So it’s no secret that I have a preference for Stratocaster body-style guitars. Yet I have always been a modernist, and at my first opportunity to acquire a guitar (at 15 years old) chose to go for the more versatile Ibanez Roadstar RG440 rather than a Fender Strat. A good tweny years later when I decided to get back into guitar - it was PRS I selected, for mostly very similar reasons - quality, look, versatility and sound. I’ve also always really preferred the fuller sounding richness of humbucker style pickups vs the bright chime and spangle of Fender single coils.
Following on from the Gibson Les Paul -alike Singlecut blog post, I have now decided to do a similar exercise on Stratocaster body types:
If I was going to buy a Fender Strat - this is the one I would select. I generally prefer Rosewood or Ebony boards, roasted Maple at a push, but not really lighter grains as they show up marks and fingerprints far too easily and cannot be redeemed once tarnished. I also happen to think that Japanese and Mexican -made Fenders are superb quality, sometimes even better than the homegrown stuff. The Aerodyne comes with a nice subtle curve / carve on the body - which makes it slightly lighter and far more ergonomic. Also I note that most Fenders don't have matching headstocks, I really don't like seeing dark boards with light headstocks - either match the headstock to the body colouration or the board colour.
For those on a budget you can't go wrong with a Squier Standard, Deluxe or Classic Vibe. I've picked out this one because of the matching headstock and similarity in look to the Aerodyne above - note that there is also a beautiful matching headstock Squier Classic Vibe in Sherwood Green - although this does have a Maple fingerboard.
A beautiful natural wood guitar stained with natural gunstock oil to give it even colour and finish and make the maple board acceptable to me. As I've said previously, I don't like Maple boards particularly, but will tolerate them if they are stained or roasted to give them a darker hue. This is a limited custom built instrument, hence the high price-tag. Very classic looking guitar though with very similar headstock to original Fender.
It's important to mention the direct Leo Fender connection with Music Man - his first stop-off after selling his eponymous company to CBS. The prettier of the Steve Morse signature guitars is also the prettiest classic strat style guitar Music Man makes. I love the smaller headstock with the 4+2 tuner placement - makes for a rather more elegant 'Strat'. This is a 'Super-Strat' in every sense of the word, from quality of build to hardware choices and tonal pallet.
Leo Fender's second stop-off often gets overlooked by guitar buyers - excepting the chosen guitar, G&L is largely more keenly priced than Fender, and often benefits from better quality. This is another typical 'Super-Strat' with some very smart pickup selections and tonal options. Note that this is the first of the more modern headstock-style Strats versus the classic rounded originals. Suhr. Schecter and Xotic all follow similar lines.
Former Fender Custom builder John Suhr is already well known as the first choice for many professional players. If you want the best quality of Fender Style guitar, then you will most often likely find the Suhr name on the headstock. This particular guitar is a masterpiece really - beautiful two piece body construction - single piece Curly Koa body and single piece Koa top, then Bacote Neck and Board with Bacote inclosed pickups too and tone and volume knobs. The body has a beautiful carve to it, as well as being a chambered construction. This is a very pricey guitar, but kind of understandably so when you see all the detail and work that has gone into it.
Henning Pauly has one of these on loan and for one who does not usually particularly like wholly traditionally styled Strats, this one just looks amazing. The combination of surf green body and Macassar Ebony board and headstock is just an excellent colour combination - it totally sounds as good as it looks - a proper professional's guitar.
Another very classic looking Strat-style guitar, here with either oiled or roasted maple board - which makes all the difference for me. Seems like most of the Classic / Traditional quality USA-made Strats are around the $2,500 mark which equates to same if not slightly higher digits in pounds when available in UK. I think if I had to buy a traditional style strat (Single Coils) I would either go for the Aerodyne or Schecter, with this next in line.
So my first ever guitar was one of those pointy RG style Ibanez's - the original Super-Strat as such. I now tend to prefer the slightly more rounded shape of the Ibanez S and SA series. As per the NAMM report, Ibanez had an amazing show and a phenomenal 2017 lineup - including this fine specimen made with beautiful exotic woods, Seymour Duncan pickups and the excellent but fairly rare SynchroniZR bridge. For what you get for you money, this is an excellent price. Indonesia as a manufacturing base is already within a hair's width of the superb quality of the Korean factories.
Several people raised eyebrows when John Mayer was recently spotted playing a PRS Strat-alike, yet it is the Brent Mason Signature which was the original for that template - a premium line pro bolt-on guitar with a body shape as close to Strat as PRS can go. It has handily recently been discontinued to allow a John Mayer Strat-alike to step in and take up that mantle - most likely at a significantly higher price point! If you can get your hands on a Brent Mason original you will find immediate benefit in its superb HSH versatility and superior hardware and appointments.