Fender has officially launched its new Squier Contemporary Series of electric guitars, giving its classic Stratocaster, Telecaster and Jaguar a very cool new look, with newly voiced pickups and deluxe spec at affordable prices.
As originally announced in January, the Squier lineup now welcomes the Stratocaster HH FR, Stratocaster Special, Stratocaster Special HT, Telecaster RH and Jaguar HH ST to the lineup.
This is a big deal for the affordable guitar market with these Squiers spec'd for performance. All of the new Contemporary Series models feature modern-voiced – i.e. more powerful – Squier SQR pickups, roasted maple necks, sculpted neck heels we saw introduced on the Fender American Ultra and American Professional II ranges, plus painted headstocks and chrome coloured logos.
The finish options are quite something, with the Jaguar HH ST looking absolutely resplendent in Shoreline Gold and Sky Burst Metallic. They are up there with the best cheap electric guitars we've seen for under £500.
The Jaguars feature poplar bodies, with bolt-on roasted maple necks and a pair of SQR Atomic humbuckers. With coil-tap and series/parallel switching mounted the upper control plate, plus volume and tone controls and a three-way pickup selector, there is going to be a huge array of tones available here.
While the Jaguar is often associated with indie rock and artists such as Johnny Marr, this Contemporary Series' dual humbucker format offers more of a rock performance. With its flatter 12“ fingerboard radius, jumbo fretwire and aforementioned sculpted neck heel offering enhanced upper-fret access it will accommodate aspiring shredders, too.
Its six-saddle tune-o-matic-esque bridge sure offers a solid platform to riff on, for experimenting with alternate tunings, while the Jag's slightly shorter 24“ scale gives it an easy feel.
Now to the Strats. All share some DNA but with a few key differences. Let's look at the Stratocaster Special. It is available with a six-saddle hardtail bridge or a 2-point synchronised tremolo.
Each version comes equipped with a trio of Squier SQR alnico single-coils, but its five-way switching is very clever, offering you a humbucking option at the bridge for some fatter, higher-output tones.
Again, we've got the same roasted neck, jumbo frets and a poplar body, but this time with a full Fender 25.5“ scale length. There are also die-cast tuners with split shafts for easy string changes.
The tremolo-equipped Strat Special comes in exquisite Sky Blue Metallic and Black with a metallic pickguard, and has a roasted maple fingerboard.
The hardtail Strat Special HT is available in Sunset Metallic or Pearl White, and has an Indian laurel fingerboard.
All of the above are built for performance. But it is on the Stratocaster HH FR that Squier has taken things further. This really channels the spirit of the high-performance MIJ Fender guitars, with a pair of Squier SQR Atomic humbuckers with coil-taps for when you need some nice single-coil clarity.
The Shell Pink Pearl and Gunmetal Metallica finish options really makes us think of another Fender brand that specialises in shreddables – namely Charvel – and it remains one of the coolest colours on the chart.
Of course, the USP here is that double-locking Floyd Rose vibrato, which will facilitate dive-bombs, pitch squeals and whatever stunt guitar you can throw at it. It's even one of our picks for the best Squier guitars.
That aside, fretboard and neck proportions are the same as the other Strats in the series, with the HH FR offered with a roasted maple fingerboard only. Again, roasted maple is a very Charvel appointment to have and this really captures the spirit of hot-rodded Fender.
Finally, we've got the Telecaster RH, with the RH designation in reference to the rail humbucker occupying the bridge position. This hotrodded Tele vibe continues at the neck, with another of those SQR Atomic humbuckers offering some power and heat.
Black hardware conceals what looks really like a modern Telecaster setup, with a the bridge pickup mounted in the plate metal surrounds of the six-saddle bridge.
The control circuit here is a little more rudimentary, with a three-way pickup selector and volume and tone controls. There's something of the no-fuss riff machine to this, and it's the sort of guitar a Gojira fan on a budget might go for.
That Shoreline Gold model really is something. The other finish options comprise Gunmetal Metallic and Pearl White.
The new Squier Contemporary Series models join the Jazzmaster Active and Starcaster Active, and are available now. See Fender for more pics and full spec details.
Prices as follows:
• Jaguar HH ST: £369 / $449.99 / €429
• Stratocaster Special and Special HT: both £379 / $429.99 €399
• Stratocaster HH FR £369 / $449.99 / €429
• Telecaster RH £379 / $429.99 / €399