Price paid: C$ 1219
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Features: This is the new 2012 American Standard Stratocaster. What's different from the last few years? Well, not a whole lot, but what they did add makes a huge difference. I'll just place the specs that Fender has on their website: A modern "C" shape maple neck, 22 Frets, your choice of either a maple or rosewood fretboard, 25.5 inch scale length, Bi-flex truss rod system, 3 custom shop fat '50s Strat pickups, master volume, neck tone control, middle, and bridge "no-load" tone control, 2-point tremolo bridge, and it comes with an SKB case. The guitar also came with an allen wrench, cable, cleaning cloth, and a padded guitar strap. Not bad at all. // 10
Sound: Now, my complaint with most Fender guitars I've tried is usually the sound. Yes, most of the time they sound passable, but I've never managed to get the tone Stratocasters are most well known for, and when I did it would be the guitars right out of my price range. So, when I plugged the guitar in, I wasn't expecting much to be honest. In fact, I was really testing it on a lark, not even planning on purchasing it. All I can say is that I was surprised. At first I wasn't sure how this guitar could sound so good. After looking at the specs, it's obvious Fender's choice to place custom shop pickups was the right one.
These pickups sound far more, to put it bluntly, "big". They sound big, but don't have the lack of clarity I find most "big" sounding pickups to have. This is both the Stratocaster's biggest advantage and disadvantage. Barring large amounts of distortion, you will hear almost every squeak and squawk you make, so sloppy playing is pretty obvious. As with most single coil guitars, you will have hum, so either be ready to work with it, or find some way to cancel it. I would say this guitar has average hum, nothing too bad until you add some fairly heavy distortion.
The Strat is generally viewed as the Swiss army knife of guitars, finding itself suitable to most music styles, and the new American Standard is no exception. I myself tend to dabble in as many genres as I can, so it's nice to know I have an instrument that can cover most gigs I will be offered. For those interested, my signal is a such: Strat goes into either my Fulltone '69 fuzz or Soul-Bender fuzz, next to a Morley volume wah, then to a TC Electronic Vortex Flanger, to a Electro-Harmonix POG, to a Boss chromatic tuner to a Traynor Darkhorse amplifier. // 8
Action, Fit & Finish: I'm not sure if the guitar was looked at before being placed on the floor, but if it wasn't, kudos to the team at Fender. I've yet to find any flaws in the set up. It does come strung with 9 gauge strings, and my personal preference is 11 or 10's, but I do not consider this a flaw. The pickups are well adjusted, being balanced so no one pickup is louder than the others. Neck is the right tension, and I cannot detect any string buzzing. The finish doesn't have any discolouration at all. // 9
Reliability & Durability: As a fairly recent purchase, only three months old, I haven't had a chance to test the guitar live, except at a few jams. It seems durable, as long as you don't mistreat it. It's stays in tune well, unless you abuse the vibrato system. Strap buttons are alright, but as with most guitars, I would suggest replacing them with locking strap buttons. Finish hasn't discoloured yet, and it seems good. I would think unless you are purposely trying to damage the finish, it will last at least a good year or two before starting to wear. The neck finish is also nice, not sticky and gloppy like the lower end neck finishes on other Fenders.
Would I gig without a backup? Well, probably not. It's not anything on Fender's part, but most gigs are chaotic and unpredictable, and you never know what may happen. // 8
Overall Impression: I've owned a number of both Fender and Stratocaster-style guitars over the years I've been playing (5 or 6 years). This is probably the best one I've owned. It comes closest to the sound that most people think of when they refer to the Stratocaster sound. If lost or stolen, I would be sure to check out other 2012 American Standard models. The obvious improvement here is the custom shop pickups, which make new model something different from the years previous. If you're looking for the Stratocaster sound, but feel burned from the other Fender models you may have tried, try this one out, and you may just find what you're looking for. // 9