Looking for a vintage feel with great pickups and a range of tonal possibilities? In this Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Stratocaster review we’re going to take a look at one of the middle of the road strats. Well take a look at the hardware, the setup and the tones and finally make a value assessment. Let’s find out more.
Overview of Fender Deluxe Roadhouse Strat
The Deluxe Roadhouse has an Alder body, similar to most strats in this price range and above. If you believe that tonewood affects an electric guitar’s tone then Alder provides a balance of low, mid and highs. The body has the traditional Fender gloss finish.
The guitar is made in Mexico, which is synonymous with the mid-range guitars. To be honest the quality seems to be every bit as good as that of the American factory in most cases. As with most Fender guitars the neck is bolted onto the body.
The neck is made from maple with the distinctive “skunk stripe” running down the back. There’s a satin urethane finish to the neck making it much easier to move around the fingerboard. Speaking of the fingerboard there are two options. You can opt for either a Pau Ferro or a maple fingerboard.
Pau Ferro shares many tonal characteristics with Rosewood. You’ll more commonly find the maple fingerboard version on the market. Traditional dot inlays mark out the key frets, white in the Pau Ferro version and black in the maple version.
Moving up the fingerboard towards the headstock we come to the nut, which is made from synthetic bone. I always prefer bone, but at least it’s not plastic! The headstock it’s self is in the vintage over-sized style, with a more pronounced bottom edge.
A set of Deluxe locking machines handle tuning. It’s great to see locking machines on a mid-priced guitar as it would have been easy to go with a set of premium die-cast standard machines. Locking machines give you so much more control a stability.
There’s a standard pick-guard that you’ll find on most strats. The control knobs are made from plastic, as they tend to be on most Fenders. I don’t actually like the plastic feel, but they’re synonymous with Fender at this point.
Let’s start at the body. There are some comfort features built in to the Deluxe Roadhouse. Firstly there’s a slight contour on top of the body for your picking arm. I don’t think it’s as pronounced as it is on the American Ultra Strat, but it’s a nice inclusion non-the-less.
Secondly there’s a contour at the neck joint to make it slightly easier to play at the higher register. Again they’ve not contoured the bottom horn as they did in the American Ultra Strat, but again it’s a nice inclusion and does make playing slightly easier.
The neck is a modern C shape profile, slim and comfortable to play. Being a vintage style guitar I half expected a thicker neck, but Fender opted to keep something contemporary in their design. I much prefer the C shaped necks as they’re easier to play, especially for those with smaller hands.
The guitar is full scale at 25.5″, pretty standard for Fender. There are 22 narrow tall frets. Here’s a nod to vintage guitars. I find fret design is largely personal preference, but in comparison to medium or medium jumbo frets you’ll find sliding a little more difficult due to the height of the frets.
You may also find fretting a little more difficult as you’ll need to adjust the pressure you place on the fingerboard. Fans of vintage style guitars will be happy to see narrow/tall frets included. The fingerboard radius is 12″, meaning it’s quite flat. Fender tend to vary their fingerboard radius’ between 9″ and about 12″. I find a 12″ radius is a good balance and is good for lead work due to the flatter profile.
The truss rod can be adjusted, the mechanism for which can be found in the traditional position on the headstock.
Here’s where the Deluxe Roadhouse Strat excels. You’ll find 3 vintage noiseless stratocaster single coil pickups. Usually these are found on higher end American models, so the inclusion on a mid-priced guitar is really great to see.
A standard 5-way pickup selector allows you to select the traditional 5 positions:
- Bridge and middle
- Middle and neck
Here’s where the magic begins. The Deluxe Roadhouse has a built in pre-amp hooked up to a V6 rotary switch. What does that mean? In simple terms it means you can engage the pre-amp to produce a myriad of different tones.
The volume button doubles as a control for the pre-amp. Push the button on the volume knob to access the traditional 5-way selector mode without the pre-amp. When the button is in the out position, the pre-amp is active. From here you can twist the volume knob to select between 6 different positions.
Effectively the pre-amp thickens everything up. Whereas you get a thin and crisp stratocaster tone at the bridge without the pre-amp, you get something more akin to a P90 at the bridge with the pre-amp on and cranked up. The pre-amp also works in tandem with the pickup selector switch, so you can create literally dozens of tones a various positions.
The pre-amp runs on a 9v battery. The compartment is easily accessible on the back of the guitar above the back plate. It does take away from the aesthetic slightly in my opinion, but better located on the back than the front!
The bridge is a 2 point synchronized tremolo with bent steel saddles. It’s pretty stable if you’re into using the tremolo arm frequently when playing, but it’s not quite as good as a Floyd Rose style bridge. The Deluxe comes with a set of Fender USA .009’s. They’re good quality and I like .009’s, however it’s personal preference and you may want to swap them out for your favored brand and gauge.
As discussed above the Deluxe Roadhouse strat can produce a very wide range of tones. Using the rotary switch you can quickly thicken up the tone to provide a bit of boost, or used in conjunction with the tone control you can easily switch between lead and rhythm.
In terms of clean tones you get the classic single coil strat sound at the bridge, which is bright and sparkly. The middle position is great for funk and jazz styles. Add in the pre-amp and select the higher levels to thicken up the neck pickup, which makes it great for bluesy styles.
Thickening up the neck or bridge pickups also gives you access to almost overdriven classic tones synonymous with The Rolling Stones and other bands of the 60’s.
Throw in some distortion and the dynamic range is equally as exciting. The noiseless pickups are really noticeable, or should that be not noticeable, here. Anyway, they’re very quiet! As you’d expect you can access blues at the neck position, but add in some of the pre-amp and you get crunchy classic rock.
There’s already quite a bit of push at the bridge, but add in the pre-amp and crank it up and it almost sounds like a humbucker. It’s not quite as thick, but there’s plenty of push. The combinations are almost endless, great tones for lead, soloing and for slightly heavier rhythm work.
The Deluxe Roadhouse Strat has the ability to produce a dynamic range of tones thanks to the rotary v6 switch. The noiseless pickups are fantastic and that fact that they’re on the Deluxe makes the guitar outstanding value for money. Noiseless pickups are commonly found on American series guitars that frequently cost a minimum of $500 more than the Deluxe Roadhouse Strat.
The build and materials are good quality, as would be expected from a Mexican made Fender. The additional body contours are a good feature, but the neck joint contour isn’t quite as comfortable as on the American Ultra Series Strat. Perhaps that’s to be expected for a guitar that costs $1,000 less.
The Deluxe Roadhouse strat fulfills it’s role producing classic Strat sounds, but the rotary v6 switch allows you to thicken up the tone to the point of sounding like a P90. As an additional bonus the Deluxe Roadhouse Strat comes with a Fender Deluxe gig bag to keep it safe when you’re on the road.
Looking for something different? Check out my Electric Guitar Page for other guitars. I hope you’ve found this post useful. Feel free to leave any comments or questions below. Alternatively you can get in touch using my contact page.
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