- Fender Stratocaster Buyers Guide
What is a Fender Stratocaster?
The Fender Strat is by far the most popular guitar ever. It has been in consistent production since 1954, so there is no doubt you have heard and seen a Strat at some point. It is defined by the iconic, ergonomic shape and wide range of tones, from bright and brittle to dark and smooth.
Created by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton and Freddie Tavares, it was touted as the successor to Fender’s other mass-produced solid body guitar; the Telecaster. The shape intended to be a direct upgrade, with the curvy and contoured back and sides allowing it to rest closer to the player’s body.
The other goal of the guitar was to introduce a versatile range of sounds by installing a third pickup. While the bridge and neck single coils were originally quite similar to what you’d find in a Tele, the middle pickup was unseen in electric guitars at the time.
Originators Fender have made hundreds of Strat models using different parts, pickup configurations, woods, and hardware. There really is a Strat for every style and budget. Fender currently make over 250 different Stratocasters. Finding the exact one, even when you know specs and price range can be tricky. Here’s our breakdown of the Fender Strat ranges.
What's The Difference Between '50s, '60s and '70s Strats?
The Stratocaster's core design was tweaked and tinkered extensively over the first 30 years of its existence. Leo Fender made minor updates to the sound, feel and style each year. Fender sum up these changes with '50s, '60s and '70s Strat models, mixing and matching each decade's greatest features. Perfect examples of this can be seen in the Vintera and American Original ranges, as well as Squier's Classic Vibe line-up.
The one that started it all. '50s Strats are pure vintage in tone and character. They are made of ash bodies, using maple fretboards and chunky “U” or “V” shape necks. With a fretboard radius of just &.25-inches, they're quite small but great for bends. The pickups are low-output and produce a classically chimey, glassy tone many guitarists frantically search for to this day.
What many players consider the pinnacle of Strat design, '60s models tweaked a few areas to improve the overall play experience of the core design. The neck was thinned out to a “C”, while the fretboard radius was expanded to 9.5 inches. Cosmetic changes included a new pickguard and a replacement rosewood fretboard over the original maple.
The seventies were a strange time for Fender under the ownership of CBS. Founder Leo Fender had gone on to create G&L, while the broadcast company increasingly more involved in the design of the guitars. This era saw the Strat equipped with higher output pickups (with the option of a humbucker in the bridge position), a larger headstock and cheaper woods and plastics.
Fender own the brand Squier and this where you’ll find beginner and affordable Strats. Don’t knock them though, because Squier guitars are genuinely great to play, are well made and even feature hardware used on Fender guitars.
The Squier Bullet and Affinity line-ups are great playing and sounding guitars under £200. Squier also make the Classic Vibe series. These are inspired by ‘50s and ‘60s guitars and are built in the same styles their ancestors.
Squier also put together a number of starter packs that include all the essentials you need to get playing such as a cable, picks, strap and an amp.
Fender Player Strat
The Fender Player series is the ultimate workhorse range of guitars. With an unbelievable selection of hardware, pickups and finishes, there’s something here for everyone.
Fender produce the Player series in Mexico and the team are trained with the same tools and processes that the American factory use to build their high-end guitars. This is the standard at which everyone is held for quality, playability and hardware. Expect a Fender Player to outlive the vast majority of guitars.
Fender Vintera Strat
Vintera guitars are modelled after the first three decades of the Fender Strat's existence. This means they’re kitted out with swish retro fittings, finishes, hardware and pickups. The necks are thicker, the single coils lower output and the frets tall and thin.
They're the perfect pick for the likes of classic rock, country, folk and pop because of their smooth tone and full range frequency. When it comes to playability, the ball is totally in your court. Pick from a plethora of '50s, '60s, '70s or modified specs. Do you like a chunky '50s style U shape neck or the '60s slimmer evolution? The Vintera is a classy and seriously cool range to explore.
Fender Deluxe Strat
Fender’s most innovative and premium range made in Mexico. Deluxe guitars combine cool Fender design and premium specs in a genuinely affordable package. The range has plenty to offer, with unique finishes, S/S/S or H/S/S pickup configurations and a choice of alder or ash bodies.
These guitars are absolutely roadworthy and serve up modern tones suitable for rock, blues and folk styles alike. Fender clearly set out to make versatile instruments equipped with some of their top hardware, including two-point synchronised tremolo bridges.
Fender Performer Strat
We’ve reached America! There are few guitars as iconic as an American Strat. The Performer line-up is the most affordable USA made guitars Fender make, yet beautifully demonstrate the class-leading craftsmanship of such an instrument in all its glory.
The most noteworthy feature of the Performer is its electronics – the Yosemite single coil pickups are super expressive and deliver classic tone. The Greasebucket circuitry lets you roll off top-end frequencies without adding bass. No longer are your tone and volume knobs useless.
Fender Professional Strat
The Professional Stratocaster encapsulates all the greatness of Fender American-made instruments. It’s a re-imagining of the classic design from the ‘50s, housing new electronics and shaped ever so slightly different to improve the overall playing experience. All the retro tone, none of the clunky playability.
Each pickup is specifically voiced for its position, be it in the bridge, middle or neck positions. Pickup master Tim Shaw designed the alnico V-Mod single coils to produce powerful nuanced tones and sound punchy combined with the treble-bleed circuit.
The neck has a deep C shape embedded with tall narrow frets, so you get a hint of the retro flavour with the smoothness of a modern guitar.
Fender Ultra Strat
American Ultra Strats are the best production guitars Fender make. The Californian brand take things to the next level with intuitive improvements on the former American Elite series. The contoured neck heel, rolled fretboard edges and latest noiseless pickups prove again why Fender are at the top of their game.
The beautifully crafted modern 'C' neck is fitted with a compound 9.5 to 14-inch radius fingerboard for greater control during leads and comfortable rhythm fretting. Its pickups have been adjusted for a smoother midrange character and crisper highs. You won't get any extra hum either thanks to the latest in noiseless technology.
Fender Custom Shop Strat
The Fender Custom Shop is where dreams are made. It’s not an overstatement - it really is where they make all of their best guitars, from ‘50s reissues to modern one-off builds. If you think it, they can probably make it.
Throughout the year, the Fender Custom Shop will release a limited run of models and you can find a few here at Andertons. These guitars incorporate the best build techniques, woods, materials, hardware and finishes.
If you can’t quite find what you’re looking for you can also submit a custom order through us as well. You tell us what you want with our expert help on hand and we’ll deal with Fender directly to have it built.