Price paid: € 1249
Purchased from: Casa Farràs, Terrassa, Catalonia
Features: 2007 American Series Stratocaster with alder body, one-piece Maple neck with Bi-Flex truss rod and Micro-Tilt neck adjustment, Maple fingerboard with hand-rolled edges, Deluxe staggered cast/sealed tuning machines, 3 custom staggered alnico 5 single-coil pickups, "DeltaTone" system (including high output bridge pickup and special "no-load" tone control for middle and bridge pickups), 3-ply parchment white pickguard, and 2-point synchronized tremolo (bridge with six "nineties" massive saddles). Many of those features have been implemented in the successor American Standard, save for the massive saddles which have been changed to bent steel saddles, and the pickguard which has been changed to a greenish one (I don't know for sure what other modifications have been carried by Fender in the American Standard, 2008 or 2012). // 9
Sound: It is the expected Vintage Stratocaster sound. With a Vintage sounding short delay you can even duplicate those classic Hank Marvin sounds. That said, it is in the Mark Knopfler and Jimi Hendrix sounds that this guitar excels. Specially the first. It is also good for blues. Upper-scale Strats make slight improvements in the sound, but understand them as different sounds for more personal uses. In other words, this guitar can do the trick for many players. What could be improved is the electrical shielding: it isn't much noticeable when playing clean, but background noise is clearly audible when playing with distortion. Fortunately, the center pickup is reverse-wired, so in the "in between" positions noise is canceled to a great degree. This guitar is good for clean and overdriven sounds. In fact, it can work with any distortion pedal, although single-coils are not the best pickups for metal situations, where that "something" could be lacking (for a fatter sound you need humbuckers). I suggest also trying to play this guitar through a Univibe-type pedal, it can sound amazing. // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: Action was excellent from the factory, and it still is. Perfectly tuned with itself. The neck is the best of all my collection, fast, comfortable and smooth. Strings have a high tension, but it is a minor detail and you can lack it when you play guitars from other manufacturers. The vibrato is also excellent, mantaining intonation through the wildest divebombs (I have retuned a string after a divebomb maybe twice in six years). What may not be of everyone's taste are the two "secondary effects" of the vibrato in this guitar: string bendings are partly canceled because the bridge moves a bit, and you have to care about not pressing the bridge when you do palm muting, if the bridge is not flush with the body (something very usual: that seems to improve the sound of the guitar), because the guitar can sound accidentally out of tune.
The finish is good, and six years after buying it new the guitar is still in mint condition. Maybe the Olympic White finish is slightly darker in a small area of the upper horn from the factory, as if there lacked one final layer of paint, but it is something only I know, and it can help me identifying it if someone stole it and erased the serial number. That said, the finish is not made with nitrocellulose. The guitar still sounds good, but some people maintain that modern finishes seal the body of the guitar and don't let it "breathe", and that it can affect the tone. I only can say that, from experiments with a Boss FDR-1 modelling pedal and a CD of the "Layla" album, my guitar sounds amazingly close to a Fifties one, and it is saying something: differences will only be audible to the most trained and discriminating ears in the world. And I have good pitch. // 10
Reliability & Durability: This guitar will last for many years, maybe it will even outlive me. Maybe the frets will need a repair at some distant point in time, but for now they are in excellent condition. I can rely on it for a gig. Especially because of the tuners, which are excellent, also, and maintain the strings well-tuned for days at a time. Strap buttons are OK. A minor point (but worthy of comment) is that the vibrato bar needs a spring in its bridge hole to keep it in place, and that it is easy to lose this spring, so much that I carry some replacement springs in the hardshell case that came with the guitar. Also, the original spring came protected into its hole with an adhesive, which left some dirt around the hole that was difficult to clean. // 10
Overall Impression: I am a medium-level player, and my style of playing is influenced by my own sound as a composer (I combine classical music with psychedelia, experimental pop and even a bit of country, which results in a very personal sound). My other good guitars are a CIJ Fender Stratocaster XII, a Rickenbacker 330/12 and a Gibson Les Paul Studio, and my concert amplifier is a Fender Frontman 212R (which sounds pretty decent, given that it is a solid-state, entry level combo; I plan to buy a tube amplifier someday).
Overall, this Strat has served me well for six years. I bought it "blindly" because my other six-string electrics, although of poor quality, were Strat-like objects and I thought that a real Strat would give me a slightly better sound, building on what I already knew, so I was surprised and amazed to have so many of my favourite electric sounds suddenly at my disposal when I bought my guitar. A Strat will not cover all the basis that are possible in the world of electric guitars, but I can recommend it as a first good guitar, versatile and at the same time with enough personality to sound like yourself if you want. The only problem with Strats is unrelated to the guitars themselves: it is so crowd-pleasing a design, and so unprotected by Fender over the years (only the headstock is patent protected), that every cheap-guitar maker offers many Strat-like guitars almost identical to the originals but of inferior quality, so not everyone can recognize you have a great instrument instantly, and you and your public may grow bored with that "too seen" design. // 9