Jimmie Vaughan Fender Stratocaster – A long term review! The first of many long-term reviews about my “keepers”

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I first posted this review August 21, 2007. I still have and love this guitar!

Jimmie Vaughan Fender Stratocaster Longer-Term Review and Impressions, the first of many!

Just for web stuff and completeness: Jimmie Vaughan is one of the best musicians I’ve ever heard or seen. I’d love to shake his hand in person (and get him to sign my JV Strat!). Check out his recordings and discography. He’s played with the kings and queens of guitars and the blues. The fellow is amazing. Thank you, Jimmie, for your gifts of music! (By the way, his name is not Jimmy :-))

My previous review of my Jimmie Vaughan Fender Stratocaster has had hundreds of reads and lots of positive reactions and emails. Thank you all for reading! I’ve been playing my Jimmie Vaughan for many years now… it’s still a seriously wonderful instrument, and is a pleasure to play. I’ve had other Stratocasters now and then since I purchased my Jimmie Vaughan, but none give me the vibe and feel that Jimmie does. (Some folks call these Strats the Jimmy Vaughan Strat…)

I’m going to deviate a bit from my standard review format for this particular write-up. The Jimmie Vaughan Fender Strat is an extraordinary instrument, and has been an extraordinarily good influence on me and my music. I have used my Jimmie Vaughan on three albums now (soon to be a fourth). It is indispensable and an absolute joy to play. Imagine an instrument with an old warm soul – warm and complete – even though it is only a couple of years old. That old soul is harnessed in the Jimmie Vaughn signature Fender Strat.

What follows is my (humble) opinion about this fine instrument – based on real-time experience and many hundreds of hours of play. I’ve made sounds from six different genres with my JV Strat…

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Playability: When one picks up a JV Strat, something sparkles in one’s imagination and in one’s consciousness. It is light-weight, extremely well-balanced, and has a great mixture of features and parts. I want to be very clear that I am not gushing praise on this instrument due to a relationship with a vendor, manufacturer, or for any other reason – I’ve played this instrument a great deal, and I look forward to each opportunity to play my JV Strat.

The neck is still one of the best features of the instrument. It is a nicely-graduated V profile, with great wood, a great carve, and great finishing. The neck has a nice tint, and its finish is a wonderful balance between satin and gloss. When my hands sweat from playing in a hot room, the finish on the neck does not feel grabby or overly slippery. I wish all my Strats had this same neck and neck finish. The fretboard width at the nut and at the saddles is just right – I can finger-pick, hybrid pick, chicken-pick, strum, and more – all in complete comfort for both my hands. This guitar is the best Mexican-made Strat I’ve ever handled. It is one of the few I’ve hardly modded (mine has an “F” neck plate, a roller-string-tree, a treble bleed circuit, and a push-pull neck pickup control for 7 different combinations). I have all the original parts, although I don’t think I’ll ever need them. My wife and kids will keep this one for a long time after I’m gone.

The body contour, weight, and balance is about as comfortable and playable as any guitar I’ve ever had the pleasure to play. Even the consistent, smooth, and beautiful finish of the paint on the body makes the guitar more playable – it’s like holding a brand new guitar, even after a couple of years of wear.

Features: One of the strengths of the JV Strat is its diversity of features. It has a great, upscale neck. It has awesome wiring. It has great-sounding pickups. It has wonderful vintage-style tuners (with old-style string-in-post machine heads). What’s interesting about this is that the Jimmie Vaughan Strat neck sells for more than half the cost of a used JV Strat in its entirety. The neck is the thing and the thing is the neck!

All these features, plus a vintage-looking pick guard and an awesome vintage-style tremolo/whammy make for a Stratocaster package you’ll enjoy for years to come. Other than some funky knobs, I’ve left my JV Strat completely stock – and it will stay that way: it’s just right, just like it is.

Sound: Playability and sound are the JV Strat’s strongest suits. By far, the wiring and Tex-Mex special pickups in the JV Strat sound distinctive, strong and vintage at the same time, with dynamic sound diversity to spare. I’ve still got my original pickups and volume pots. The rest of the circuit has been changed just a tweak 🙂

The JV Strat can play along with country, rock (any), jazzy warm music, smooth music, and even hard rock music. A flip of the pickup selector and a change of gain/eq cause the JV Strat to seem like tons of different guitars. The Jimmie Vaughan Stratocaster is versatile enough to even please my son (he prefers hard-rockin’ nads-to-the-wall double-humbuckin’ guitars with ceramics and metal-looking stuff). I asked him one day which Fender he’d like to get his hands on (if I were to ever let any of them out of my cold, stiff hands ;-)). Without hesitation, he said, “I have always wanted to keep Jimmie.” ‘Nuff said!

Fender Jimmie Vaughn Strat Body Beauty Shot

The body of my 2005 Fender Jimmie Vaughan Strat - hoping for another someday

Value: The Jimmie Vaughan signature Fender Stratocaster is not the least-expensive Strat in Fender’s stable. It is, however, very high in value as compared to other non-USA Stratocasters. With a JV Strat, you get good build quality, great electronics, a superior neck, and good finish in one nice package. I still think it is very much worth its street price. Looking back over the past couple of years, I would definitely say that I would buy it all over again, only to find joy in guitar playing again.

Wishes: I have come to love the simple, vintage-look pick guard. I have no wishes to change this guitar. I wouldn’t change a thing as it comes from the factory – except that I wish I had a second Jimmie Vaughan Strat to play – I don’t want these to go off the market before I get my hands on another. It means too much to me to be without it. Maybe a 70s “F” neck plate?

Jimmie Vaughan Fender Stratocaster Review – First Impression as an owner

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Jimmie Vaughan Signature Fender Stratocaster StratOriginally 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.

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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…