The Fender FSR Ash Noiseless Stratocaster Transparent White Blonde Review – Creamy Goodness!

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The Fender FSR Ash Stratocaster Noiseless See-through White Blonde Review! Good enough to own one twice!

So, what is “FSR”, anyway? According to Fender’s web site, FSR means “Fender Special Run.” You can read a bit more here at Fender’s web site. The link opens a new window…. FSR Fender products pop up here and there, generally at major online or brick-and-mortar dealers. Sometimes the extra cool ones (like the ones that Jeff Allen signed) come to hometown dealers, too. I’ve had an FSR Strat or Tele here and there over the years. Sometimes they are just color combinations on the standard stuff, other times; they’re great combinations of great materials that aren’t offered together.

The white blonde Fender FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless Pickups is one of those wonderful FSRs that shouldn’t get away from you if you want an awesome sounding Strat that really fits the bill. Why did I sell off some of my instruments just so I could get one (and then another after someone offered me the right price for my first (customized, too!) one? Read on…

Although zZounds doesn’t offer the blond ash Noiseless FSR Strat, they do carry a HUGE array of Fender Stratocasters. Click here and read all about them! It helps me write more reviews if you buy awesome gear at zZounds. Besides, they have great customer service and return policies!

FenderFSRAshNoiselessStratFactoryImage

Factory image. The colors are a little off, but the idea is about right

Quick Opinion: The FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless pickups and the transparent white blonde finish is superb. The neck is (at least, at the moment) unique, the electronics are awesome, and the build quality is just fantastic. I love this guitar. If you’re looking for a mid-priced Stratocaster that won’t break the bank and will play its heart out, this is definitely one to consider!

This particular FSR Stratocaster has good looks, easy playability, that wonderful ash-body sound, and the quiet power of Fender’s “Noiseless” single coil pickups. Even the pickguard is cool: mint green – like an old friend from the 70s that’s been around for a long time.

The interesting neck, the mint pickguard, the pickups, and the look and feel of the transparent gloss finish on the ash body is intriguing and very playable.

Here’s a quick breakdown of this particular guitar’s features:
* Ash body;
* Transparent white blonde body finish;
* Combination semi-gloss/gloss neck (read on), modern C shape;
* Vintage-style 6-screw non-floating tremolo bridge;
* Maple neck, maple fretboard;
* Traditional S-S-S pickup configuration with two tones and a master volume;
* 5-way blade pickup selector switch (N-NM-M-MB-B);
* Mint pickguard… Cool!;
* Ping-style tuners and old-style string tree on B and high E;
* Synthetic bone nut;
* Fender’s awesome Noiseless hand-wound pickups;
* Nicer Fender gig bag

Sound: If you like a quiet Stratocaster that has the guts to pull off everything from country to blues to Stevie Ray Vaughan to Jeff Beck to Clapton, this guitar is a real contender. Overall, this Strat captures the essence of what a Strat sounds like, but with quieter oomph.

Let’s get into details about what drove me to this MIM Strat in the first place…
1) Pickups/electronics
2) Tone woods – a one-piece maple neck and: Ash!

Pickups and Electronics: The pickups are a big part of “the reason for the season” with these particular FSR Strats. The pickups are hotter than vintage, but aren’t super wide-open. They live up to their “quiet” reputation with their AlNiCo magnets, special enamel-coil wire, dressed magnet edges, and the nicely upgraded controls (pots, caps, resistors). They sound great, are nicely balanced, and are truly great at making that “Fender Strat” sound.

The electronics are the upgraded/special set of controls that Fender sells with its Noiseless set kits. The tone pots and volume pot work superbly and sound just fine. All the solder joints are really clean and nicely done. The wiring is well-routed and planned – overall: nice stuff.

I like the traditional CRL-style mechanical blade pickup selector switch. Fender, please don’t switch to those awful PCB switches (like those in the Blacktop Fenders)!

Tone woods Some of the best sounding Fender guitars in history have been ash. Ash has a completely different character than alder or basswood. It has a denser tone (at least, to my ears), and has more definition and ring than alder.

My particular FSR ash Strat sounds warmer and more full than my alder Stratocaster. It has a heavier feel to the shoulder, but I like the sustain and resonance of the ash.

Body wood can be a really personal thing for Fender players, so I won’t take up a stance here – I just want to try to have an objective view of things in my reviews: Ash is a great tone wood, one that does great for rock styles and country styles.

FenderFSRAshNoiselessStratocasterJimPearsonCustomBodyShot

My customized FSR with the 50s Reissue neck, my Jimi Hendrix-style “Gypsied” pickguard, and my Schaller strap locks

Playability This guitar fits the body like a soft cotton shirt, and the overall balance is excellent. The ash body is a little heavier than my alder-body Strat, but not enough that I really notice it. I found that the body feels smoother against my skin than my Highway 1, but not as buttery as my Jimmie Vaughan signature MIM Strat. The body is extremely high gloss, done to the nines. Someone spent A LOT of time getting this one right. When I sold my first one, I found myself pining away for it about a week later… I eventually saved up and bought another during a big online sale.

The feel of the traditional Strat body is a story on it own, with countless thousands of friends out there to testify. It’s a very playable body, comfortable and straightforward. So very easy to reach the front of the guitar… you don’t spend much time thinking about the body’s contact with your arm and ribcage. Simple. Genius.

Vintage-style (6-screw, non-floating) Fender Stratocaster bridges aren’t the most intonation-stable bridges. They require a good setup to stay close in tune for an extended period of play, but still go out here and there even then. If you want extreme tuning stability, you’ll need to go to a stop-tail with locking tuners, or a double locking trem such as a Floyd Rose, Jackson, Kahler, or Ibanez. (There are Floyd-bridged Strats out there…). If you can accept that you’ll have to tweak the tuning keys if you’re a big tremolo-bar-bomber, the vintage-style bridge is fine. When I’m not specifically looking for trem effects while I’m playing, I don’t even put the trem arm in my Strat’s bridge when I play it. To put this into perspective, when I recorded with my American Standard Stratocaster last month (two-point floating trem, Ping-style tuners), I had to stop and tune it several times when I pushed the trem around a bunch for some parts of the recording.

I love the way Strats play. Even though I am a fan of many types of guitars, I’m not sure I’d ever do without at least one Strat in my closet.

Playability: The neck This particular FSR Strat came with a neck that isn’t like its contemporary MIM Standard Strat cousins. The fretboard and headstock face are high gloss, while the back of the neck is a creamy semi-gloss/matte finish. The back of the neck feels a lot like my Fender Deluxe Ash Telecaster’s neck. The front of the neck reminds me a lot of the nicer Japanese Fender necks and the 50s reissue necks made in America and in Mexico.

This (currently) unusual combination of gloss front/matte back is a neat combination. I felt instantly comfortable with it. The neck back profile is a general C “modern” shape and feels compatible with the necks of the Fender MIM Standard models. It’s just thick enough to feel substantial, without feeling like a Jackson speedy neck. The width is quite comfortable, and I find chording is just as easy as picking and arpeggiating. Nice neck.

(Editor’s note: I really like a boat, V, or D neck on Fenders, so I ended up putting a 50s reissue neck on my FSR. A VERY happy eBay member got my FSR’s original neck and found it to be a real winner for him… Necks are like shoes. You like the way they feel or you don’t. NO issues with the FSR’s beautiful neck: I just liked my V neck better.)

Don’t forget to check out zZounds’ selection of Fender Stratocasters

Quality: The build quality of my FSR Ash Noiseless blonde Stratocaster is nothing short of superb. There was only one flaw on the entire guitar: the neck pocket on the bass side has a tiny gap with the original neck, on the edge facing towards the headstock. I don’t think this is a deal-breaker for me. After all, this is not an Eric Clapton Signature Strat or an Eric Johnson Signature Strat. It’s a mid-line animal that was built with LOTS of attention to detail and love from the folks at the Ensenada plant.

FenderFSRNoiselessAshStratocasterDetailBackByJimPearson

The back goodness of creamy transparent blonde. You can just see the grain in this (not my best) picture. The “F” neck plate is my addition: factory versions ship with a plain neck plate.

I couldn’t have found a nicer example of neck craftsmanship, body routing and finish, electronics detail, and fret detail in such a nice mid-priced guitar. Speaking of the frets: they’re very nicely ended and crowned, smooth, and even…

I’m gushing, but then again, this guitar deserves it. I don’t know that every one is this way, but the two I’ve had were excellent examples.

Value: The FSR Ash Stratocaster with Noiseless pickups is about $150 more than the MIM Standard Stratocaster. In my opinion, it is very much well worth it. It’s a strong value if you’re looking for much nicer pickups and much better neck and tone woods. In the grander scheme of Fender guitars, this one is mid-range and has a value that’s more akin to the $899+ “specialty” Fenders like the Player series and Road Worn series

I would have a hard time choosing between this Strat and the much more expensive 50s Player Stratocaster. I like the 50s Player: a lot! But this one is much more affordable and sounds much better! The difference for me? The body wood wins on the FSR and the neck wins on the 50s Player.

Wishes: I do wish these particular FSRs had V-shaped necks. Otherwise, I love them just like they are!

Fender Highway One (Hwy 1) USA Stratocaster Guitar Review – I still have one for recording to this day. Love them!

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I first wrote this review on October 3, 2009. I’ve had a few of these for short periods of time since then. I now have a burgundy SSS model – it’s become a bit of a Frankenstein, with a 50’s reissue V neck, vintage tuners, and such: but still the excellent body and pickguard and electronics I’ve come to love and respect from a Highway One USA Stratocaster…/h3>

2007 Fender Highway One USA Stratocaster Review

No matter how many instruments I own or play, there’s always a need and a feel for a Strat. The sound is unmistakable. The feel is just right. The overall experience playing a nice Stratocaster is really an eye, feel, sound thing (and sometimes, a smell thing).

Strats have changed over the years, from the simpleness of the 50s to the big-hair rock of the eighties to the current array of models. We have so many from which to choose… Made in Mexico, made in Japan, and made in the United States of America. Maple, SSS, HSS, HH, rosewood, alder, ash, mahogany, big frets, skinny frets, vintage headstock, “Jimi” headstock (would that be a Woodheadstock?), gypsy bridge, AlNiCo, ceramic, samarium cobalt, noiseless, noisy, Greasebucket, S1, roadworn… There are so many different Strats and so many different things about those Strats. For every season, for every reason, for every musical decade, there are Strats for them since the 50s. They’re a part of music’s fabric now – and are one of the greatest easy-to-customize guitars on the market…

I was looking for a USA Stratocaster. I didn’t quite have the change available for an American Standard or an American Deluxe – so I looked at and fell in love with the Highway One. I’ve had Highway One Fenders before, and have always been pleased.

This particular Stratocaster is a complete joy and has absolutely no disappointments. The sound is unmistakable, remarkable, and pure Strat. It plays and looks like a dream.

Quick Opinion: The 2007 and later Highway One Strats are great (previous ones were fine, but for this conversation…). They play well, are affordable, and they sound just like I wanted to hear. They really are well made, and are very comfortable to play for one recording or a whole set of gigs. If you’d like a nice big-fret USA-made Stratocaster, you owe it to yourself to try one of these.

Features: Where do I start? They’re genius simple and complex-wonderful all at the same time. They sound and play in a rich experience that leaves the player (and the listener) grinning.

There are lots of kinds of Fender Stratocasters. Browse them and find the right one for you at zZounds.com and their “love your guitar” guarantee.

My particular Highway One is, if I am correct, a short-run guitar. I purchased this one when all that was available was rosewood-fretboard Highway Ones. Now, Fender makes a version of these as a standard offering. I’m really glad they did. I like the old HSS Highway Ones just fine, but this was my alternative to an SSS American Standard – and I LOVE maple fretboards on Fenders. (To be honest, I’m reviewing a Gibson SG Raw Power with a maple body, neck, and fretboard – and I love it there too… stay tuned.)

A short list of what the Highway One has:
Excellent post-vintage AlNiCo III magnet pickups with staggered poles and excellent output balance – not too hot, not too thin
A thin-skinned nitrocellulose finish – the more you play it, the smoother and shinier it gets, the more it feels and looks like an old friend…
An excellent mid-size maple neck and fretboard with that 70s “Jimi” headstock and lettering
A comfortable lightweight body
The excellent vintage-style tremolo
The always cool Fender Greasebucket tone circuit
Standard tuners and buttons
Decent mass to the trem block
Great-feeling jumbo-style frets

Quality: This particular Highway 1 is an extremely well-made instrument. The craftsmanship is careful and is an extremely good example of what American guitar builders can do.

The fit and finish are flawless. The pickups are wound wonderfully well. The feel, finish, and wood chosen for the neck are just right for the satin variety necks.

Screw holes are lined up right, the action was just perfect for .009 Fender Bullets right out of the box. Easy and buttery to play, without any issues or not-normal buzzes. The frets are level and are nicely polished from the factory (see my wants and desires section of this review…)

I was extremely impressed with the consistency of the matte nitro finish. Nitro is not easy to apply in any stretch of the imagination – and matte finishes show every little flaw or inconsistency. This Strat was loved by the person who made it. Period. The lacquer finish feel is great and is a pleasure to have against your skin. I do like gloss finishes as a personal preference. However, the finish on these doesn’t grab when you get sweaty…

I also felt the new Fender gig bag is a major improvement. Highway Ones come with the new super-thick, super-strong-fabric gig bag. Very nice. As gig bags go, these are definitely among the very best.

Playability: Here’s where I start getting warm fuzzies about the Highway One I have: the physical experience of playing the guitar is fantastic. Everything about it from the way the trem works to the feel of the frets to the balance of the body and neck is just a pleasure. That’s the operative term for these: a pleasure. Not every Strat is a pleasure to play, even when they’re correctly and professionally set up.

The balance on my shoulder (with a nice 2.5″ faux-suede, thick black strap)is superb. I don’t know if this is something factual, but here’s something nicely subjective: the big headstock makes the balance unique. I felt that the way this guitar is assembled and planned and sourced is ideal for someone looking for their guitar to feel almost transparent to their playing.

Simply put, it becomes an extension of my mind and heart – without getting in the way and demanding my attention. I’ve made some nice progressive rock instrumentals with this instrument, and I couldn’t be more happy with the way the guitar felt standing or sitting.

Action is subjective, and is really a personal thing. My son Kennon (of the N.C. band InterTwyneD) likes his strings low but off the frets a good bit – he likes to dig under the string a little when he bends. Me? I like it low enough that the strings buzz a little when they’re struck or plucked with vigor. This Strat has been set both ways, and in both instances, it STILL played like buttery joy. Smooth, effortless, and just awesome. This thing plays .010s just fine, but it really feels effortless with .009s. (Incidentally, I tried this guitar with Carlos Santana Big Core 10.5 pure , nickel strings and was very happy with the result.)

Sound: OK… this is a place where you’ll either think I’m a genius or a charlatan – Strat players are funny about their sound. Malmsteen, Beck, Hendrix, Clapton, Guy (and the list goes on in a BIG way)… all these folks get (or got) different sounds out of their Strats, and contemporary amateur and pro Strat players are no different. That’s my disclaimer… and I’m stickin’ with it.

I REALLY like the Jimmie Vaughan, SRV, and Tex-Mex based Roadworn Strat sounds. They make me giddy with distortion, clean, blues, chorus, wah, phaser, crunchy, reverby, vibe-y, and more. BUT these AlNiCo III USA pickups are a great way to have vintage sounds without the truly vintage thin-ness.

Bell tones. Bell tones. Bell tones. Bell tones. (Did I tell you Bell Tones?) The 2 and 4 position sounds on this guitar are just fantastic.

The neck position sound is a little too bright for me. I really wanted something warmer out of this guitar. Even with unique wiring, this guitar didn’t quite give me the smooth rich neck pickup experience I was expecting.

The bridge sounds great in overdrive, as does the middle (3rd position). I use an http://www.buyanalogman.com (opens new window) SD1 Silver when playing some of my more adventurous Strat stuff – and the two are MADE FOR EACH OTHER. Wow. Just, WOW.

Value: These days, guitars have gone up in price to reflect the US Dollar, and the cost of everything… but when you look at the Highway One’s street price compared to the US Standard street price and the MIM Strat street price, this guitar is really priced just right. It’s not a bargain. But at the same time, I don’t see it as overpriced, either. The Highway One Stratocaster is an extreme bargain when compared to MIJ Strats.

You get A LOT of guitar for your money. The craftsmanship, features, and components are well worth every cent these cost. Both in the new market and the used/secondary market they are worth the money.

They hold their value more than the MIM Strats, and in some selling environments, better than the depreciation of the USA Standard Stratocasters.

When times get better, I will buy another to replace this one once it is sold.

Wishes: I’m not really too hung up about anything on this particular Strat. But I do have some wishes:
Do a better job with the fret-ends.
Really, the rest of the craftsmanship is worthy of rolled-edge fretboards. The lack of rolled edges feels strange on a guitar this nice.
Tuners: they need to hold tune better. They’re nice and they’re smooth, but could do a better job on this particular instrument. The vintage string-in-post tuners on the Jimmie Vaughan and Roadworn Strats hold much better.
Honestly, bring back the honey blonde with the maple fretboard! Or at least, some type of white/tan/blonde. Black and sunburst are so very commonplace these days…

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…


Free Shipping and more information about the wonderful Jimmie Vaughan Fender Stratocaster here at zZounds.com

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?

2006 Fender HSS Stratocaster (Strat) Review – I love these versatile coil-splitters!

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I first wrote this entry on February 12, 2007… These are still a strong option for those in need of a Strat and a Humbuckery guitar

Fender Standard HSS Stratocaster (“Fat Strat”) Review

Electric guitar: Effervescent, visceral, emotional, and motivating…
Whether or not you start out as a Fender fan, the HSS Stratocaster is an extremely flexible instrument that is sonically diverse and very playable!
I was looking for an instrument that was comfortable and had a sonic range of sounds, was comfortable and affordable, and would compliment my Epiphones, Parker, Squiers, and Fenders.

I love the feel of a Stratocaster – the light weight, the wonderful ribcage cutaway, the warm rounded shoulder for the picking arm, and a simple, clean neck design.

The Fender Standard HSS Strat is all the things a Stratocaster is – but adds the crunchy, punchy sound (to the bell-tone Strat sounds of the neck and mid pickups) with its bridge humbucker.

At first, I wasn’t really interested in the idea of a humbucker-enabled Stratocaster – Strats have always been “three singles” to me. However, after I played them many times over, I discovered just how sweet they are and how versatile they are.

Quick Opinion: The Standard HSS Strat is a dream to play. It has sounds that crunch like a Gibson and sounds that sing like an old Stratocaster. The 2006 (and later) Standard Strats (including the HSS) are deeply improved over previous years, and it shows. The new tremolo block, pickups, frets, and finishes are outstanding.

You can read more, get free shipping and great guarantees (and price-match!) here at zZounds.com.

Playability: The HSS Standard Stratocaster plays with great ease. It has wonderful string-bending capability, has a body shape that lets you forget that your pick arm is on a guitar body, and has a neck that is medium-broad for pretty good finger-picking capability. (In fact, if you’re a finger-picking or hybrid-picking player, the Fender Strat neck and fretboard are among the most comfortable and easy-to-play on the market.)

As with most any Strat, the pickup selector switch is easy to use and is well within the pick hand’s reach. Since the tonal variety of an HSS Strat is often more interesting and varied than a Standard three-single pickup Stratocaster, you may find yourself hitting the 5-way pickup selector switch quite often – varying your sound has never been so easy.

The subtle, non-gloss neck finish is great for when your hands are damp with sweat – your hands can still slide around the neck pretty well, but you can also get a good grip for those hard-to-finger chord shapes.

Features: The Fender Standard Fat Strat has all the features you’d expect from Fender’s latest Stratocaster offerings. It has the famous Fender 5-way pickup switch, skunk-striped hard maple neck, a fantastic light-weight body, and extremely well-made electronics.

The pickguard is three-ply on most models (for example, White-Black-White). The back cavity cover is pretty standard for this type of Strat, generally a one-ply white cover. All the plastic parts are color-matched to the pickguard.

The tremolo setup is a standard three-spring mechanism, with string-through saddles and bridge. Tuning stability is average for a Stratocaster – although I did use a tremsetter for a while. I’ve since gone back to playing the bridges on Strats as-is… The HSS and standard Fender Strats use the six-screw Fender “vintage style” bridge – different from the slicker, smoother 2-point bridge like Jeff Beck and others use. The two-point is available on select USA-made American Stratocasters.

Sound: Sound, sound, sound. That’s the main reason for buying an HSS Fat Strat over a three-single Strat.

With the neck and mid single-coil pickups, you get the strong, bell-like tones you’d expect from a Stratocaster. In this respect, especially with the 2006 and later Strats, the HSS will not disappoint. These newer pickups seem stronger and clearer – and have somewhat less noise when playing through a strong tube amp.

With the Fender humbucker on the bridge (some models have had the Fender Diamondback for a while…), a whole new set of sounds come out of your Strat. This humbucker is actually pretty hot in output, and is really crunchy. It does blues, country, and hard rock very well (but can be dialed back for super-smooth sounds of jazz, contemporary gospel).

The pickup switch configuration is as follows:
Position 1: (switch all the way towards the bridge) is full humbucker, no tone control in the sound. This is crunchy, can be dialed up loud, and is super-clean (good midranges, too).

Position 2: You get the front coil (split) of the bridge humbucker and the middle pickup in combination – the lead (closest to the input jack) tone control effects this combination. This position is very bright, and is louder than the standard Stratocaster bell-tone. This position is good for cut-through-the-band lead tones, but without all the crunch of the humbucker.

Position 3: This position opens up the middle pickup only, with the lead tone control affecting the sound. This sound is the traditional Stratocaster mid pickup sound – somewhat warmer than the bridge, but not as mellow as the neck.

Position 4: This position sets up the middle and neck single-coil pickups together, with the lead and rhythm (middle) tone controls shaping the sound. Warm, but still lots of belltone.

Position 5: This is for the neck pickup only, and uses the rhythm tone control for sound shaping. This pickup position is the warmest of the single-coil sounds. By far, this pickup selection is the mellowest.

Value:This is an extremely high-value Stratocaster. It is worth more than its street price, probably in the $425 to $450 range in actual value (2006 prices. Inflation sets in and they’re about $499 now… still worth their price!). You get lots of really nice options (humbucker, coil-split combination) to add to the versatility of your favorite Strat sound and feel.

Folks with a one-guitar budget who need/want to play lots of different styles of music should seriously consider this instrument as a front-runner for purchase consideration.

On my HSS Strat, the fret ends are cleanly set, the height of the frets is very good, and the intonation was pretty close (as set up by the factory). It didn’t take very long for me to set the Strat’s intonation to a very serviceable and easy-to-play tuning setup. The body finish is just right, no flaws. The neck is straight and is well-set. The standard Super 250 Fender Bullet Strings are wonderful.

Wishes: There isn’t a lot to wish for with these Strats. I do wish it was offered with a V-shaped neck as an option, perhaps also with a tinted and V-shaped neck as an additional option – similar to the treatment on the 2006-> “50’s Strat” issues coming from the MIM factories. I think all Strats should be offered with optional locking tuners (for those who don’t know how to replace their own tuners).