Price paid: C$ 1149
Purchased from: L.A. Music
Sound — 9
Even though I have close mates in SSS and HSH configurations, this one's still a little different even on the middle position thanks to the Tex Mex pickups which have a slightly grittier, hotter, edgier bite to them. They respond well to distortion and mate well to my tastes to the bridge HB, although not as smoothly and harmoniously as on the LE HSH Strat. For clean tones, I prefer the AS single coils, but again it's nice having some variety with this guitar that sets it apart from the SSS. The trade-off for the hotter punch in these single coils too is that it tends to hum or buzz more than the SSS American Standard under heavy gain or distortion, although not to the point where it annoys me like my Tele or some cheaper Strats I've played. If you never played a Strat before, you'd love the versatility in this configuration. It suits everything from blues to classic rock to country, and even does a decent job with metal utilizing the bridge PU. All in all, not a whole lot you can't do with this guitar. I'd say it's half way - as you might expect - between the SSS and HSH Standards, and that isn't a bad thing. This one's going to be my go-to for harder edged stuff so it's exactly what I was after.
Overall Impression — 9
It was going to be hard for this guitar to blow me away since I already have decades of Strat ownership and several very similar guitars to compare it to. And that isn't a bad thing I guess... I knew what I was getting into and it's exactly what I thought it would be. I do like the HSS combination, and the slightly hotter pickups add a little spice to the Strat sound. The 2012 model apparently has Fat 50's single coils so it'd be interesting to compare them back to back, but I'm very happy with this guitar in every way now that the setup is sorted out the way I like it. It's just such a proven design and now that so many different pickup configurations are available just take your pick and it's hard to go wrong. For someone getting their first US Strat and looking for more traditional Strat clean tones, I'd go for the SSS model, but if you like to throw the gain up and crank the distortion most of the time, this is a great tool.
Reliability & Durability — 10
My experience with Fenders in general is that they're built relatively well at every price point in the lineup, but get better and better as you'd expect as you move up. I have yet to have ANY issue with build reliability with Fender in 25+ years of playing them, but particularly the US models, which are plain built to a higher standard. Comparing fret edges alone will help explain the difference. The only electronic issue I ever had was a minor wiring issue with an old MIM Strat. They take a beating, and get cooler with age. Simple design that has been proven through the decades, and their build quality has only gotten better over the years lately.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Set up from the factory wasn't quite what I expected out of the box, since my other US Fenders have all been pretty much bang-on right away. This one had some fret buzz and a little uneven action. A quick setup later, and it's spot on now, almost precisely like my SSS which is nice. Fit and finish are spectacular though, with one of the nicest underlying wood grains I've seen in a burst finish, and I've always been a bit of a sucker for the Sienna ash Fenders. The neck and fingerboard are outstanding for my tastes, with a great smooth high gloss fretboard and nice satin back. Controls are buttery smooth - much better than my SSS was initially. After the adjustment, it's fantastic now, but I'll dock a couple marks for the disappointment in not being ready to play in comparison to my other American Standards. Nitpicking sure, but when you've been spoiled in past it's got a lot to live up to.
Features — 9
2011 model HSS American Standard... Mine is the Sienna Sunburst with a maple fretboard. Corona California built. Ash body unique in the lineup this year to the Sienna finish. Maple neck, 9.5" radius, 22-fret, maple fingerboard, modern C shape, medium jumbo frets and hand rolled fret edges. Pickup configuration is two Tex Mex single coils in the neck and middle positions, and a Diamondback humbucker at the bridge. Usual 5-way switching, 2-point synch tremolo, Vintage bent steel saddles, 1 volume and 2 tone knobs, aged white knobs and chrome hardware, bi-flex truss rod, synthetic bone nut, 4-bolt neck with micro-tilt. Comes with the great molded SKB Fender hardshell case, polishing cloth, patch cord, hang tags and so on. By now pretty much everyone knows the standard specs on the US Standard Strats. This one joins my US Standard Strat fleet, which also includes an Olympic white SSS and a limited-edition Hand Stained Ash HSH, so I have pretty much all the pickup configurations covered.