American Special Stratocaster HSS review by Fender

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (175 votes)
Fender: American Special Stratocaster HSS
2

Price paid: $ 639

Purchased from: zZounds.com

Sound — 9
I play mostly all styles of blues, classic rock, a little alternative stuff now and then. I'm playing it through a Fender Deluxe VM 40 watt amp and have used a Boss blues driver and Dunlop Cry Baby wah pedal with it. This guitar is very hot when you want it to be. Very easy to pull off Stevie Ray Vaughan tones and the like but it isn't a one trick pony. I play mostly on the neck pickup, you can easily pull some warm rhythm tones out of it. The neck pickup gets very warm and bright Fender cleans, amazing clarity for me, I've yet to find a way to get the tone out of this guitar to sound muddy at all. The middle pickup is almost useless for me by itself but sounds good when in the 2nd and fourth position with the other pickups. It's just too bright and twangy and without any tone control of it's own it just doesn't do it for me, but when mixed with the front pickup it sounds much better, they mix very well and get a slightly brighter sound than just the neck pickup alone. When mixed with the bridge humbucker it sounds ok for slightly distorted tones, but the humbucker sounds so good by itself I feel no need for the fourth position. The humbucker sounds amazing with plenty of distortion. It nails the classic rock tones I'm going for. Sounds damn good with the blues driver in front of it but I prefer the gain channel on my amp. I don't think I'd ever use it for any clean tone but with the tone controls being very versatile it's easy to dial in great sounds. It's great distortion but you can hear what's being played behind it all, not muddy at all. Overall, if someone's looking for a very pure and classic Stratocaster tone, you might consider this guitar with a pickup swap, but I doubt you'll find any pickups that sound better, just different. Someone might have a difficult time pulling a very mellow vibe out of this guitar, but that's not really something that I care about much.

Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for about 10 years, have had numerous other guitars, this is the guitar for me. I could have went higher in my budget and bought something more expensive but I love strats and this guitar spoke to me. I've tried out other american strats and even the deluxes, this one just played effortlessly for me, though the others were top notch guitars also. It fits my style perfectly. I own a Fender Deluxe VM and it sounds great through this amp but I've also played through a number of other fenders at a few stores and it still gets the same great tone. If it were stolen I'd buy this exact same guitar without question. The only thing I come close to hating on this guitar is the tremolo, but I hate them all. My favorite feature would have to be the texas special pickups mixed with the greasebucket circuitry. It produces the most usable tones of any guitar I've ever played. The only thing I'll ever do is thrown in some locking tuners when I start gigging it soon, just for ease, but these tuners work great.

Reliability & Durability — 10
I placed some strap locks on this guitar just for safety reasons, I se no reason to worry about it's reliability. The strap buttons are solid but I don't trust any strap with holding any guitar worth more than a few hundred. I just wouldn't risk it. The finish I'm sure will hold up but if it wears down a little I'll probably like it even more. I haven't played a gig lately but am looking to soon and always bring a backup but not because I don't trust this guitar. The hardware seems very sturdy, but admittedly I hate tremolos. I blocked off the tremolo as soon as I got it because I never use them and haven't met one that I liked.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I bought this guitar as a blemished item and was very glad when it came in to see that the blem was a minor warp in the pickguard which I've already fixed. The action came in not so great, but I've played a few at guitar center before ordering this and they were set up great at the store. The high e snapped when I went to tune it up, worrying me about the quality of the nut, whether it might have a sharp edge, but I think it was the string acting funny cause I've had no problems since that. The strings were set a little too low with abolutely no relief in the neck, which I like a little bit of relief. I set it up to fenders standards according to their website for a guitar with this fretboard radius and whatnot, it's playing perfectly now. The action isn't very low, right where I like it, but it could go lower. I didn't have to touch the intonation, that was already perfect. It came set up with 9's which I like. The pickups were already where they needed to be and it sounded great already so I didn't do any altering to them. The finish is exactly what I would expect from an american made fender. Nice a glossy body, very shiny, very good fretwork, the neck is nice and smooth, very well done and easy to play. I can't find any flaw with it. Everything was snug and perfectly placed other than the action being low like I said. The 9.5" radius is perfect for me, I've always enjoyed a smaller radiused fretboard. The jumbo frets are something I really wanted on a strat. It increases the playability for me greatly. Some people might like a more Standard feeling neck with a 12" radius and medium jumbo frets, but if you like those features then definitely check out this guitar.

Features — 9
American made Strat with a nice back glossy finish, black three ply pickguard, three piece alder body with maple neck, rosewood fretboard. Modern C-shaped neck, 9.5" radiused fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, 25.5" scale, 1.685" nut width. Equipped with a Vintage styled 6 point tremolo and Fender brand non-locking tuners. Pickups come stock with Fender texas special pickups and an atomic humbucker in the bridge position, equipped with fender's grease bucket tone control and electronics. The only thing I don't like is that I hate tremolo's so I blocked this one off like I would do to any strat, so I won't count that against it. Some locking tuners would be nice too. It came with a Fender deluxe gig bag.

19 comments sorted by best / new / date

    gizmodious
    WRONG PIC!!! lol I own one, and I feel like SRV: Its THE one. Love this guitar. Although I can't agree with freezing the tremolo or needing tuning locks.
    slash02
    hey ppl, i'm thinking of buying a Fender American Special Strat Hss. what do you think?
    slash02
    thank you jetfuel495 and stratofan97 so, the humbucker it's a good thing, isn't it?
    stratofan97
    The humbucker is okay, but i do prefer a pre-wired pickguard. these are an easy solution to changing your pups without any soldering and its cheaper and more efficient than buying separate pick-ups... i do prefer the EMG KH-20 ($250), even if you aren't a Kirk Hammett fan, this is the only pre-wired set that i could find with the HSS layout... These new pups make even MIM Strats sound superb. hopefully this advice helps
    Amuro Jay
    slash02 wrote: ppl, what's the difference between Fender American Stratocaster and the HSS version? and what's the humbucker?
    The regular Stratocaster has three single coil pickups and the HSS version has a humbucker in the bridge and a single coil in the middle and neck positions. The humbucker is essentially two single coil pickups wound up together. It has a fatter sound with higher output and eliminates the humming sound that single coils traditionally have at higher gain channels.
    JLowU571
    One problem I have with the American Special series is the CBS era head stock, that thing is ugly as.
    slash02
    ppl, what's the difference between Fender American Stratocaster and the HSS version? and what's the humbucker?
    slash02
    thank you very much for the advices, kingV911. i'm going to search more information about the SSS version
    KingV911
    slash02 wrote: hey ppl, i'm thinking of buying a Fender American Special Strat Hss. what do you think?
    Can't speak for the HSS, but I do own the SSS version and it is a fine guitar. Plays like a dream, great neck, Fender USA-made quality, etc. I have read a number of people do not especially like the humbucker in the HSS version, but I am sure it is alright and is a fairly cheap upgrade to swap out if you don't like. Great guitar for the money. Check ebay, they go for like $500 on there.
    doive
    Nice review, not sure i'd have given AFF 10 given that it was not set up according to fender spec, the high e snapped straight out and it had a pickguard blemish. The text of this review is much more important than the numbers though so well done Pic is wrong though, that ain't HSS
    RoughDraft274
    Well, I'm blaming somethings on ZZounds and on it being a blemished item. They restrung the guitar cause the strings weren't wound the way they are at the factory. The pickguard blem saved me 160 dollars, so I don't mind it a bit and was an easy fix. I consider fit action and finish to mean the action and all after setting it up to your preferences. After I adjusted the strings to where I want them and put a tiny bit of relief in the neck it's perfect. i couldn't be happier with it and the ones I've played in stores were already set up that way so I didn't want to bash it for how it was after they shipped it across the country, but for how good it is as it was in the stores and now after I made my preferential adjustments. I get what people are saying though.
    mitchell.minami
    doive wrote: Nice review, not sure i'd have given AFF 10 given that it was not set up according to fender spec, the high e snapped straight out and it had a pickguard blemish. The text of this review is much more important than the numbers though so well done Pic is wrong though, that ain't HSS
    i know right? i was thinking that
    RoughDraft274
    @babywantabottle, I think he meant why do i hate the trem's on strats. @Vabolo, it's really just an innate hatred, lol. I don't like them, never use them, and in general find them a nuisance. @doive, I'm attributing the high e string snap to the fact that I think ZZounds restringed it because it wasn't strung to fender specs as all of their guitars normally are. The pickguard blem was the reason it was discounted so i didn't want to count it against the guitar, the others ive played in stores had no issues whatsoever.
    BabyWantABottle
    Vabolo, how can you gather from this review his hatred of a classic volume based effect? He dosen't even really mention his pedals?
    Vabolo
    RoughDraft274, mind explaining why you hate tremolos? It's just that by reading the review, it seems like an innate hatred.
    MaggaraMarine
    slash02 wrote: thank you jetfuel495 and stratofan97 so, the humbucker it's a good thing, isn't it?
    Different sound, but when a guitar has both single coils and humbuckers it means more variety. Some people prefer single coil sound, it's brighter and more "twangy" or funky. They are for different kind of sounds. You just have to try both and then decide.