Price paid: C$ 1249
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 10
I've owned a couple HSS Strats in the past, and while they were fairly versatile, this one takes Strat sound to a whole new level. The sheer volume of sounds this guitar can create is amazing, and the humbucker design used on this guitar really is something special when you mate it with the USA Strat single coil (positions 2 and 4). Strat players looking for a little different punch will no doubt fall in love with this. It blew me away. Not just playing a Strat with humbuckers, but the way Fender has balanced and mated the two HB's with the single coil. It's absolutely brilliant. Playing either HB on its own will be a nice variety for SSS owners, but the way the single coil fills out the sound and attack either way and provides an incredibly full yet bright tone is really the surprise I had. I honestly can't believe Fender hasn't pushed this out before, or on other models. I've previously used HSS Strats more for crunch and distortion settings than clean, but with this baby I honestly can't get enough of the way position 4 sounds with just a little reverb or compression, or pure clean. Honestly between this guitar and my US SSS model, there aren't too many sounds I can't replicate, in any genre of music. For over past 25+ years, I play a wide variety of stuff, from classic rock to edgy country to blues and everything in between, and if I could only have one guitar to do it all, this new HSH model would have to be the one without question. I play through a HOT Rod Deluxe, and add some GT10 "tweaks" on occasion, but even straight clean into the HRD this is one beautiful sounding machine.
Overall Impression — 10
I really want to give a 9 somewhere to avoid the impression of the kid in the candy store, but the poop-eating grin I've been sporting since I first plugged this in would tell you I'm lying. I really don't know where to dock a point. So my apologies, but it's 10's across the board. At the end of the day, nothing related to pickups, finishes, materials, or design really matters - it's how the guitar makes you feel, and this one is just the best guitar I've ever played. Beyond that, it's also the most unique Stratocaster I've ever layed eyes on. I really hope Fender sees the potential in this HSH configuration and pushes it out to some more mainstream Strat models. It's so versatile, so well balanced, and the combination is something that will really bring a smile to experienced Strat players when you hear them together. I've said this before about other guitars but with this one I believe it's true... I'll have this one with me as long as I'm able to keep a death grip on it. Hard to find them now, but if you're a Strat player and want something unique and different and rewarding, you'd have a hard time beating this.
Reliability & Durability — 10
While I've only had this unit for a couple weeks, I own and have owned other American Fenders both Strats and Teles and have no fears this one is built to the same level. The only question I have is with the body finish, since it's a unique and rare one. However, it seems today everyone is looking for the road-worn look, so how can I even complain if it does wear faster than other US machines? I haven't had a single build issue with any Fender products, and the only electronics issues I've run into were related to knob wiring on a Mexican model. Safe to say that you're going to be pleased with this series, no question.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Right out of the case this one was set up very nicely, as you might I guess expect from an American Fender model, although the action was a little higher than my SSS or Tele. Outside of the string height, the neck feels as great as my other American Fenders, and it's the nicest rosewood fretboard I've played. Fret edges are buttery smooth, and all controls work beautifully. No buzz on any fret. I think my SSS may be slightly low, but since it doesn't buzz I never raised the action. This guitar has me thinking I might now. The finish, well, the photos will tell the story there... It's incredibly unique, and I just love the way the woodgrain stands out. The body is very light although I don't have a weight to provide. The "limited edition" neckplate is very cool too. I hate reviews that give all 10's for ratings, but I fear I'm going to have to do it with this one. I haven't been able to find a single fault with this axe.
Features — 10
Part of the Fender Special Run Hand Stained Ash American Standard series, mine is a Stratocaster HSH. Long name for a limited edition Strat, but also a very unique Strat design. Features include an Ash body with a hand-rubbed stain and satin-lacquer finish, which really brings out the grain in the wood. Pickups are a real rarity in a Fender guitar, let alone a Strat... HSH, with two "Twin Head" humbuckers sandwiching an American Strat single coil. Typical Strat 5-way switching, with two tone knobs and one master volume. My model is the wine red one (there was also a mahogany one created), and it has the buffed rosewood fretboard over a modern C-shape maple neck (there is a maple fretboard version that was also sold). Most other appointments are typical American Standard variety, from the synchronized 2-point tremolo with Vintage style bent steel saddles, 3-ply pickguard, synthetic bone string nut, 9.5" radius, 22 medium jumbo frets with hand-rolled edges, bi-flex truss rod, etc. Of course it comes with the Fender SKB molded case with all the same candy as the USA Strats have. For the level of uniqueness of this guitar (less than 150 made), and the usual Corona attention to build and craftsmanship detail, I'm going to give this a solid 10.