Price paid: $ 1300
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 1
The guitar "features" a Diamondback humbucker and two custom-staggered Tex-Mex single-coils, and herein is where the problem lay. This guitar does not provide an "incredible" sound as advertised. First of all, the Tex-Mex pickups have always been a topic of mixed reviews. The reason? The reactance of the pickups produce sound in a frequency range that the human ear typically interprets as shrill and undesirable. Tinkering with amp adjustments can make it playable enough, but make no mistake, these pickups are cumbersome to work with. The inductance of the humbucker is married with the Tex-Mex pups to complement, and "ostensibly" compensate for all that lacks in the Tex-Mex configuration. It can be said that with the S-1 switch, some decent tones can be created while maintaining that swank sound associated with a Strat. Overall, however, the sound disappoints. The truth is, you can obtain the same sound on much cheaper HSS guitars. It has all the looks of a great guitar including fine wood craftsmanship, but as far as sound is concerned, it is the Edsel of Stratocasters. I recommend you pass on this guitar and go for either the American Standard or American Deluxe. If you buy it, you will find yourself among a large group of players who ended up swapping out pups for a more desirable sound and never quite satisfied.
Overall Impression — 1
I have played and worked on guitars for over 30 years. I have owned and played a lot of gear over the years. My tastes are eclectic and I have played everything from metal, to classic/southern rock, to blues, country and pop. I had this guitar for several months and ended up trading it for a Fender Deluxe Custom. I will never again own, nor will I recommend one of these guitars. Overall, this guitar is attractive to the eye, but an ugly assault to the ear.
Reliability & Durability — 8
The jury is still out on the durability of the S-1 Switch as this is still a relatively new feature for the Strat, but overall, this guitar should hold up as well on the road and gig playing, as well as the American Deluxe. As I mentioned before, this is a guitar with a beautiful look and great stage presence. The trem bar is one of the nicest features of this design.
Action, Fit & Finish — 6
I have never had a guitar set up correctly from the factory. This is not uncommon. A considerable amount of time is required to adjust an instrument to deliver absolute perfectly comfortable action with no buzzing. Action aside, Fender's quality control is among the best. The tuners, frets, wood joinery and finish are all exceptional. The black headstock is interesting and a welcome departure from other Strats I've seen come from the factory in some of the worst color combinations imaginable. This is a guitar with a beautiful look and great stage presence. Buzzing and tone dropout: The neck is not rolled off above the 12th fret, and is susceptible to buzzing and tone dropout for players who wish a lower action and who typically like to solo at the high end. To fix this, the guitar will have to be taken to a luthier to rework the frets and action. Adjusting the neck tilt and truss does not resolve the buzzing problem with this guitar.
Features — 8
Comes with many features found on the American Deluxe Stratocaster including roller nut, beveled heel, locking tuners, select Switch and case. The pickups are set in an HSS configuration, with select choices from the S-1 Switch volume knob. Tone controls are of Standard design. While these features are quite nice, they contribute in no way to the guitar's overall sound and playability. Nevertheless, the quality hardware gives it high marks.