Price paid: C$ 1699
Purchased from: LA Music
Features — 10
My American Deluxe Stratocaster is the 2012 Sienna Sunburst Ash SSS model, with rosewood neck. It replaces a 2012 Sienna Sunburst Ash HSS American Standard in my arsenal. The Deluxe has fairly well known specs, including locking Deluxe F logo machine tuners, a compound radius neck (9.5" to 14") with 22 Medium Jumbo frets and 4-bolt micro-tilt adjustability, bi-flex truss rod, a premium ash body with a bevelled heel, noiseless N3 single coils, 2 point synch Deluxe tremolo, an innovative S1 switch, hand rolled fret edges, aged white controls and covers and 3-ply mint guard, Schaller strap locks, and loads more. Honestly, this is about as spec-loaded a Strat as you can get these days. Not vintage specs, but while I appreciate the nice vintage stuff too, this is a player's guitar in every way, with all the most modern features you can throw on a Strat.
Sound — 9
So, for starters, I've heard a few complaints over the years about Fender's noiseless pickups in past, and my own experience was with (1) the noiseless pickups in the Deluxe Player Strat MIM, and (2) an older generation of noiseless singles in early 2000's Deluxes. I have played the hot noiseless pickups in the Beck artist Strat and really enjoyed them. But these pickups - the N3's in the current American Deluxe - suit me PERFECTLY. Great single-coil Strat chime and clarity, without the dull, lifeless feeling I got from the ones in the cheaper Deluxe Player and older AD's. Great attack, traditional Strat quack and good sustain. I love them. They work MUCH better with my dirt pedals than the Fat 50's CS jobs in the American Standards. And the S1 switch that I find near-useless for my tastes on my American Deluxe Tele? I love it on the Strat. Particularly in positions 2 and 4 which I use a lot, the S1 gives me a quick tone change that I use a lot. Extremely useful on the Strat, and for a guitar that already excels at being versatile, the tonal options are near-limitless now. Quiet when you don't want it to be noisy, but articulate and traditional Strat tone when you want it. Just an all around great guitar sound.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I own 5 American made Fenders at this point, and based on my experience my standards are now very high. I've never had anything but a thoroughly rewarding guitar experience with any of my American Fenders, and for the most part this one was no exception. However, I'm going to dock a point because there was a very small finish blemish in the underside of the guitar down low near the bottom horn where you could only ever see it under close scrutiny. I found it. Extremely minor, but again, impossible now to call fit and finish "perfect." It appears that the final finish coat just ran a barely visible amount in this area. The dealer knocked a few bucks off the guitar which helped me ignore it. Otherwise, just one outstanding guitar. Fret edges buttery smooth, electronics and controls smooth and flawless, nice weight, incredible finish, and the tuners, bridge, saddles, and compound radius neck are all nothing short of incredible. I'll never notice the slight blemish in the surface finish when playing, especially when the rest of the guitar is just so perfect.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I've never had an American Fender let me down in any way. I expect no different here. I always have a backup at hand, based more on the fact that I have other US Fenders I like to mix in, but this guitar is clearly now my number one. Strap locks standard is a great touch, as I added them to my US Standards. Based on the quality of this build, along with the durability of components and construction I've come to know and expect, have to rate this really high. The only caveat is the S1 switch is a bit of an unknown to me... unsure how many "switches" these are rated for.
Overall Impression — 10
We play everything from classic guitar rock, to modern country, to mellower blues, to '60s rock and roll, and just about anything in between. This guitar could do our entire gig without question, on the same amp and effects board. Versatility is a definite strong point. The guitar is beautiful to look at, even nicer to play, and the tones it creates do everything from heavy to mellow very well. All in all, the best guitar I've owned, and I have owned some I really loved. I'm now looking for a 2nd one to save some wear on this one. While US Standards are great, the compound radius neck is a feature that grew on me so fast I now want it on my future guitars. Add in the noiseless N3's which surprised me, the locking tuners, the strap locks, the improvements in the bridge and saddles (to my tastes) and you start to see why the Deluxes cost a little more, and why it's hard for me to not justify the price difference. Color me one very happy owner.