Fender American Standard Stratocaster 2012

The progressive journey of the electric guitar has been one of subtle tweaking and 'improving', albeit not always for the best. This new Strat typifies that evolution. So what's on offer here?

Pickups here are Custom Shop Fat '50s with a vintage-style stagger to the magnetic slug pole pieces.

"Clean tones have it all - from the timeless funk in the mixed positions to the clean, bell-like projection from the darker neck pickup and the bright-enough-for-most middle pickup."

Wiring is modern Fender: a standard five-way, master volume, neck tone and a notched no-load tone control for the bridge and middle pickups that, when fully on, effectively bypasses the pot, adding a soupçon of high-end.

Other than that, things are very similar to the previous models. It shares the same mainstream 'C' profile as the new Tele Standard - it's very slightly thinner-depthed, but it's minimal.

The two-post vibrato block has deeper drilled string holes so there's less dead string in the block, like a vintage-style vibrato, and the block is tapered at the rear to allow a little more down-bend. The arm still screws in - there's no tension adjustment but, as supplied, it has generous travel.

Tuners are the familiar non-locking modern types. The low E and A string tuners have a higher post-hole position; the other four tuner post-holes are closer to the face of the headstock.

With only one string tree this helps to provide enough down-pressure over the nicely cut synthetic bone nut.

The Strat's neck is all maple - there's no separate fingerboard. The frets slot into the face of the neck, which is then finished.

There is some pooling of the finish either side of the frets, and it does look a little thicker than on a vintage specification maple 'board. It also slightly widens the fret size and, perhaps more importantly, reduces the height of the fret above the playing surface.

Sounds

The Stratocaster's set-up is low and slinky, fast with plenty of new-guitar zing. In fact that middle/bridge no-load tone control adds a little too much high-end for most styles, and it sounds more natural backed off a little.

Clean tones have it all - from the timeless funk in the mixed positions to the clean, bell-like projection from the darker neck pickup and the bright-enough-for-most middle pickup. The bridge pickup can be an ear-slicer - hardly surprising - yet in comparison with some other Strats, there's a musical width to the sounds here, almost three-dimensional compared to our Mexican Road Worn, which sounds a little hotter, but more focused.

But there's certainly plenty of clarity and high-end sparkle, so that light-to-medium-gained tones need a little taming for more mid-range push. With some tone reduction we're getting more into earthier 'hot blues' sounds, darker and snappier, and if you decide to use the mixed pickup tones here, at least they're hum-cancelling.

It's very hard to fault this guitar technically, though we'd prefer a slightly thinner finish on our Strat's maple 'board.

There are certainly more vintage-styled new versions of this Fender classic, or indeed more modernist tweaked versions. Yet reflecting on our sound tests, we'd be more than happy to walk on any stage with this one.

MusicRadar Rating

4.5 / 5 stars
Pros

Build quality; player-centric upgrades; mainstream feel; playability and sounds.

Cons

Over-egged fingerboard finish.

Verdict

Not the most vintage or modern Strat in Fender's range, but hard to fault on any level.

Hardware

Fender two-point synchronised vibrato with vintage-style bent-steel saddles, enclosed tuners

Country of Origin

USA

Weight (kg)

3.6

Available Controls

2 x Tone 5 Way Pick Up Selector Tone

Fingerboard Material

Maple

Neck Material

Maple, 'C'-shaped

Left Handed Model Available

Yes

Pickup Type

Fender Custom Shop Fat '50s single-coils

Guitar Body Material

Alder

Bolt-on Neck

Yes

Body Style

Offset double-cutaway solidbody electric

Available Finish

Three-colour sunburst (as reviewed), Sienna Sunburst, Olympic White, black, Candy Cola, Jade Pearl Metallic, Charcoal Frost Metallic – gloss polyurethane body, headstock and fingerboard face (maple only); satin 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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