It's a bold statement, but all factors considered, Squier guitars are some of the best out there. Granted, even the best Squier guitars aren’t at the same level of quality as USA-made PRS or Fender guitars, but they pack enough of a punch and represent such great value for money that they should be taken 100 percent seriously.
As a brand, Squier deserves huge credit for the impact it’s had on guitarists. Since the early ‘80s, it has given guitarists a truly affordable starting point to launch their guitar playing careers from - and it continues to do so today, producing high quality instruments that any player can pick up and enjoy.
Squier is not just a brand that produces beginner or back-up guitars to put up with until you can afford a 'real' Fender, though. Its Classic Vibe, Paranormal and Anniversary models - to name just a few - are high-quality instruments that will stand up to rigorous gigging, touring and recording schedules - and some of them sound better than their US counterparts, in our opinion.
We’ve included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide, so if you’d like to know more before picking one up, then click the link above. If you’d rather just get straight our product picks, keep scrolling.
Best Squier guitars: Our top picks
If you’re on a really tight budget, then anything from Squier’s Bullet series would go down a treat. We’d especially recommend the Squier Bullet Mustang (opens in new tab) or the Squier Bullet Stratocaster (opens in new tab) - of which both are more than suitable for beginner players or those looking for a cheap thrill. The Mustang has a shorter scale length than most regular Squier guitars, which makes it perfect for smaller players; it's smaller in size and the string tension is lighter. It’s a surprisingly versatile guitar, too - equipped with two humbucking pickups to provide great clean and distorted tones. The Bullet Stratocaster is an exceptional budget recreation of the infamous and iconic Fender Strat, and offers the same range of tones and same killer looks, but for much much less.
For those with a bit more cash to splash - whether you’re an intermediate player or just someone starting with a bigger budget, then we’d recommend the Squier Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster or the Classic Vibe ‘70s Thinline Telecaster. The Classic Vibe range from Squier is one of its best, offering a level of quality which is exceptionally close to that of a Mexican-made Fender, and for under $500/£400, we can’t think of a better range of guitar on which to start your guitar playing journey. The Stratocaster provides all of the iconic Strat vibe and tone you’d expect from something significantly more expensive, and it feels solid, strong and durable, too. If, like us, you want something a little bit different, then the ‘70s Thinline Tele delivers an incredibly wide, full sounding tone - all while keeping a bit of that Tele twang and bite.
If you want to go really out there, the Classic Vibe Baritone Custom Telecaster (opens in new tab) would be our recommendation. The beauty of the baritone guitar is that it’s not just for metalheads. This Squier Baritone is surprisingly versatile due to the fact it’s still equipped with the iconic Tele pickups - and as such, you can get bags of that iconic twang, low-end grit and all the rest of those Tele tones, but just way down low.
Best Squier guitars: Product guide
The Squier catalogue is packed with impressive Stratocasters at all price points, but none quite hit the spot like the Classic Vibe ‘50s Strat. As a modern-day throwback to the guitar that started it all, we can’t think of anything better.
The Classic Vibe range of guitars from Squier continues to impress us with its build quality, looks and overall feel. The body of this guitar is made of Pine - something we’ve not seen since Fender’s early days - and its these touches, along with features like the 2-colour burst and Narrow Tall frets, that give the CV ‘50s Strat a killer vintage vibe and style.
The pickups also play a role in this, delivering all the brightness, bite and top-end - as well as some rich mid and low-end warmth - that you’d expect from a Strat. Three single-coils with five different selections makes the Strat one of the most versatile guitars around - and this Classic Vibe ‘50s is no exception. If you’re a budding beginner or engrossed intermediate, the CV Strat will do all the things you need from a guitar - and might even cut the mustard at some more high-brow gigs.
Read the full Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '50s review
Now, you may be wondering why this pick isn’t a solid-body, seeing as we’re looking at Squier guitars. Some of the most underrated Fender and Squier electric guitars are semi-hollow guitars - with the Thinline Telecaster, in our opinion, being the most misunderstood guitar in the Squier product catalogue.
The Thinline Tele has that special something to it which sets it apart from the rest of the pack - besides there being a big empty space in the body. The tone that is produced still has whispers of that old-school Tele vibe; the ‘twang’ - but the semi-hollowness of the guitar coupled with the pair of wide-range humbuckers brings a whole new thing to the party. These are, in our opinion, some of the best electric guitar pickups available in any guitar. It sounds thick, open, wide - all of the tones you’d associate with a semi-hollow guitar - but the humbuckers, unlike others, provide astonishing clarity. None of the compressed, woolly tones you’d usually associate with a pair of cheap humbucking pickups.
The Sunburst and Natural finishes are both gorgeous, with a really attractive grain showing through on both occasions - and with an Olympic white ‘FSR’ model lingering around for a limited time too, there’s bags of opportunity to take home something a little bit different that will blow your mind. Yeah, there’ll be a bit more feedback than usual at higher volumes, but not enough to really interrupt a gig or practice session.
If you’re a player who’s just getting started, then anything from Squier’s Bullet range will do just what you need. It’s full of great electric guitar options including Strats and Teles - but it’s the Bullet Mustang which we enjoy the most. This range of guitars is, like we said, designed for those who’re just starting on their guitar playing journey - so expect lightweight, easy to play and no major concerns when it comes to tuning stability and setup.
The Bullet Mustang matches all of those criteria nicely. The basswood body is super slim and lightweight, the maple neck is smooth and comfortable and the hardtail bridge and solid tuners work in conjunction with each other to keep tuning and intonation issues to a minimum. This Mustang - with the aforementioned hardtail and a pair of Squier high-output humbuckers - is a workhorse of a guitar, and will handle any of your clean or distorted needs with relative ease.
The Bullet Mustang - like all Mustangs - is what we’d consider to be a ‘short scale’ guitar. This means that the scale length - the distance between the bridge saddles and the nut of the guitar - is shorter than the usual Fender-style scale length of 25.5” by an inch and a half. It doesn’t seem a lot, but it makes a notable difference to the string tension, and makes the guitar feel a bit easier to play as a result. There’s also less distance between frets - something which will suit smaller players well. If you’ve got big hands you might struggle, but fear not - there’s plenty of full-scale options on the market too.
Read the full Squier Bullet Mustang HH review
There are few Fender guitar shapes more iconic than the Jazzmaster. Originally released in 1958 as a solid-body competitor to guitars from the likes of Gibson, the Jazzmaster didn’t quite hit the mark - and it wasn’t until the surf-rock scene latched on that the JM got the recognition it rightfully deserved.
Luckily for us, the Jazzmaster today has never been more popular, and its inclusion in the Classic Vibe range for so many years proves this happily. This ‘late ‘50s’ model is a recent addition to the Jazzmaster CV roster, and with an anodized scratchplate, Narrow Tall frets, and complex and sophisticated electronics, this guitar is about as faithful to its era as you can get - without getting too expensive, rare or just plain unplayable.
Squier has had to make some era-based sacrifices though. The neck is a reasonably slim-feeling ‘C’ shape - a more modern touch - and the fingerboard radius is a middle-of-the-road 9.5” as opposed to a more vintage 7.25”. These aren’t necessarily bad things, though - as these latest CV Jazzmasters are considerably more playable than their ancient predecessors. If you’re a stickler for the truth, then this might not be for you - but if you want an offset guitar that looks and sounds old, without playing like it is? This is the one for you.
Now, Squier guitars might be cheap when compared to other brands, but they aren’t just guitars for beginners. If you’re interested in trying out a new style of guitar, but don’t want to make a large initial investment, then a Squier can be the way to go. For instance, if you’ve ever wanted to try out a baritone guitar, but don’t think you can justify a large outlay - then this Classic Vibe Baritone Custom Tele is just the ticket.
This guitar doesn’t really feel that different to a regular scale Telecaster. The scale length on this guitar is 27”, which does take a bit of getting used to - but thankfully, the sound is so addictive that it was a true pleasure getting to grips with this guitar. The stock strings are .014 -.068, which cater nicely to the baritone tunings of B standard and Drop A, and you’d be surprised at how well the seemingly standard Tele pickups handle such low end. As they’re so naturally bright, the pickups help to ditch any mushy, floppy-sounding bass frequencies that would otherwise ruin your performance.
The neck is a slim ‘C’-shaped maple affair, like most standard Telecasters - and this slim neck helps to disguise the hefty strings and longer scale by making the whole guitar so playable. The level of finish overall is truly impressive - one which any manufacturer would be proud of putting a much bigger price tag on. The Nyatoh body isn’t exactly traditional, but neither are a 27” scale length, B Standard tunings or .014 gauge strings, to be honest. It’s worth noting that Squier baritone guitars also have a tendency to become very expensive, very quickly - especially once a model is only available on the second hand market. Just a thought…
The Squier Paranormal series of guitars was introduced recently as a bit of a celebration of all the weird stuff Fender has done over the last however many years. Many of the guitars included in the Paranormal series are cult classics which Fender only produced for a few years back in the day - the Super-Sonic and Toronado being prime examples - but the Offset Telecaster offers something a little bit different. More of a mash-up, if you will.
The ‘standard’ Paranormal Offset Telecaster isn’t the craziest thing on paper. It consists of a Poplar body, a maple neck and fingerboard and two Telecaster pickups - but in the flesh, it definitely makes a lasting statement. The Jazzmaster-esque offset body with a forearm and stomach carve makes for very comfortable and easy playing, and when combined with the very ‘Tele’ tone, it feels like we’re in heaven. Usually, coaxing that kind of tone out of a Tele means dealing with the sharp edge of a slab body cutting off the blood supply to our right hand.
Speaking of tones, we can’t lie in saying we’d love a version of the Offset Tele that can offer us a little bit more grunt. Squier does make one with a humbucker in the neck position, but we’d love a dual-humbucker ‘Tele Deluxe’ style Offset model. That being said, we’ll always find something to complain about. All in all, this guitar is one of the best around - and some of the maple that Squier is using right now is gorgeous. Check one out before it’s too late.
Squier’s Bullet range of guitars are the perfect beginner electric guitar, delivering new players all the tools and features they’ll ever need to start mastering the art of playing the electric guitar. It’s Squier’s entry-level range, but the instruments are by no means cheap electric guitars; tacky or unpleasant.
The Squier Bullet Strat is equipped with a poplar body and maple neck. The poplar body is exceptionally lightweight, and the maple neck with laurel fingerboard enables players to get all of that bolt-on, Strat ‘snap’ on a tight budget. The poplar body isn’t quite as resonant as other Strats of higher specs, but this guitar makes up for that with the impressive playing comfort.
The area in which most budget guitars suffer the most is hardware - and while the hardware on the Bullet Stratocaster isn’t winning any awards, it’s relatively strong and secure. For beginners, or those on a small budget, this guitar will do the job nicely.
Squier's Contemporary series is another more recent addition to the roster, and offers a range of modern takes on classic guitars that we've not seen before from Squier. You'd be mistaken for thinking that there's plenty of hot-rodded Strats on the market already, but at this price point, there's definitely room for one more.
Even though this guitar has all the shred-friendly accouterments - the super hot pickups, Floyd Rose locking tremolo and 12" fingerboard radius - which make it one of the best metal guitars around - perfect divebomb and chugging fodder - you'd be surprised at just how versatile this thing is. The dual humbuckers feature coil splits, which enable the player to coax out some of those classic Strat single-coil tones, and a sculpted neck heel and satin-finished roasted maple neck also make a real impact on the playability.
This guitar feels, sounds and looks like a brand new, contemporary take on the Strat, and for that we have to take our hat off to Squier. It's not every day you redesign and update such a classic, iconic guitar, and it needs to be done just right - much like this one.
The Affinity range from Squier is really the entry point for anyone who wants a truly classic interpretation of a Fender guitar at a beginner friendly price point. There's no ultra slim, lightweight bodies or necks here - just a full-fat Tele at a low price.
This Affinity Telecaster displays all that is great about budget-friendly guitars. It's got all of that Tele vibe that we love to see and hear, thanks to the combination of a poplar body and maple neck. The pickups are ceramic single coils, which help to give this guitar some extra tonal guts - and you hear it especially when playing away on that bright, punchy bridge pickup.
The Butterscotch Blonde finish is a classic, and will keep the Springsteen fans happy, but there's also Sunburst and Lake Placid Blue variants for anyone who fancies something just that little bit more interesting. The fret edges on the one we played were a little bit proud, in all honesty - but as this is easily fixable by any luthier, we weren't too upset. After all, this is a budget guitar with some impressive features. Something had to give!
There's no two ways about it, the Classic Vibe Bass VI is a funky looking, sounding and acting thing. From a distance it looks like a guitar, and up close, it looks like a bass guitar - and to be honest, it's kind of neither of those things, but also both of those things at the same time. Not making any sense? Let us explain.
The Bass VI was originally produced by Fender between 1961 and 1975, and it's essentially a regular electric guitar, tuned a whole octave lower. As such, the string gauge is a hefty .024-.084, and the scale length is a full 30 inches - the same as a short scale bass. The tones available definitely creep into bass territory, but the three Fender designed single-coil pickups, Jazzmaster-style tremolo and slim 'C'-shape neck gives the Bass VI a distinctly guitar-like playability which we - and many others around the world - love.
As the strings are so fat, the fingerboard does get a little crowded at the lower frets - but this hasn't stopped people using the Bass VI for a raft of different styles. Whether you're playing surf rock, accompanying a singer-songwriter or ripping a gurn-inducing riff in double Drop D, the Classic Vibe Bass VI is something we recommend you have in your arsenal. You never know when you might need it.
Best Squier guitars: Buying advice
Why should I buy a Squier?
It’s a good question, to be honest. There’s never been a better time to buy a cheap or budget-friendly electric guitar - with many brands and manufacturers producing great products at an alarming rate - so why should you opt for one of the best Squier guitars over anything else?
One of the best things about Squier is its consistency. Virtually every single guitar that comes out of a factory with Squier on the headstock is of a high standard for the price bracket in which it falls under. For these respective price brackets, the finishes are impressive, attention to detail is high and the overall feel of the instruments are generally superior over other guitars.
Although Squier is the name on the front of the headstock, every single one has ‘Fender’ written on the back of it. As such, the backing of such a major brand gives you - or anyone looking to buy a Squier guitar - the reassurance that whatever Squier you choose, it’s going to be impressive.
Another pro for Squier is the fact that it’s able to reproduce Fender guitars faithfully at a lower price point. For any young guitarist (or old, for that matter), we’ve likely got a guitar hero or idol who’s been seen wielding a Fender guitar. We don’t know about you, but we definitely don’t have a ‘guitar hero’ kind of budget available - so knowing that we can get 99% of the way there for less than $/£500 is a huge bonus. Want be like David Gilmour, Jim Root or Kurt Cobain but don’t have four digits lying about? Squier is your friend.
Some artists - Jim Root included - even struck deals with Fender to make cheaper Squier versions of their signature models, ensuring that there’s something appropriate for fans of all ages, ability levels and bank balances.
What’s the difference between Squier and Fender?
While Squier is owned by Fender - and they both make near identical instruments - the companies are separated by a few different factors.
The first - and main difference - is that they're built in different places. While production began in Japan, Squier guitars are now manufactured in China and Indonesia - as opposed to Fender guitars hailing from Mexico, Japan and the US. This enables Fender to produce Squier guitars at a much lower cost - and therefore, sell them to you at a lower retail price.
There are some qualms and questions surrounding the build quality of guitars made in the Far East over those made in the US and Mexico - and while those qualms may have been entirely valid five to ten years ago, nowadays, not so much. We’d argue, in fact, that if you spend Squier money on a guitar made in the US, it wouldn’t be that great - as the cost of labour and manufacturing would bump up the price of a cheap guitar considerably.
The second main difference is the quality of the materials. Fender earmarks nearly all of the best wood, hardware and finish options for its Fender-branded instruments, which means that Squier guitars are built mostly from cheaper cuts of Basswood, Poplar or Pine, and are equipped with cheaper hardware which is a bit less heavy duty. This sounds a lot worse than it is though, as the quality of some of Squier's nicer materials and hardware (especially the stuff found on the more expensive models) is still much higher than guitars of a similar price point.
What are the Squier product ranges?
Take a closer look at the highlights of Squier's product range:
The Bullet series is the most affordable range of Squier guitars on the market, and includes Stratocaster, Telecaster and Mustang models. The main aim of the Bullet series is to enable young or beginner players to own an instrument that looks, sounds and feels good without costing the earth. Don’t expect something mind-blowing - but a Bullet will definitely help get you started.
Squier’s Affinity range of guitars is all about giving players a beginner-friendly platform to start playing, but with a slightly higher level of finish than the Bullet series - hence the higher price. There are Stratocaster, Telecaster and Jazzmaster options available in the ‘core’ range, each with a more traditional spec and approach - and then usually some more interesting models such as a Tele Deluxe or a humbucker-equipped Strat which change more regularly.
The Classic Vibe range consists of higher spec vintage-inspired models. They're loosely based on '50s, '60s and '70s Fender designs, and are finished to a higher level than their cheaper Squier counterparts. The Classic Vibe range has always been one of the best, but in recent years we've seen Squier really close the gap with the Fender-branded instruments in terms of build and sound quality and overall feel.
Squier's Paranormal Series consists mostly of more budget-friendly reissues of some of Fender's cult classics from recent years. It's something of a testing ground for Squier; an opportunity for them to produce fairly small numbers of something crazy for those who want it. It's a great opportunity to find something you never knew you wanted, at a price point that allows you to take a chance on something every now and then.
The return of old-time Fender favourites like the Toronado and Super-Sonic has been really nice to see, and brand new Squier models like the Baritone and Offset Telecasters, while pretty wacky, have found themselves becoming popular.
The Contemporary series, as you'd probably expect, offers modern specs, unique pickup, hardware and setup configurations and ultra-playable neck profiles and radii for those who wish for something a little less traditional. These guitars are often equipped with coil-splittable humbuckers - in some cases active ones - as well as Floyd Rose locking tremolos, and stealthy hardware and finishes.
They're great for metalheads - and we'd assume from looking at the spec sheet that this is who Squier are aiming the Contemporary series at. They're also, suprisingly enough, very versatile guitars when it comes to clean playing too as the high-output pickups produce sparkling clean tones with lots of power and precision.
These guitars are seriously cool, and as Squier likes to change around their models every couple of years, they could also become pretty rare.
FSR means 'Fender Special Run'. They, shockingly, started with Fender, but Squier has now also joined the party when it comes to making limited edition, not-for-long models of guitars. They don't hang around, but Squier seems to be changing its FSR ranges a few times a year right now so you should always find something special in amongst the selection.
Squier was founded in 1982, making 2022 its 40th anniversary. As a result, Squier is celebrating with a range of high-spec models finished in special colours and featuring anodised scratchplates. They're considered to be some of the best Squier guitars ever made - a fitting compliment for a company who's celebrating a big milestone in such style - but there's some real weight behind that claim.
The anniversary models are priced around the $/£400-$/£500 mark, but for that you get some of the most special Squier guitars that have ever existed. After 2022, they'll be gone - 41st anniversary doesn't really have the same ring to it.
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