Fender Select Stratocaster HSS

Class - not crass - upmarket electric

Launched in 2012, the Select series is the top tier of Fender's standard production ranges before you enter Custom Shop realms. For 2013, a selection of new models were added: a carved top Jazzmaster, HH and Thinline Teles, and new versions of the Carved Blackwood Top Telecaster and the Strat HSS, reviewed here.

It's easy to dismiss this Select as simply an upmarket 'posh' Fender. Yes, the Strat has a thin maple top, barely 3mm in thickness, but by design it aims to fit in style between the American Vintage and Deluxe ranges.

"It's a vintage/posh collision if you like, centring on top-quality woods but without the garish colours"

A vintage/posh collision if you like, centring on top-quality woods but without the garish colours, multi-mollusc inlays or gold-plated hardware that are the typical adornments of high-end guitars.

The 2012 Strat HSS features a standard 22-fret birdseye maple neck with compound radius fingerboard and small Fender headstock. This year, while the compound radius is retained, the head moves into larger 70s style and we're introduced to the 'channel bound' neck - a new twist on a bound 'board.

Instead of a strip of plastic or wood laminated to the fingerboard edge (and hiding the slots cut in the fingerboard to accept the fret tangs), Fender has 'inlaid' the rosewood fingerboard into the oil-finished maple neck.

This leaves an edge-of-the-neck material, around 2.8 to 3mm wide on either edge and across the curved fingerboard end, trimming the fret count to 21. The frets sit full-width across the 'board and binding, so there's no difference in feel. The neck has slightly rounded fingerboard edges that help create a played-in feel.

The 2013 look

As with the 2012 Select, we're hardly spoilt for colour options - there's only one. The figuring of the Strat's thin maple top is relatively subtle.

Hardware remains the same on the 2013 Select with the Strat's two-post floating vibrato (with tapered steel block), as used on non-vintage higher-end Fenders. There are also vintage-style bent-steel saddles.

"Fender says in 'split' mode, it creates 'single-coil tone with hum cancellation'"

Again, we get the rear-locking dual-height tuners, the bottom three strings have standard height posts, and those for the top three have shorter posts, increasing the strings' back angle behind the nut. The plastic parts are subtly colour-aged, too.

The Strat retains the Twin-Head humbucking pickup, designed specifically for this series, plus two Select single coils with a vintage stagger to the magnetic pole pieces.

In position two on the five-way (bridge and middle pickups), the 'bucker is automatically split, voicing the screw-coil, while the two tones affect neck (tone 1), and middle and bridge (tone 2).

However, there's no mention in the specs of the S-1 style push-switch in the top of the volume control's heavily knurled knob, which audibly splits the neck-placed Wide Range Special humbucker. Fender says in 'split' mode, it creates "single-coil tone with hum cancellation".

Feel and sounds

There's little not to like about this Strat if you're after single-coil spank but still need the comfort of the bridge humbucker for more mainstream rock sounds. It's a slightly 'hot vintage' output (9.72k ohms), with plenty of midrange thickness and a rounded high end that's almost the polar opposite of the stinging highs, lower output and more open midrange of the single coils.

"The raw balance of the middle pickup is still a favourite for this writer"

As you move through the pickup options, position two's split bridge and middle cleans up your amp nicely. The raw balance of the middle pickup is still a favourite for this writer - a perfect sound to track parts recorded with a humbucker.

Position four has funk aplenty, while the solo neck single coil is nicely balanced with a lower-mid thickness and colour that adds a little beef. It might not wash with the vintage Strato-philes, but it has plenty of vintage vibe to its expanded tones, as well as the feel of that oil-finished neck.

Aside from a couple of issues - it would benefit from a tougher setup - this is a highly enjoyable guitar that broadens the original's visual and tonal reference points without going too upmarket in looks.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Upmarket feel. Decent value. Flexible HSS configuration.

Cons

Could use a tougher setup.

Verdict

Upmarket do-it-all Strat with modern features but a very vintage feeling neck. Treat yourself...

Scale Length (Inches)

25.5

No. of Frets

21

Hardware

Fender 2-point Synchronized with vintage-style bent steel saddles, locking stagger height post tuners – nickel/chrome-plated

Country of Origin

USA

String Spacing

52.5

Weight (lb)

7.6

Neck Material

Birdseye maple, thick modern 'C' shape, with large headstock bolt-on

Left Handed Model Available

No

Top Material

Flame maple

Circuitry Type

5-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume, tone 1 (neck and middle pickups), tone 2 (bridge and bridge/middle combination)

Nut

Synthetic bone/ 42.52mm

Scale Length (mm)

648

Weight (kg)

3.4

Fingerboard Material

Rosewood

Pickup Type

Fender Twin-Head humbucker (bridge) with 2x Fender Select single coils (middle and neck)

Guitar Body Material

Alder

Available Finish

Tobacco Sunburst (nitro topcoat body; hand-rubbed oil neck finish)

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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