate mail here, let me also clearly say that these ARE good instruments. My review here isn't specifically aimed at the quality of these instruments, at least not specifically on it's own. Likewise, if you're like me and you've been playing for more than a few years, chances are you already know what a Strat is and whether or not this instrument is right for you. This review is aimed at those new to guitar playing...or at least new to the world of Strats. Considering the amount of mis-information that's floating around on the internet, I would like to dispel a few myths about these particular guitars.and provide a few facts for people to consider before making a purchase.
So what then is my main gripe about these instruments and the reason for only 3 stars in my rating? Price. A great many people are under the illusion that "you get what you pay for" and while that may still be true to some extent with some things, it's simply NOT the case here. The Mexican made Fender Standard Stratocaster for example is listed here on Amazon for $499.99 where as the American Standard (such as the one listed here) is $1249.99. The first question ANY potential buyer of these instruments should ask is; what do I really get for that extra $700+? Let's examine.....
Compared with an MIM Standard with a 6 point vintage style bridge with a zinc alloy trem block, the American Standard has a 2 point bridge with a steel block. I wanted to start here because next to pickups, the bridge (of a Strat at least) is perhaps the single greatest factor regarding how a guitar sounds. Issues such as material and even plating can affect sustain, tone and durability. In my opinion, the 2 point trem systems on an American Strat are a mixed bag. It is true that a steel trem block will give the player better sustain, just as a solid brass block will typically give the instrument a much "brighter" sound. However steel replacement blocks are readily available for Mexican Standards (as well as many knock-offs)...and for a fraction of the cost compared to what you spend for an American Standard. Further, a great many people (myself included) feel the 6 point trems on the MIM (and other models) actually provide better sustain than the 2 point trems of the Americans...more contact points suggests that more of the string vibrations are transmitted to the guitar body. While this is a bit subjective, personally I also feel the 6 point vintage style trem has a better feel. To me, it feels more "solid" than the looser feel of a 2 point (which is similar to a Floyd Rose...which I also don't care for). Further, I have seen 2 point systems that have started to wear after only a few years of moderate playing. By placing the stress of string tension on 6 pivot points evenly across the bridge plate, you reduce the stress on the bridge plate (and the wood underneath). Admittedly there are some folks who do prefer the 2 point system, however there are just as many such as myself who prefer the "vintage style" 6 point. The same can even be said of the bridge saddles...while the American has the stainless steel saddles that, according to hype, reduce string breakage, a good many of us have played those old bent steel saddles for a good many years now without such issues (incidentally proper instrument setup is a far greater factor here than any specific style of string saddle). As a whole, the merits regarding the bridges between the American Standard and the Mexican (and other models) are debatable at best. For a great many people, a good vintage style tremolo with an upgraded block performs just as well (if not better) than a 2 point American Standard.
Next is something that the folks in Fenders marketing department like to make a big deal about - the "hand rolled finger/fretboard" on the Americans. Ok...let me reiterate here that I've been playing for many years now and aside from the instruments in my own collection, I've played A LOT of guitars over the years. While I suspect that there may be a couple of people out there who really can "feel" the difference between a hand rolled fretboard and one created on a precision machine, it's been my experience that most can't. While this may sound a bit jaded, my suggestion to those who doubt this is simple - before you spend a single dollar, try a blind "taste test". Stop by your local Fender authorized dealer and either close your eyes or wear a blind fold and have a friend or even the sales person hand you a couple of Strats...both American and Mexican (hell, throw in a Chinese made instrument or two). Play them side by side...again with your ability to see which is which impaired (no cheating)...and see if you can really feel the difference. I've tried this myself and I've put others through this same test and so far not one single person can tell the difference without actually looking at the instrument. For the vast majority of players out there, this really is more physiological than anything. Because they see that "Made in USA" label and because they KNOW that instrument is more expensive, they "think" there is a significant difference regarding how the instrument plays. When that ability to see which is which is taken away, the difference becomes considerably less apparent. This is just a personal opinion, however when it comes to buying a guitar, one should buy a guitar based on how it feels and sounds and NOT a preconception.
Then we have the pickups. On this specific issue I will admit that I am a bit biased...I've never really been a huge fan of stock Fender pickups, Mexican, American or otherwise. Of the many Strats I currently own and play, only 2 have retained Fender pickups - a '99 MIM "Fat Strat" with it's original pickups and an '85 Japanese Squier E-Series that's been fitted with a set of Fender Vintage Noiseless. A musician's choice of pickups, like their choice of guitar, amp and effects, is very much a personal matter and for those more experienced, it's usually based on their style of playing and the type of music they play. A person who plays country and even blues for example, may be perfectly content with stock Strat pickups. On the other hand a person who plays mostly rockabilly may prefer something akin to those old Filtertrons and a great many of the metal mongers out there typically favor a good, fat humbucker. Personally I tend to play mostly heavier blues (ala Clapton, SRV, etc) and a good deal of classic rock (ala Pink Floyd). As such, to my ears the stock Fender pickups (Mexican or American) tend to sound rather "thin" and lifeless. The best sounding Strats I've personally ever heard (or played) have all had either EMG's or Seymour Duncans. I would also add to this that not all pickups sound great in all guitars. By their very nature, guitars typically have their own "character"...'tis the nature of the beast...and a pickup that may sound great in one Strat may sound dull, flat or even tinny in another. In many cases a seasoned player may have gone through a few sets of pickups in that "tone quest" before finding the right pickup to suit their tastes. With that, my advice to virtually anyone buying a new guitar (regardless of make/model, new/used, price, etc) is to simply budget for new pickups as well.
Alrighty, so far we have...hand rolled fretboards (big deal), 2 point trems (debatable) and American pickups (a taste thing). What else do you get for that extra $700+? Well...not much really. The majority of the hardware found on American Strats...tuners, jack plates, pickguards, etc., are all the identical same pieces used on Mexicans. And as Fender is a global company, stuff like the wood used in the bodies and necks can literally be shipping to any of their manufacturing plants, be it Mexico, Japan, China, USA, etc.. Again comparing the American Standards with the Mexicans, some purists like to argue that you're actually paying for "American Craftsmanship" however here's the rub... With the exception of Fender Custom Shop, which is an entirely different subject, these instruments, regardless of origin, are mass produced. What's more is that they are mass produced on virtually identical CNC equipment to specifications established by Fender. Think about it - is that guy (or girl) down in Mexico (or even in China) loading those Strat bodies 4 at a time onto a CNC router and pressing the "go" button...is such a person REALLY going to be any more or less of a craftsman than the person in Corona California doing the exact same job? Are not both of these "technicians" trained to the exact same standards by the exact same company?
So what then does one pay that extra $700 for? In my not so humble opinion, the "pride" of saying they have an American made Stratocaster and little else. While subjective, it's my belief that many people who buy these do so because they believe (or were told) these instruments are somehow superior (even thought he facts clearly indicate otherwise), then feel the need to defend such a purchase. I truly don't mean this review to sound like "American Bashing" as I'm sure many will take it...again these are good instruments. In my opinion however, they simply do NOT warrant twice the cost (or more) of other similar instruments. Beyond my own personal preferences, the simple truth is that for the inexperienced player, chances are such a person really isn't going to be able to tell the difference between a $200 Crafted in China Squier, a $500 Made in Mexico Standard and these $1200 American made instruments. Most of the differences are subtle nuances at best. The same can be said for a person who, perhaps more experienced, may have spent their time playing a Les Paul, Rickenbacker, Gretch, etc.. For a person unfamiliar with a Strat, the difference from model to model just isn't that significant.
I would also like to offer a few words of wisdom and experience to ANYONE considering a new guitar. Be it an American Strat, Mexican Strat or anything else...know what you want (and need) BEFORE you buy! Whether you've been playing for 3 months or 30 years, go to as many stores as you can and PLAY as many instruments as you can get your hands on before you invest a single dime! Guitars are, in the broadest general terms, a very person item. What may feel great in my hands and sound great to my ears, may be total crap-ola to you. The single greatest contributing factor regarding how your instrument sounds is -you-. Very simply, an expensive guitar will NEVER let a poor guitarist play like a "rock star", however a great guitar player can sound incredible even with very modest equipment. A guitar player's "real sound" comes from their fingers, their mind, their experience and their heart. As I've said to a great many people over the years, Eric Clapton sounds like Eric Clapton because he -IS- Eric Clapton...and he will sound like Clapton regardless of whether he's playing a Strat or a Les Paul. Conversely, you could own his infamous "Blackie" (or a good reproduction there of) and you will still sound like you.
Finally, if you are a beginner (or perhaps a parent looking to by a guitar for little Johnny or young Susie), do NOT invest a great deal of money until you (or your child) has more experience and has a better idea of what they want/need to pursue this thing we call "music". There's just nothing sadder than a beautiful instrument that's been exiled to the closet...all because the person decided they preferred photography instead.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful. See all 46 customer reviews...
Real Quality, Just as Advertised
By Nathan Davis
Couldn't be happier with this purchase. The workmanship on this instrument is excellent -- a true american classic. The first thing I did after restringing with my favorite Ernie Ball Slinkys and tuning up was a check of the intonation. It was spot on. Not one adjustment required. Nothing like that classic Fender Strat tone. Plus the guitar is extremely comfortable to play. My other guitars are a Fender Tele and a Gibson Les Paul; I love them all equally for different reasons, but the Strat is an ergonomic dream. While I'll always prefer the warmer, richer, fatter humbucker tone of the Les Paul, the Strat is the absolute champ as far as value goes. Even at full retail it's half the cost of a high quality Les Paul.
One word of caution: Think carefully about what kind of music you want to play. For hard rock and metal I still prefer the Les Paul. You can get a lot of different tones and sounds from the Strat, but it's still somewhat twangy and icy compared to the LP and the sustain is good but can't touch the LP due to its heavier mahogony body. But it you want clean tones there's really nothing better, especially played through a Fender Twin Reverb amp.