Price paid: € 525
Purchased from: Thomann
Features — 9
The Fender Standard Stratocaster features an Alder body with a bolt-on Maple neck with tinted satin urethane finish, Maple fingerboard with 9.5" radius and gloss finish, 21 medium jumbo frets and black dot inlays. The scale length is the standard 25.5 inches with a modern C-shaped neck profile. Electronics include 1 volume and 2 tone controls, 5-position selection blade and three Standard Single-Coil Strat Pickups. Hardware is all in chrome and includes 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo and standard cast/sealed tuners. Finish is Candy Apple Red. Made in Mexico either in late 2014 or early 2015 according to the serial number.
Sound — 9
I play various different genres of music, especially when teaching, but I confess that my guilty pleasure when I get a bit of time to play for myself is classic rock and heavy metal bands like Thin Lizzy, Gary Moore, Whitesnake, Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin, Cream, Pink Floyd, Black Sabbath, Iron Maiden and blues. This guitar is perfectly suited for rock - plugged straight into my Marshall MG100DFX with the overdrive/distortion turned on I was able to recreate that lovely classic rock sound. By adding a Big Muff Distortion pedal I was able to achieve a fairly convincing David Gilmour-like sound similar to those found on the "Delicate Sound of Thunder" and "Pulse" live albums. Accompanied by my old Zoom 606 Multi-FX unit the guitar was more than capable of a decent metal sound and many others in between. Personally I love being able to kick on the Big Muff and manipulate the tremolo arm to recreate David Gilmour's intro to "Sorrow" from Pink Floyd's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason."
If I was to compare the Standard Stratocaster to an American Standard Stratocaster then I would have to say that the Mexican-made guitar has a lighter sound, less dense in the low end and a little less trebly in the higher register. Played clean, the single-coil pickups have a nice clarity, especially in the middle and neck positions, however turn up the gain and they are clearly in their element and deliver plenty of bite! The standard pickups are less powerful than those in a USA-made Fender but at half the price the Standard Stratocaster's still more than capable of producing a quality, resonant rock tone with plenty of character and decent sustain - I should know as most my Fender guitars are Mexican made! I would highly recommend taking the time to switch between the pickups and play with the tone control until you find the sound you're looking for! I do this with all my guitars.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As the first brand new guitar I have purchased in a long time (I often prefer second-hand guitars that have been played in and have a bit of character) I was really surprised by just how playable the guitar was straight out of the box. I can't really say too much about the guitar's original factory set-up as apart from checking that the guitar was in immaculate condition and making sure all the electronics functioned properly on arrive (you have to be careful with couriers), I only played it briefly before taking the guitar to be professionally set-up by my local guitar tech. I do this with all my guitars, so this is no reflection on the guitar's action when purchased.
The set-up only cost me half what it normally does when I take in a second-hand purchase, so the original factory set-up must have been pretty good to begin with! The guitar has been set up with a nice low action for Ernie Ball Super Slinky (9-42) strings as I use it for both lead and rhythm and is free of fret buzz or choking. The finish is a lovely Candy Apple Red and the frets feel well finished allowing for smooth playability during string bends. The standard tuners do their job admirably and hold the tuning surprisingly well, even after heavy tremolo use.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Reliability plays a huge factor for me as I both teach and perform on a regular basis. The Fender Standard Stratocaster is considerably lighter in comparison to the weight of my usual Gibson Les Pauls but it is solid in construction and is likely to withstand the rigours of regular use. Any serious guitarist knows that you should always carry a back-up guitar when performing as one can never predict when a string is going to break, however having said that, I feel confident that I could rely on this guitar without the need for a back-up. The build quality and finish is of a very high standard and it easily out-shines other Strat-type models by other brands within a similar price bracket. I haven't used the guitar in a performance setting yet but have plans to take it with me the next time a performance opportunity reveals itself.
Overall Impression — 9
I have been playing the guitar for 20+ years in a variety of styles; classical, rock, jazz, blues, metal and other contemporary formats and have been teaching the instrument for half of that. During that time I have experimented with a large number of different guitars and I have to confess that I was very impressed by the quality of the Fender Standard Stratocaster. I had previously owned a 2004 Standard Stratocaster that I sold to help fund the purchase of another guitar and I have to say that the updated model is considerably better than my previous guitar. The neck especially is a great improvement with the satin finished back and glossy fingerboard. Previously I have only been aware of this combination being used on Fender's best-selling Eric Clapton Stratocaster. Compared to the purely satin finish on the older model this is the perfect compromise between a classic '50s-style glossy neck and a modern satin finished neck. Fender have clearly been playing attention to the demands of the customers. I will be honest, the Fender Standard Stratocaster may not be as powerful or as expressive as a USA-made Fender but at half the price this guitar certainly packs a punch!
If it were lost or stolen I would definitely buy it again. I really wanted another Stratocaster since I have started playing a lot of Pink Floyd lately, and my Les Pauls just don't have the right tone. I know everyone raves about David Gilmour's Black Strat (with very good reason) but having grown up listening to Pink Floyd's "A Momentary Lapse of Reason" and "The Division Bell" in the '80s and '90s I am very fond of the material on these two albums and the subsequent live albums "Delicate Sound of Thunder" and "Pulse." As a result I have always had a fondness for Gilmour's Japanese-made Fender '57 Reissue Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red, which inspired my colour choice. I may one day replace the pickups with the David Gilmour EMG DG20 pickup set, but for now I am quite happy with the guitar the way it is!
My overall impression... the Fender Standard Startocaster is a fantastic instrument and I would highly recommend it!