Originally posted February 2006 this was one of my first reviews! I still have (and love!) my Jimmie Vaughan signature Stratocaster… One of the best guitars I’ve played…
I’ve been looking for just the right Fender(tm) Stratocaster(tm). My heart wants a nice , Custom Shop American Strat(tm), my wallet wants a Squier(tm) Strat.
Let me begin by saying that the American-made Strats and Telecasters are superb, and that there is no substitute for a Custom Shop or high-end Strat/Tele if you’re looking for a high-end instrument. With that said, I’ve been playing an extremely wide variety of Stratocasters for quite some time now. My big question has been, how can I get just the right playability, feel, price, and sound for less than $1000US??? This review answers lots of those questions for me, and I hope will help you, too.
My first Strat; I had the basic Squier Strat with the maple fretboard for quite a while. It was extremely well-made, very reliable, OK tuning, and OK intonation (it could not be adjusted to the point where the tempered tuning I use would stick…). The neck was a very soft “C” shape, and the body was the lightest Strat I’ve ever played (it was even neck-heavy when you played it with a relaxed strap position). I made several great pop tunes with that guitar. I sincerely think that the little black Squier Strat is absolutely phenomenal for a beginner, or for someone who wants a Strat to take to the beach on vacation (don’t get beer or sand on your Custom Shop Strat!). The maple fretboard variety is a favorite of mine. I like the feel, the hardness of the wood, and I like the fine grain it offers for pitch-bending. I sold the Squier to a beginning guitarist, and she’s havin’ a blast with it (I think it’s great when guitars live multiple lives! Do they have Karma??? If they do, that particular Strat should be great to go – it’s been wonderful.)
OK… now to the part about my next Strat… enter Deus Ex Machina
I had been playing a nice Olympic White (maple fretboard) Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster at my local guitar store – on and off for an entire year – it was like I was magnetized to it – it drew me every time I came into the store.
Quick Opinion: I’ve played the Jimmie Vaughan many times over the past several months – verdict: An Absolute Steal!!!!!! It plays like an un-tinted maple-neck American Strat, handles and feels like any Standard American Strat I’ve played, and has a great, growly, low-noise sound only found on guitars with Tex-Mex pickups.
The picture of the Oly white Strat above is similar to my actual Strat (although the real thing is actually a more pleasant off-white and less of a beige like the picture indicates). I liked it so much that I borrowed some cash and bought the floor-model example. It is the nicest and best-playing Fender I have ever owned.
Playability: The neck is a light “u” or “v” type of shape, is easy to grasp for large or small hands, and has the quick feel of sealed satin hard maple. Near the headstock, the back profile of the neck is a deeper “v”, and as you go towards the body, the neck softens to a “u.” The neck is a delight, similar to the un-tinted neck $1200 Strat variety, and is not found on any currently-available non-US Strat that I have been able to find. The body is medium in weight – not too heavy, and not as light as some of the lightweight ash Strats. The JV Strat is much more comfortable than the ’70s Strats I played as a kid. Tuning-wise, Fairly aggressive string bending did not pull it out of tune.
Sound: Rox your sox!!! Nice mid-range, not too noisy, clean when clean, aggressive when played distorted, and sings the blues (especially through the Fender Hot Rod at the guitar shop) like an old pro! Far surpasses Standard and Highway 1 Strats in the sound department… The Jimmie Vaughan Strat is set up with .one volume knob and two tone knobs (neck to bridge if viewed from the player’s side of the guitar).
Value: This is a $999 guitar in value (not ‘retail’, ‘street’). Period. The sound, quality of make, and appointments are top-notch and represent the Mexican Strat pinnacle.
If you can afford the JV Strat, go for it. You’d have to step up to American Deluxe or Custom Shop to get a more satisfying instrument.
Features: Nearly every feature makes this a ‘working musician’s Strat’. The pickups: great; the vintage tuners: just fine; the neck: good for hours at a time;, the trem, bridge, and weight: just fine; the paint finish: flawless. The gig bag is a nice touch (although I have a Freedom hard shell case for this wonderful instrument). The Schaller-strap-lock-compatible strap buttons are a really nice feature. I’ve got a nice strap that is set up for Schallers, and I can use it on this Strat without installing new buttons. The neck plate is the four-screw variety and does not have micro-tilt.
More about the tuners: I removed the guitar-store-played Fender 250Ls (stock strings) and cleaned everything up for carnauba waxing and re-stringing. I bought some 3350L strings (Fender stainless-steel light .09-> bullets) and restrung the guitar. The tuners are the delightful vintage tuners, with the scooped-bean-shape and the old-style rear covers. The strings are mounted in the machine head stalk much like those on Fender basses – you place an end of the string down into a hole in the stalk, bend it down in the flat slot, and turn the machine key until the string winds along the stalk. These are fine tuners and are easy to get threaded for the start. I did not wind the entire string on the stalk, but cut a few inches from the end. The strings tended to run sharp as I “broke them in” with gentle pulling and string bending. After about five or six tunings and pulling, the tuning became rock-solid and the guitar has not de-tuned at all in a day or so.
Wishes: The one-ply pick guard on the one at the Guitar Center is flat and firm, but unexpectedly cheap of Fender (I know, it is supposed to be “vintage”). A nice white/black/white or pearloid pick guard would have been more wonderful – or a mint green one… The neck-bolt plate would be great if it had an “F”, or “Fender”, or something on it. The plain neck-bolt plate is surprisingly plain-looking on this great Strat – I understand the 50s thing, but this Stratocaster is too cool to be so plain…