Looking for a classic Strat that won’t break the bank? In this Squier Classic Vibe 70’s Stratocaster review we take a look at Squier’s offering to the beginner and intermediate guitarist. We’ll take a look at it’s features, talk about tone and consider it’s proposition versus other similarly priced guitars. Let’s get started.
Overview of Squier Classic Vibe 70’s Strat
One of the first things to note about the Squier is that it’s super light. Surprisingly light when you first pick it up. The body is made from Poplar with a gloss polyurethane finish. That gives it a shiny finish that is fairly standard for Strats. The guitar is full scale at 25.5″.
The guitar is made in Indonesia but produced to Fender’s standards. Considering the price difference between guitars made in Indonesia versus those made in Mexico and the US, the quality is surprisingly good. You’re certainly not skimping on quality by shopping at the lower end of the range. However one thing to be aware of with Indonesian made guitars is that they can sometimes come from the factory a little dirty. For that reason it’s best to remove the strings and give the whole thing a good clean before playing it for the first time.
The neck, which is made of maple, is bolted onto the body, common to most Fender and Squier Strats. The neck and headstock has a tinted finish, which makes it slightly darker. A nod to everything vintage. The neck has a gloss finish, which is a draw back in my opinion.
I much prefer a stain finish to the neck so that it’s easier to move around when playing. Gloss finished necks can become a little sticky when your hands get warm, but some people don’t find that to be a problem.
The fingerboard is made from Indian Laurel, which shares many tonal characteristics with Rosewood but is currently more sustainable. It’s slightly lighter in color than Rosewood, but most people don’t notice the difference tonally.
The neck profile is the modern “C” shape, which is found on many strats including some top end USA models. The fingerboard radius is 9.5″ making it nice and flat for lead work, but still comfortable for fretting chords.
There are 21 narrow tall frets, which are a little smaller than the medium and medium jumbo frets that usually frequent Squier guitars, however they add to the vintage feel. The key frets are marked out by pearloid dot inlays.
One very surprising feature is the inclusion of a bone nut. They’re usually only found on very high end models. In fact you sometimes find only synthetic bone on guitars costing many thousands of dollars. So it really is a surprise to find a bone nut on the Squier.
Moving further up we find the over-sized 70’s inspired headstock, emblazoned with the Squier logo. The look is completed by a set of vintage tuning machines, which protrude to sit very proud of the headstock. As with most other Strats the truss rod adjustment is handled at the headstock.
A 6-saddle synched tremolo bridge anchors everything in place and allows you to fit a whammy bar to add some bendy tremolo to your playing. The bridge is string through via a back-plate on the back of the guitar. The bridge is fairly standard for Squiers and is even found in some of the Fender Mexican guitars too.
Pickups & Tone
The Classic Vibe series covers guitars inspired by the 50’s, 60’s and 70’s. All feature the same Fender Alnico Single Coil pickups. Pickup selection is handled by a traditional 5-way pickup selector. My only quarrel with it is that it feels a little cheap. Perhaps this is an area where they’ve cut on costs a little too much.
The plastic switching blade allows you to select from 5 positions:
- Bridge only
- Bridge and Middle
- Middle only
- Middle and Neck
- Neck only
As with most Strats, the variety of pickup configurations gives you a broad range of tones. The best way to describe the pickups generally would be “twangy”. Although each position provides something different, you’ll find that the overarching dynamic coming through is “twang”. That’s fairly typical of Strats, but these feel extra “twangy”. You can, of course, remedy that with your amp or pedal settings.
The neck pickup is great for jazz and funky styles, super clean and pure. The neck and middle is a nice mix of pickups and is good for blues as well as jazzy styles. The middle pickup is another good option for blues, but has a little grit blended into the mix. It has a little more warmth to it. The middle and bridge position is good for classic rock, beginning to hint at a little break up synonymous with overdrive. The bridge position is very bright, good for broken up styles and lead country.
Add some distortion and the neck pickup becomes a power house for vintage rock. Crunchy yet still with some brightness. The bridge can sound a little thin when paired with distortion, so you’ll want to pay attention to EQ on your output to balance the tone.
There are the standard three controls that you’d expect to find on a Strat. One for volume and two to control the tone on the neck and bridge pickup. They’re styled in the same plastic used in higher end Strats. I’ve never really been a fan of the plastic, but it’s one of the signatures of Strats so probably won’t change anytime soon!
The Squier comes with a set of .009’s attached. These do make it easier to play for beginners, but the light gauge can thin out the tone even more, so I’d suggest opting for a least a set of .010’s. Of course, you should go with your preferred gauge and brand, but I’d definitely replace them.
Overall the Squier Classic Vibe 70’s Strat is great value for money. You’re getting some of the features of the higher end Strats without the price. If you can afford the extra $300 then you should still go for a Mexican made Fender Player Stratocaster, which is a better intermediate guitar. But if you’re looking for something decent to start with, or a good value upgrade from an unnamed beginner guitar then the Squier is one that should make your shortlist.
As with most Strats there’s a good deal of versatility with the Squier. You may need to watch the EQ when playing distorted using the bridge pickup as it can sound a little thin, but some of that is down to personal preference. I much prefer a fuller bodied distorted tone.
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