It’s been a while since I’ve looked at a Strat, so I thought I’d look at one of Fender’s offerings for the intermediate market. This guitar is a relative of the first proper electric guitar I bought. In this Fender Player Stratocaster review we’ll see where it fits among it’s competitors and I’ll offer some insight about how it’s evolved over the 16 years since I bought my first strat. Let’s get started.
Overview of Fender Player Strat
The Fender Player Strat is a full scale (25.5″) guitar made in Fender’s Mexican factory. The Player replaces the Mexican Standard series. Fender’s Mexican factory produces some quality guitars and arguably, in some cases, it produces better quality than the American factory.
The Player features an Alder body, a good all round tonewood that produces great low, mid and high tones. The body is finished with gloss polyester. The Player comes in 7 different colors, but the 3-color sunburst (pictured) is the most striking.
The maple neck is bolted to the body, which is a feature of most Stratocasters. Fender has been bolting necks to bodies for years so I’m not worried about the difference in resonance. Fender has compensated for that elsewhere.
The neck is a modern C-shape, which is flat and makes playing more comfortable. The back of the neck is finished with satin urethane, which makes it easier to move your fretting hand up and down the neck. There’s a choice of material available for the fingerboard. Either Pau Ferro, which shares characteristics with Rosewood, or Maple. Maple fingerboards emphasize the high end a little more.
There are 22 medium jumbo frets, which is 1 more fret than the Mexican Standard series. Key frets are marked by black dot inlays on the maple and white dot inlays on the Pau Ferro fingerboard. There’s a synthetic bone nut, which better than plastic. I wouldn’t expect a plastic nut to be fitted to a guitar at this price point.
Tuning is handled by the same die-cast tuning machines that were present on the Mexican Standard series. They’re good quality and hold the tune well.
Let’s talk about hardware. This version of the player is “HSS”, which determines the pickup configuration. The “H” stands for the humbucking pickup, which is located at the bridge. The two “S”‘s are the other two single coil pickups, one located at the middle position and the other at the neck position.
We’ll start with the humbucker at the bridge. It’s an Alnico 2 humbucker. For the uninitiated an Alnico pickup is made from an alloy of Aluminum, Nickel and Cobalt. The alloy has an effect on the magnetism, which is required in all pickups. The Alnico 2 is associated with smoother and more vintage tones, however put some gain through it and it’ll perform admirably for high gain styles.
The middle and neck single coil pickups are also Alnico, but this time they’re Alnico 5. The Alnco 5 is the classic Fender pickup that delivers the classic Fender tone. Providing a bright high end it also produces a wide variety of low and mid tones. The pickup configuration is what gives the Player Strat so much versatility.
The 5-way pickup selector switch allows you to switch between various pickup configurations:
- Position 1 – Bridge (humbucker)
- Position 2 – Middle and inner coil of the humbucker
- Position 3 – middle pickup only
- Position 4 – Middle and neck pickups
- Position 5 – Neck pickup only
Another feature that hasn’t changed for years is the control knob configuration. There’s a control knob for both the bridge and the neck/middle pickup allowing for some creativity. Finally there’s a master volume control knob.
The styling of the control knobs is classic Stratocaster, but I don’t actually like them. They’re plastic and feel a little cheap to me. It may not be the case for all Strats, but I had to have my bridge pickup control knob repaired recently.
The bridge is fixed, but there’s a difference from the old Mexican Strats. Instead of six screws, the Player Strat has just two screws which helps keep the guitar in tune when using the tremolo. That’s a nice little feature. It’s always a worry with my Strat that if I go a little overboard with the whammy bar I’ll need to re-tune immediately.
The Player Strat comes with a set of Fender USA nickel plated steel .009’s. They’re pretty decent strings, but you’ll probably want to swap them out for your preferred brand and gauge. I use Fender Super Bullets, but that’s just my preference.
Let’s talk a little about the tone. Most guitars are good for one or two styles. The Player Strat is an all rounder. At the neck position you get clean and crisp tones, great for funk. As you move more towards the bridge the tone gets dirtier. You can go right through from funk to punk.
Add a little overdrive at the middle and neck positions to create tones suitable for bluesy styles. Add some distortion to find that classic crunch. You can even go high gain with the humbucker for heavier styles such as metal. The double cutaway design of the strat is sympathetic to those looking to scale the fingerboard.
Basically, the Player Strat does what you’d expect a classic Strat to do. It’s versatile and won’t hold you to one or two styles. Although it’s perfectly capable of high gain styles, something like an Ibanez will blow it out of the water. So if your focus is on high gain styles, perhaps look at something else!
- Very Versatile
- Comfortable To Play
- Great Value
- Plastic Control Knobs
- A Little More Pricey Than Competitors
The Fender Player Stratocaster is like any other Strat, it’s beautiful. If you’ve never laid hands on a Strat before I’d urge you to go and try one out at your local guitar store. Mexican Strats have always been great quality and a lot cheaper than Strats produced in the American factory. However the difference in feel and performance isn’t always that marked.
Although it’s a little more expensive than other “mid-priced” guitars, the Player Strat delivers versatility that you’ll struggle to find in any other guitar. The versatility makes it a great choice for an intermediate guitarist who likes to play a wide range of styles. Crystal clear highs to deep and dirty lows, the Player Strat can do it all.
The minor modifications that have been made, such as the bridge mounting system and the addition of a fret subtly add to the guitar without infringing on the much loved qualities of a traditional Mexican Strat.
Want to check out some other electric guitars? Be sure to take a look at my other posts on the gear page. 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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