American Special Stratocaster HSS review by Fender

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  • Sound: 10
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Features: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9.6 Superb
  • Users' score: 9.1 (176 votes)
Fender: American Special Stratocaster HSS

Price paid: C$ 500

Purchased from: Craigslist

Sound — 10
It's got an authentic Stratocaster sound. Especially on the neck pickup. Everything feels quite elegant. I play mostly rock and some blues, and also play for my Church almost every weekend. It is a very versatile guitar with the bridge humbucker. I can create some heart tugging riffs with the neck pickup; well defined clean rhythm with the neck+middle position, and a fat sound when I crank up the gain with the bridge position. The middle pickup is somehow very very very bright. I rarely use it alone. But I can see myself switching it on when live, totally depend on the song we play and how the sound is mixed on the soundboard. It can produce some cool lead lines and definitely stands out when live. But I wouldn't play any rhythm with it, it's just too bright. I have a simple rig. I run the guitar through a Boss CS-3 Comp Sustain, an OD-3 Overdrive and a DD-3 Delay. I don't do any complicated stuff on the guitar, nor will I ever plan to. This guitar is sufficient to the type of music I play.

Overall Impression — 10
Overall a good guitar. I got nothing to complain about except for the bridge. The g string is always more out of tune than the other strings after using the tremolo. I don't know how I can fix this, restringing doesn't really work... If this guitar were stolen, I'd probably buy another American Special. But I'd try a SSS with maple fretboard next time.

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Reliability & Durability — 10
As I mentioned before, I play almost every weekend. So yeah, this guitar is quite reliable. I haven't had any issues with it on stage. Solid strap buttons, everything nice. I can definitely depend on it. Looks like it will last a long time. I've already got some pick scratches on the pickguard, so I will have to replace it after a few years.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action was okay, but I did follow a YouTube video to get it fully set up. I raised the bridge pickup a bit just to increase the gain by a little bit. I used to have the neck raised as well because when I use the neck-middle position, I wanted the neck to be a little more present. I don't think the guitar had any flaws. I bought it from Craigslist, but the guy had it for half a month, unplayed, then decided to sell. All stickers, plastic are untouched. The manual bag was unopened. So I guess it was practically brand new. Guitar is an American Fender, so the quality is quite decent.

Features — 9
This guitar is made in the USA. Serial number indicates that it was manufactured in 2011. Alder body, 22 frets maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. It's a Strat with Vintage style 6-bolt bridge. HSS config with 5 way switch, 1 volume 2 tone controls. Nonlocking Fender tuners came with Fender gig bag.

2 comments sorted by best / new / date

    I like the playing of that guy from N'stuff music, but why oh why do people insist on reviewing guitars or pickups with the amp drenched in reverb? It really makes it hard to hear the true sound of the instrument.
    I also have the SSS model, candy apple, and I love the guitar. US quality for a little less than a Standard Strat. I like the larger frets, they let me dig in and bend for some sweet bluesy riffs, and the old-school large headstock looks great as well. If you can get one on eBay for $500, that's a decent price, but I've looked and most go for a bit more than that (up to $700-799, retail is $999). I somehow stumbled into the right pawn shop on the right day for mine. It's immaculate, hardly a ding or scratch, and I only payed $325 plus layaway fees (around $360 total after taxes) for this beauty. I know, hate on me if you must, I would! The deal was they had it marked at $450, which was stupid, and that chain of stores was having a 25% off all music equipment in the month of January sale. (30% if I would've had the cash on me.) Anyway, I love it, although it does go out of tune easily, it's not a big deal. My problem now is that the same shop has an American Standard Strat (It's the $1499 Two-tone Sunburst model) thats in mint condition, even better than this one I bought, and it comes with a $100 hard case, and they told me they'd take $800 for it. I'm trying to justify eating Ramen for a few months so I can put this gorgeous baby on layaway. I may offer $750 and see if they bite, but I know myself, and I'll probably have a lighter wallet and a layaway ticket in hand by Sunday!!