#1
Just a thought.....

Objectively speaking how does an original 50s/60s Fender Strat actually compare up against modern construction and technology in regards to final build quality?

To elaborate further - are original Fender 60s pick ups built better than a newer Squire? MIM? MIJ? MIA? Are a set of SD single coil replacements better than either?!

Are original Fender necks finished better than a modern CV, RI or Pro series Fender? What about compared to a Warmoth or similar?

Hopefully this question is easily understood....just wondering how we got to such a large desirability factor for older guitars compared to their modern counterparts....perhaps they just aren't made 'how they used to be'....? Or are modern guitars 'as good' (or not better) than the vintage gear?

I guess the ultimate comparison (for my interests at least) would be to something like an original 50s/60s compared to a CV or a RI Strat....

Thanks!
#2
rarity aside, I would take my 52AVRI over an original. I have played some very old and rare fenders (i know a guy in his 70's with a nice collection). but all of his have had two or three refrets, one or two are a little buzzy and finicky. BUT they are all 'players' condition, he has used them his whole life gigging and recording.

the thing that DOESN'T compare is the mojo. they are cool to play on.

If there was one in mint condition (ex 52 tele) i have no idea. but that would cost significantly more than I would ever pay.

this is my opinion, take it for what its worth.
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#3
I largely agree with trashedlostfdup - I can believe (but I won't by any means claim) that the instruments of early Fender were, at the time, possibly better put-together than modern ones; they were mass-produced, and they were the cheap option compared to Gibson, but they were still expensive, high-end gear back in the day. Today, though? If any of those instruments still play better than an AVRI in 2017 it's through maintenance and repairs. And even if there was a difference in the first place, I really doubt it would be much, assuming you could compare a brand new original '50s or '60s Strat to a brand new AVRI somehow.

Compared to a CV, a vintage in perfect condition (which essentially doesn't exist) would totally be better in terms of just about all the parts and the build quality. Compared to an AVRI it really is hard to say. It's by definition impossible to test an AVRI straight out of the factory against a vintage one straight out of the factory. I would say much the same about modern-style Fenders like the American Professional or whatever, only it's even harder to make a direct comparison since they differ so much.

But yeah, those tens of grands you'll pay for an original pre-CBS Fender are much the same as for any antique - only worth it if you both really, really love the thing you're buying and have more money than sense.
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#4
the quality on the old ones was far more dependent on the workers than they are now.  the one thing i can say about the vintage Fenders ( pre CBS) is that they were made with far more hand work and therefore the specs varied far more. with things like necks they weren't all the same. this does lend itself to the "feel" thing as some necks were a bit thinner or thicker which may appeal more to individual players. the more primitive wonders for pickups again ment that there was variation which could result in some more individual sounding pickups. 

i've played many old Fenders over the years and while some were "magic" most were just another guitar. really the same can be said about modern guitars. my current #1 strat is a MIM standard that has been modded. the mods are nice but there is just something about the neck in particular that does it for me. the guitar on the whole just gives me something extra (and i have a very nice 89 Strat Plus Deluxe) . guitars tend to be individual regardless of age. 

personally i have no real interest in vintage Fenders. sure if someone handed me Gary Moore's red strat i'd be all over it. would i pay the huge sum that the Custom Shop wants for a limited repro of that guitar , no way. if you can't find a decent strat for less than $2000 new then you aren't trying. 
#5
The variations in manufacturing quality and tolerances, etc. ultimately determine how much and for how long the guitar is played. In the long run, I guess that the poorer ones tend to get sold, traded, and generally work their way down to not getting played much, whereas the really nice ones stay in service, enjoy frequent string changes, the frets nut and saddles all wear smooth surfaces, basically everything rough grows smoother... the instrument improves with playing over the years. Every string change / intonation / saddle height / pickup height adjustment, etc. gets it a little closer to accumulated perfection for the player.

This process happens to old and new ones; the old ones just had a head start with someone else... if where and old one was heading is what you like, it can be a fine match. If you start the journey with a new one, if it is good and shares your path, it will naturally match you in the long run.

I have played the same Strat for the last 30 years (over 10K hours of that on stage)... that guitar and I have blended together...  
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#6
As others I have said, folks pay big $ for mojo/investment value in all sorts of things, not just guitars. The argument gets complicated because:

Opinions of "better" vary widely - I wouldn't want vintage stagger pickups at any price, for example.

Simply being older might make, say, a neck feel more comfortable.

I think that folks buy on mojo then try and argue/justify it to themselves and/or others on performance.

Parts, especially Isabel Ybarra's famous pickups, would have varied a lot back then.


However, if playing a piece of expensive mojo-rich gear makes you try harder, then your performance is related to the price of the instrument.
#7
Guess it still comes back to the original idea of finding a guitar that you are happy with....irrespective of pricing, branding or the mojo factor! I guess I just ponder if modern techniques in a cheaper instrument are as good as older techniques on vintage instruments.

It is interesting things I find like this that make me wonder on the quality (and as noted this clearly varied a lot from instrument to instrument)...

"The pre-CBS Fender pickups were dipped in molten wax to solidify the coil windings. Windings which are able to vibrate can create a ‘microphonic’ pickup, which squeals uncontrollably at stage or rehearsal volume. Through most of the CBS era, Strat pickups were not wax dipped – supposedly because the insulation on the coil wire being used could not withstand the high temperatures. However, as time went on, winding methods were improved, so that the coil tension was higher and more uniform, and the likelihood of inherently loose windings was minimised."

Source: http://planetbotch.blogspot.com/2011/11/know-your-strat-pickups.html

To me that, to a certain extent, might tell someone that newer (even cheap) pick ups constructed well with modern techniques have the potential to rival some of the originals (even if we compared new for new). Of course, the same could be said vice versa.

From the same page:

"1993-dated Seymour Duncan SSL-1 Vintage Staggered Strat pickup. This is modelled on a 1950s Fender unit and very closely follows the spec of the originals, including the type and insulation gauge of ‘formvar’ coil wire, the staggered alnico V magnets, the black fibre top and bottom plates, the thorough wax saturation for a solid coil, and the cloth-coated connection wire. Quality is very high, and the output is accepted as a precise rendition of the classic 1950s Strat pickup tone."

Likewise, quality control of potentiometers, machine heads, saddles and other such components has possibly improved over 60 odd years - which then begs the question of how does an original tone pot compare to a cheap but modern tone pot - only the experts (you lot) would be able to advise on such!

Thanks for the input everyone - I might just stop fantasising now and go grab myself a reasonable cheap Squier or Fender that plays well to mod with some SSL-1s and such  

ssssh, just don't tell SWMBO my plans  
Last edited by hydreliox at Apr 4, 2017,
#9
Quote by hydreliox
Guess it still comes back to the original idea of finding a guitar that you are happy with....irrespective of pricing, branding or the mojo factor!
I don't see why it should be irrespective of those things - they're all ultimately relevant to a buyer's final choice. But yeah, buying a guitar is about what you want, prefer and need.

Quote by hydreliox
It is interesting things I find like this that make me wonder on the quality (and as noted this clearly varied a lot from instrument to instrument)...

"The pre-CBS Fender pickups were dipped in molten wax to solidify the coil windings. Windings which are able to vibrate can create a ‘microphonic’ pickup, which squeals uncontrollably at stage or rehearsal volume. Through most of the CBS era, Strat pickups were not wax dipped – supposedly because the insulation on the coil wire being used could not withstand the high temperatures. However, as time went on, winding methods were improved, so that the coil tension was higher and more uniform, and the likelihood of inherently loose windings was minimised."
I'm not really sure what you're getting at with this but wax potting is something that's still done, probably more often than not.

Quote by hydreliox
To me that, to a certain extent, might tell someone that newer (even cheap) pick ups constructed well with modern techniques have the potential to rival some of the originals (even if we compared new for new).
Absolutely. Obviously pickups can be done badly, but with a given set of components and specs and a decent level of competence there's a limited amount you can change about a coil of copper wire around some polepieces.

^Well this italics thing is interesting...
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#10
Italics is the new underlining apparently. I think I broke the entire thread somehow. 

I think the point I was alluding to with wax dipping was CBS vintage guitars (which have some desirability) could well be worse off than their modern counterparts. 

Now for some bold....
Last edited by hydreliox at Apr 5, 2017,
#11
Quote by hydreliox
Italics is the new underlining apparently. I think I broke the entire thread somehow. 

I think the point I was alluding to with wax dipping was CBS vintage guitars (which have some desirability) could well be worse off than their modern counterparts. 

Now for some bold....
Oh right, yeah. I mean, I somewhat doubt the immediate drop in quality with CBS was quite all that's made of it - it's certainly been suggested that Fender was already in decline at the time of the purchase - but it's definitely a widely-acknowledged and well-documented claim that things got worse under CBS. I guess the question is how quickly. At the end of the day, the fact that something is a 1960s Fender has a lot of weight irrespective of the CBS reputation when it comes to pricing and mojo, and I think that's pretty understandable to an extent. When it comes to famous people that have played vintage Fenders (which, as far as I can tell, absolutely influences vintage purchases - it would for me), plenty of them have happily played late '60s stuff, or even later.
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#12
Out of the three I prefer Modern strats the most, particularly this combo....

22 Fret Neck
Sealed Gear Tuners with Split posts (Kluson Revolutions are my favorites)
pickups designed to sound best in each position, which to my ears has the hottest pickup at the bridge and it gets gradually "cooler" from there toward the neck
Basswood bodies
2 point vibrato systems
extended control schemes that allow for even more tonal variety

I also more often than not opt for a humbucker in the bridge with a coil split, especially lately since I do a series/parallel mod and use a 3-way coil split to get more sounds out of it than standard.

My Issues with playing a vintage one is that it's vintage.  Therefore, if it's vintage + Stratocaster = FUCK-ALL lot of money, I'm not taking a guitar that cost as much as my truck did when new in 1993 to go play in some grimey downtown dive bar.  Then you have the whole new CITES thing to worry about (I like to travel and take a guitar with me in most cases) - last thing I want to have happen is I get involved with a Strat I really really like, and then have some wingnut in a foreign land take it away because of a mistake on paperwork because it's got some kind of Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard on it.  I already have one not-so-vintage guitar to worry about with this (82' Yamaha G245SII Classical - it has Brazillian Rosewood sides and back - so I guess no Intl travel for that one).

I like and will play vintage-style strats with six point trems and 21 frets, but that's not my idea of an optimum configuration since I love my high F#/G/A bends on the high E at the 22nd fret, and I find six screw vibratos are a bit more tempermental than their 2 point counterparts (more contact points = more friction = more likely to have tuning issues).

Of course, for most strats, I just build my own out of pre-existing guitars and off-the-shelf parts.  I see the Stratocaster as the IBM PC Compatible of electric guitars (I'm also into vintage PCs) - don't like the sound card maybe another one will play better with the hardware in that device.  Only thing is I don't have to sand a IBM XT so I like the neck profile on it because I could get a decent neck for $29.99 and modify to taste.
My Current Mains
- 1996 Fender Jag-Stang with EMG Pickups
- 1998 Fender Jaguar with Cool Rails
- 1982 Hondo Paul Dean II (DiMarzio Super II X2)
- 2010 "Fender" Jazzmaster (Home built)
- 2013 Squier VM Bass VI (stock)
#13
Quote by Mad-Mike_J83
My Issues with playing a vintage one is that it's vintage.  Therefore, if it's vintage + Stratocaster = FUCK-ALL lot of money, I'm not taking a guitar that cost as much as my truck did when new in 1993 to go play in some grimey downtown dive bar.  Then you have the whole new CITES thing to worry about (I like to travel and take a guitar with me in most cases) - last thing I want to have happen is I get involved with a Strat I really really like, and then have some wingnut in a foreign land take it away because of a mistake on paperwork because it's got some kind of Brazilian Rosewood fingerboard on it.  I already have one not-so-vintage guitar to worry about with this (82' Yamaha G245SII Classical - it has Brazillian Rosewood sides and back - so I guess no Intl travel for that one)..
For the record, CITES applies to all* rosewood; however, as far as travelling with instruments that contain rosewood it doesn't matter unless it's over 10kg thereof, so unless your guitar is a solid rosewood doubleneck Les Paul you should be alright.

*This word was meant to be in italics; evidently that did not work out too well.
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#14
I've played a few 50s Fenders. Yeah they are cool, and yeah they are expensive. But I will take any modern-made Strat over them as far as playability goes. We learned so much about electric guitar over the past 70 years, that the updates are well worth it. 
Dave @ Seymour Duncan