I had been eyeing this Stratocaster
with the big headstock for a year hanging on the wall of my
local Fender dealer store.
It has a beautiful natural ash
body, maple neck and all white cosmetics with a 3-ply white-black-white
pick guard. Vintage saddles and vintage slotted tuners (Fender/Schaller
Vintage "F" Style Tuning Machines) with a 5-screw
vintage tremolo system (Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo).
But enough of the gear talk. What
kept attracting me to it was the big juicy 70s style headstock
and the natural finish ash body.
The wood grain was matched up
so well that it is almost impossible to notice either of the
two seams in the body. The graining in the maple neck is very
attractive and on the headstock, the brush script logo (as
opposed to the "spaghetti" logo) has a nice gold
border around it also, the word "Stratocaster" is
in big black letters contoured around the shape of the headstock.
The neck is a nice "U" shaped profile, with a dark
skunk stripe and a "Bullet" style truss rod it is
very comfortable even for someone with small fingers and wide
hands like me. With a 7.25" radius, 21 fret fingerboard.
Also appealing was the 3 bolt neck with a "shield"
shaped neck plate that features a brush script "F"
and also incorporates the Patented "Micro-Tilt"
neck adjustment system.
I liked the look of it so much
that I knew I was going to buy it when I walked into
the store BEFORE I even plugged it into an amp.
Which leads me to my next topic:
The tone. The vintage style single-coil Strat pickups
with alnico magnets are true to their originals with their
staggered poles. Very clean and warm, with very distinctive
A wide range of tones are attainable from the standard 5 position
switch including the usual 2 and 4 out-of-phase positions.
I ran mine into an all tube Twin Reverb and the combination
was spectacular. It sounded great clean, with a little chorus
and a little warm over-drive.
The highlights for me were the
middle, middle and neck, and neck positions.
Well, I wouldn't say "cons"
because it should be "What didn't work for me right off
the bat". First of all, I use heavy strings. Very
Heavy. This guitar came set up with 9's.
After installing the heavy strings,
I noticed that the extra tension on the bridge caused the
bridge to rise off the body. I had to add two extra springs
(a total of 5) and screw the spring claw all the way flush
with the body to get the bridge to come back down.
Also I had to adjust the truss
rod to remove the extra action height caused by the extra
string tension. Another thing was that because of the heavy
strings I use, the "A" and "E" strings
would not fit in the tuners. I had to "unwind" 2
inches of the strings to get the strings to fit. (not a problem
if you don't use really heavy strings).
The other thing I noticed was
that the pickup/maple-neck combination is not conducive if
you like a lot of distortion. The cleanness of the pickups
and the brightness of the maple neck made for a very bright
shrill high tone. My American Standard Stratocaster with a
rosewood fretboard has a warmer darker tone in heavy overdrive.
Also, if you are used to an American
Standard Stratocaster, you will notice that the tremolo bar
becomes firm and stay put right above the volume knob as opposed
to the American Standard Stratocaster the bar falls down and
out of the way till needed.
While this is a Made in Mexico
guitar, it still has a lot of the original characteristics
of its historic predecessors. The guitar has a lot of vibe
to it and the looks great.
It's tempting to affix the "Bang
for the buck" cliché to it, but I wouldn't want anyone
to think that this is a lesser guitar because of it origin
of manufacture. This guitar is a real player and is very worthy
of sitting next to any of its American counterparts. It has
been in my guitar rack at every gig since I bought it.
By Hugh Ochoa