I’m sure some of you saw the name of this post and assumed that I’d spelled Stratocaster incorrectly. Only then to look at the image and think “what’s that!?” In this Squier Affinity Starcaster review we’ll investigate this slight oddity of a guitar.
The Starcaster shape was first issued in the 1970s, but wasn’t popular. Fender ceased production of the Starcaster in 1980. Fender released a special edition starcaster in 2013 thanks to a healthy demand for vintage guitars. Other than that there have been no other Fender starcaster models.
In 2019 Squier gave the starcaster a new lease of life releasing the Affinity and Classic Vibe series.
Overview of Squier Affinity Starcaster
One of the most noticeable things about the startcaster is it’s semi-hollow body. On the Affinity series it’s more noticeable thanks to the f-holes cut into the body. The Classic Vibe series doesn’t have the f-holes. but it’s still a semi-hollow bodied guitar.
The hard-stop tail piece at the bridge also belies it’s vintage design. I’d describe the body shape as “wonky”. Most classic guitars are very rounded at the bottom end, like the Gretsch White Falcon or the Epiphone Casino. The starcaster looks like someone accidentally nudged the jig-saw as it was cutting out the template.
Onto the guitar itself. The startcaster is full scale (25.5″). It’s made in Indonesia, which keeps costs and therefore the price down. The body is made from laminated maple, meaning it’s lots of thin layers of wood stuck together. This is associated with cheaper guitars. The body has a gloss polyurethane finish, which gives it some shine.
The starcaster comes is 3 colors, two of which come with a black body binding for extra vintage style. The neck is bolted onto the body, something that’s common with Squier guitars. The neck is made from maple with a satin finish to the back. That makes traversing the neck a much more pleasurable experience.
The neck shape is Squier’s C-shaped profile. It’s actually a really slim neck, making it good for beginners. The fingerboard radius is 9.5″, which means it’s reasonably flat at the top end, but has some shape towards the nut making it easier to play chords.
The fingerboard is made from maple too. There are 22 narrow/tall frets. Most designers opt for medium jumbo frets these days. It’s a matter of personal preference as to which type of fret you prefer.
Narrow/tall frets make bending strings easier, but can make sliding up and down a little more difficult. It depends on your technique. If this is going to your first guitar you won’t know any different, so chances are you won’t notice!
The fingerboard has black dot inlays to mark out the key frets. The nut is made from PPS. Sounds fancy but that basically means it’s plastic. We shouldn’t expect too much from a Squier guitar when it comes to the nut, but it appears that they’ve decided this is an area they’re comfortable in making compromises.
I’m not saying they should use a nut bone, that’d increase the price exponentially. I’m just saying they could have perhaps gone with something like graph tech for the nut material.
Just beyond the nut is the truss rod adjustment, allowing you to play around with the action. Now we come to the rather different looking headstock. Unique to the starcaster, it’s quite a thick affair, with the Squier and starcaster logos emblazoned along it’s sweeping lower edge.
Tuning is handled by some pretty bog standard die cast tuning machines. They’re about par for the course for a guitar in this price range and will hold their tune reasonably well.
Going back to the other end, we find a 6 saddle adjustable bridge, allowing for easier intonation adjustment. It’s not quite as easy as the stratocaster bridges, but a 6 saddle bridge from a strat would spoil the vintage look.
Moving onto the hardware. The starcaster comes equipped with two standard humbucking pickups, so the guitar is capable of producing plenty of bite. The pickups are controlled by a 3-way switch located on the shoulder of the bottom cut-away.
We’re not used to seeing this type of switch on Fender / Squier guitars. It looks as if it’d be more at home on an Epiphone or Gibson. Non-the-less the 3-way selector enables you to choose between:
- Bridge humbucker at position 1
- Both humbuckers at position 2
- Neck humbucker at position 3
The bridge humbucker has plenty of punch. In terms of it’s tone I’d say it falls somewhere between a telecaster and a stratocaster. You get the bite of the strat along with some of the warmth of a tele. You can play most rocky tones with the bridge humbucker including some higher gain styles. It just doesn’t look as evil as an Ibanez!
The bridge and neck pickups give a good mix as you’d expect of bite, punchy and more subtle tones. It’s pretty good for bluesy tones. The neck pickup is great for funk. The humbucker gives a little more push than you’d get from a single coil.
There are two control knobs, one for master volume and one for master tone. They look to be clumsily squeezed in between the bridge and the bottom f-hole. I’m not really sure it does anything for the aesthetics of the guitar.
What I would say is that the Squier Classic Vibe Starcaster is only $100 more but you get active pickups, which are much better pickups. They’re also better if you want to player higher gain styles. You also get more control knobs for greater control over you tone. The Classic Vibe also has a pick-guard, which is missing on the Affinity. Small, but potentially significant to protect against wear and tear.
The Affinity comes with a set of nickel plated steel .009’s. If you usually play with a heavier gauge on medium jumbo frets it’s worth persevering with the .009’s for a while to see how they feel with the narrow/tall frets.
The Affinity Starcaster comes in three colors:
I really like the sunbust, but the Olympic White is very striking. If they’d plated the hardware with a gold color it would have been oozing retro style.
The Starcaster is nothing if not unique. There aren’t many Fender / Squier models that have two sets of humbuckers. Probably less that give you a little bit of Stratocaster and a little bit of Telecaster too. The Starcaster is quite a dynamic guitar, if a little odd in design. Here are the best bits:
- Two Humbucker Pickups
- Suitable for Beginners
- Unique Design
Perhaps it’s just me, but I find this guitar to be a bit ugly. Having said that it took years for the Telecaster shape to grow on me. Perhaps one of the things that lets the Affinity Starcaster down the most is it’s practicality. The Classic Vibe is only $100 more and is a much better guitar in my view. Here are some of the worst offenders:
- Classic Vibe Model Is Only $100 More
- It’s a Bit Ugly!
- No Pick Guard
Whilst being a very dynamic guitar, I just can’t find the Starcaster shape attractive. That’s just personal preference, and perhaps you really like it’s unique styling. A big plus is the two humbucking pickups, which give you access to a wide array of tones.
It’s good that the tone isn’t quite strat or tele, rather a bit of both and then something else. It’s a great choice for blues, funk and rock styles. It’s even capable of higher gain styles, although I’d spend a little more and go for the Classic Vibe model for the active pickups.
The Starcaster isn’t really trying to be anything other than different, with it’s narrow/tall frets, vintage styling and slightly out there design. I don’t like that it doesn’t have a pick guard, which is a basic feature that’d be useful to protect the finish of the guitar. The Classic Vibe model does have a pick guard, but it somehow doesn’t quite look right.
In terms of practicality, I think it’s a good choice for a beginner. If you were an intermediate, unless you’re in love with the style, you can do better with some of the Epiphone models, or even a Mexican made Fender player guitar. Take a look at the electric guitar section for more models.
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