Price paid: $ 410
Purchased from: ebay
Features — 6
This review is of late '90s Classic Series Stratocaster. '50s Classic. 21 fret. I believe these guitars are Alder bodies with a Poly finish. Typical SSS pickup configuration. Volume knob, tone knobs x2. Maple neck, maple fretboard. Mine was purchased with padded gig bag. Seafoam Green MIM of course. I bought the guitar used so there was no case candy but a new one would get you tools, polish cloth, and cable I think. For the price, Fender does give you a nice set of goodies though. The Alder body is really an upgrade from the typical Poplar MIM bodies. Also, a much nicer finish on the Maple neck and fretboard than the Standard MIM pieces. I would say these guitars sit right in between a Mexican Standard and an American Standard.
Sound — 7
I am using this with a Fender Blues Jr Tweed Limited Edition with "Fat" switch. Also a Mesa Studio +22. My effects are fairly sparse. Typically just a Tube Screamer, TC Gravy Chorus Pedal, Boss DS1 or a Guitar Fetish Brownie. I would say that the guitar does a nice job for what I paid. I am not sure I would buy one new as they are about 700 USD. I think you could hold out for a decent American Standard on the used market for those dollars. Not that the guitar is not cool. I love the vintage feel of the think but for those that have said it is on par with the American line, it simply is not true. The difference between the MIM and MIA lines are immediately apparent as soon as you pick it up. Although the Classic series is Alder, it is 3 piece where the Americans are two piece. In terms of tone, that goes along way. I do however, like it for its vintage tone and feel. Thin and bright in the bridge position and throaty and howling in the neck position. Very nice. Make sure you are pushing a quality amp though. This guitar into a cheap amp unit will be lacking for sure. However, any nice tube amp will due to make this guitar sing.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Nice set up out of the box. Pain looks great. Aged looking plastics and the aged neck finish look great. One ply pickguard gets a bit warpy in quick fashion though. Vintage tuners feel good and hold tune. Tremolo is loose and easy to handle and stays in tune as good as any other Strat I have played. Frets are dressed nicely and the neck feels fast enough for me. All the controls operate smoothly and without any noise. Of course the usual single coil hum if you get up close to the amp but that is what makes a Classic what it is. I good reproduction of the early days of the Strat. Frets are nicely done with adequate attention to fit and finish. It's ready to go out of the box for the most part. Maybe a treble bleed circuit on the volume knob would be cool as the highs roll of pretty quick when you trim the volume.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Fender reliability? They are bomb proof. No issue here at all. Everything is solid and ready to be put to work. Don't be timid with these guitars. Sling them like a the rock star you are! They are built like a tank. I hit some dive bomb trem hits and it kept tune nicely. The vintage tuners are fast to re-string. The body has a solid feel, With the exception of limited tones for multi genre gigs, I would for sure take this guitar to a show without a backup. I would have no reservations about its reliability and outright toughness.
Overall Impression — 8
I play in a multi genre cover band so I do not use this guitar as my first choice. I feel like I need a humbucker in the line up for sure. I have an American HSS that does the trick there. However, when we drop into some country/rock or get crazy with an old Surf tune, I do reach for this baby. It also handles the Chili Peppers stuff pretty well. Nice ringing bell tones when I crank the Blues Jr. up a bit. I would buy another at the price I paid but would not go much more than $500 at all. Save up another $100 and look for a road weary American Strat, I think you will be much happier. With that disclaimer made, If you want cool colors and a vintage feel at a non-custom shop price, the Classic '50 holds its own quite well indeed.