The 10 best Stratocasters: our pick of the best Strat guitars

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There's a Strat for just about every scenario. From 'classic' treatments at any price point to vintage replicas, signature models, hot-rodded modern instruments and understated metal monsters, our buyer's guide rounds up the best Fender Stratocasters currently available.

Now in its 60s, the Strat remains the world's most iconic guitar, and continues to be synonymous with the very concept of an electric guitar, regardless of genre.

With each new generation, the instrument has been honed and retooled to do the work required of it, building on an ever-expanding legacy.

The result? Well, when it comes to the Stratocaster in 2018, we are positively spoiled for choice...

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1. Fender Player Stratocaster

The best mid-priced Strat

Launch price: $649 / £549 / €579 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Player Series Alnico 5 Strat Single-Coil | Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup) | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Left-handed: | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Black, Buttercream, Polar White, Sage Green Metallic, Sonic Red, Tidepool

Hugely playable
Impeccable set of tones
Plays well with dirt
Tuners are a bit stiff
Tones might not please vintage purists

Fender's updated mid-priced Player Strat features a satin neck, an updated two-point vibrato design, plus three new Alnico V single coils. The latter recall Fender’s fat Texas Hot single coils and respond beautifully to gain, and treble loss is minimal when rolling back the volume knob. The bridge pickup, which can be weedy on mid-priced Strats, is rich yet cutting - and if it’s still too spiky, the pleasingly responsive tone knob will enable a fairly precise treble cut. By their very nature, Strats will always pay homage to the past, but this particular edition packs tones that span the decades and bring the format bang up to date.

Read the full review: Fender Player Stratocaster

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2. Fender American Elite Stratocaster

The best contemporary Strat

Launch price: $1,899 / £1,769 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: New 4th Generation Noiseless | Controls: Master Volume (with S-1™ Switch), Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle and Bridge Pickups; No-Load Tone control) | Hardware: Chrome | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Aged Cherry Burst, Champagne, Ocean Turquoise, Olympic Pearl, Sky Burst Metallic, Tobacco Sunburst

Improved Deluxe Stratocaster
Exceptional Noiseless pickups and new neck profile
Expanded range of sound
Vintage purists won't like it; many, many players will!

Fender's rebadging of the old Deluxe range adds new colours, a refreshed headstock logo and 'soft touch' rubber control knobs, plus a new neck shape, a wheel-style truss-rod adjustment and slightly altered-shaped heel geometry. Then we have the latest (fourth) generation of Noiseless pickups controlled, as before, by the S-1 switching, activated by a push/push switch within the top of the volume control's knob that expands the sounds from the five-way or three-way pickup selector switches. Selecting the middle pickup and switching in the S-1, for instance, it's as though you've kicked in a thickening boost: more humbucking, with more power and low end, plus there's a little 'cocked wah' to the highs. Its voice is nicely classic: engage the S-1 switch and it's 'game on' for those of us who find a Strat a little hard work.

Read the full review: Fender American Elite Stratocaster

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3. Squier Affinity Stratocaster

The most affordable Strat

Launch price: $329.99 / £199 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Rosewood or Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Standard Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup) | Hardware: Chrome | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, Black, Brown Sunburst, Competition Orange, Race Red, Slick Silver, Surf Green

The affordable Strat experience
Excellent value for money
The Squier Classic Vibe '50s Strat might provide more longevity

How many playing careers have been launched on a Squier Affinity Stratocaster? Perhaps the ultimate beginner guitar, Squier's current incarnation offers the kind of specs that will have you double-taking when you see the price. An alder body, maple neck and rosewood fretboard (though you can opt for maple) are paired with single-coil Strat pickups, plus a comfortable 'C'-shaped neck that will help grease the wheels of burgeoning players in a variety of styles. It might not have the bells and whistles feature sets and high spec components of some of the models here, but considering the Affinity costs approximately one fifth of some of those guitars, we shall leave the cork-sniffing aside and instead praise the accessibility and feature set of what is more than likely the world's most popular first guitar. Beginners have never had it so good.

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4. Fender Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster

The best-sounding, most playable Strat under a grand

Launch price: $799 / £679 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Maple/pau ferro (dependent on finish) | Frets: 22 | Pickups: 3x Vintage Noiseless Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Volume, 6-position V6 rotary tone switch, tone, 5-way pickup selector | Hardware: 2-Point Synchronized Tremolo, Deluxe locking tuners | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White, Mystic Ice Blue, Classic Copper, 3-Color Sunburst

Noiseless pickups
Comfortable 305mm fingerboard radius
Included gigbag could be better
A few similar sounds from the V6 preamp

This upgraded Deluxe model features an alder body and bolt-on maple neck, with the option of maple and rosewood fingerboard, finished with satin polyurethane. Keep sniffing around and you'll find other features like the 'Modern C' neck profile, 22 narrow/tall frets, a contoured neck heel, synthetic bone top nut and a set of locking tuners with vintage-look buttons. The new Roadhouse features three Vintage Noiseless (1st generation) single coil-sized humbuckers wired to a five-way pickup selector blade switch, and master volume and tone controls. Lurking between the volume and tone knobs is the V6 preamp control, a six-position rotary switch that gives you access to a series of tweaked single-coil tones. Plugging in the Roadhouse reveals a slew of classic Strat tones. The pickups exploit the natural tone and woodiness of the guitar, while the Noiseless aspect lives up to their vow of silence, making them indispensable in a recording situation. As a result, bar metal, this is the best Strat for just about all scenarios.

Read the full review: Fender Deluxe Series Roadhouse Stratocaster

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5. Fender American Professional Stratocaster HSS Shawbucker

The best 'classic' modded Strat

Launch price: $1499 / £1399 / €1790 | Body: Ash | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Shawbucker 1, V-Mod Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Master Volume with Treble-Bleed, Tone 1. (Neck/Middle Pickups), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup) | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Antique Olive, Black, Candy Apple Red, Olympic White, Sienna Sunburst, Sonic Gray

Will cover a wider range of tones than an SSS spec
Upgrades from American Standard spec
New pop-in vibrato arm and pickups
Some players just don't get humbuckers on Strats!

The definition of the original modded Strat, the HSS takes the American Pro Strat platform and adds a Shawbucker 1 at the bridge. It's a pretty classic vintage-spec, low-output humbucker using an Alnico 2 bar magnet, 42 gauge plain enamel wire and unpotted coils "to capture every nuance of your style", says Fender. The HSS has a less pushy character than the SSS Strat, which sounds beefier in the lower mids with a little more separation, clarity and percussion. The bridge/middle mix is a little muted, less stringy - in a good way - while the nicely balanced bridge humbucker smooths some of the spikier highs and nails a more classic rock voice into a crunchier gained Marshall-like amp channel.

Read the full review: Fender American Professional Stratocaster HSS Shawbucker

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6. Fender American Original ’60s Stratocaster

A new spin on a vintage original

Launch price: $1,949 / £1,639 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 3x Pure Vintage '65 Gray-Bottom Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Volume, neck tone, bridge/middle tone | Hardware: Pure Vintage 6-saddle Synchronized vibrato, Pure Vintage Single Line 'Fender Deluxe' tuners | Left-handed: Yes | Finish: Olympic White, 3-Color Sunburst, Candy Apple Red

Classic take on the Strat
Great neck shape
Beefy, versatile sounds
Some samples may be a little weighty
Not one for players seeking contemporary features

Rather than being period-correct reincarnations, Fender's Original series aims for a ‘best of decade’ vibe. So, this Strat is alder bodied with a ‘round-laminate’ rosewood fingerboard that was implemented in mid-1962. In a mid-'60s style we get Pure Vintage ’65 Gray-Bottom single coils on an 11-screw mint-green pickguard with aged white controls. Meanwhile, a concession to modernism is the second, lowest, tone control, which originally would have been for the middle pickup, but here works on both the middle and bridge pickups. Another 'modern' inclusion is the ubiquitous five-way lever switch, which didn’t actually replace the original three-way switch on the Stratocaster until 1977. You’ll find these ‘fixes’ on many Fender Custom Shop models, of course, but while these don’t come with any ageing or relic’ing they are significantly cheaper. If you hanker after a new USA-made production Fender and want the most vintage-spec possible, this is now it. Vintage-inspired, yes, but with the fixes that many players will embrace, this is one of the best classic Fender Stratocasters outside of the Custom Shop.

Read the full review: Fender American Original '60s Stratocaster

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7. Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s

The best affordable 'classic' Strat

Launch price: $579.99 / £279 / €339 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Custom Vintage-Style Single-Coil Strat | Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Middle Pickup) | Hardware: Chrome | Left-handed: | Finish: 2-Color Sunburst, Sherwood Green Metallic

Great build
Excellent value for money
Not the most characterful pickups

Stealing from the rich archives of Fender and giving to the poor (ie, us), the Classic Vibe Strat offers '50s specs - maple fingerboard, single-ply pickguard - with contemporary playability, courtesy of the gloss-finished C shape neck, complete with skunk stripe down the rear. The sound of the Strat is so ingrained, you know when it's not right; fortunately, Squier has captured the model's tonal mojo to a tee. Each of the five pickup positions is snappy with a woody midrange that's quintessentially Strat. The cool neck, mellow middle and sharp bridge are all fine examples, but the stars of this Strat are the in-between positions; if you want to get your Nile Rodgers on, just plug in a compressor and let fly. The pickups are good overdriven performers, too; the maple 'board lends a little extra sizzle, which helps them to cut through.

Read the full review: Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster ’50s

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8. Fender Dave Murray Stratocaster

The best Strat for metal players

Launch price: $1,024 / £889 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 21 | Pickups: 2x Seymour Duncan Hot Rails for Strat SHR-1B (bridge, neck), 1x Seymour Duncan JB Jr SJBJ-1N | Controls: Volume, 2x tone, 5-way selector switch | Hardware: Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo | Left-handed: No | Finish: Sunburst

Not just for Maiden fans
All-rounder for rock
Floyd Rose locking tremolo
The spec will be sacrilegious to purists!

This Iron Maiden-approved Strat has an air of refinement - a sober, classy aesthetic complementing a nuanced, classic rock tone. But make no mistake: with two Seymour Duncan Hot Rails stacked humbuckers in neck and bridge, and a JB Jr in the middle, there's plenty of firepower on offer. Given that Maiden's increasingly progressive sound makes all sorts of demands on Murray's gear, we're not surprised by the harmonically rich bark of the bridge 'bucker through an all-valve head, lending a fiery heat and squeal to solos. That said, it also has some unexpected sweet spots when the signal is just pushed to breaking point. Ultimately, the Dave Murray Stratocaster is one of the best options at this price for metal, with plenty of crunch and scream and a top quality vibrato, arguably trumping Murray's US-built signature model (retailing at more than twice the price) with regards functionality and versatility - if not outright quality.

Read the full review: Fender Dave Murray Stratocaster

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9. Fender American Professional Stratocaster HH Shawbucker

The best Strat for Les Paul players

Launch price: $1399 / £1399 / €1645 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Rosewood | Frets: 22 | Pickups: Shawbucker 1, Shawbucker 2 | Controls: Master Volume with Treble-Bleed, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup) | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Left-handed: No | Finish: 3-Color Sunburst, Antique Olive, Black, Olympic White, Sonic Gray

Upgrades from American Standard spec
New pop-in vibrato arm and pickups
Shawbuckers provide excellent rock tones
Dual 'buckers on a Strat should be so wrong, not in this guise, though

This Strat uses a pair of Tim Shaw's humbuckers, the difference being that the lower output Shawbucker 1 is placed at the neck and an 'overwound' Shawbucker 2 is added at the bridge. Plugging the HH in ups the rock factor with a little more kick from the bridge and a hugely characterful PAF/ bolt-on voice than found with the rest of the recently-reviewed Professional models. Drop back to a cleaner Fender-style amp, though, and there's a smoother steel-y voice that, combined with the very usable coil-split combinations, makes for a very versatile platform: it might be less Strat-specific, but it moves from steel-like jazzy and swingy blues, through crunchy classic rock gains, easily into hair metal or Foo Fighters-like gained drive. For players seeking dual-humbucker thrills from a traditional bolt-on outline, this is the best Strat.

Read the full review: Fender American Professional Stratocaster HH Shawbucker

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10. Fender EOB Sustainer Stratocaster

The best Strat for forward-thinking players

Launch price: $1,099 / £949 / €1,125 | Body: Alder | Neck: Maple | Scale: 25.5" (648 mm) | Fingerboard: Maple | Frets: 21 | Pickups: Duncan JB Jr., Texas Special Single-Coil Strat, Sustainer Driver | Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone, Intensity Control, Active Sustainer On/Off Switch, Fundamental/Harmonic/Blend Switch | Hardware: Nickel/Chrome | Left-handed: No | Finish: Olympic White

Versatile pickups
Inspirational Sustainer system
Comfortable, chunky neck shape
Still a little pricey for a made-in-Mexico model

Radiohead's Ed O’Brien has crammed his ‘designed-with’ Sustainer Strat with tech while staying as faithful to the traditional Strat look as possible. The headline-grabbing addition is the Fernandes Sustainer, which provides the key to the alternate realm of guitar tones that awaits. Complementing that there's a Texas Special Strat single, which packs an overwound, beefier character than your vintage Strat types, plus a Seymour Duncan JB Jr single coil-sized humbucker in the bridge, meaning there are a lot of tones in this guitar. The neck is excellent, too: a more palm-filling V than the generic C we’ve come to expect from Mexican-made Fenders and provides an extremely comfortable, chunky feel, bolstered by an engaging light satin finish. In many respects, the EOB Stratocaster isn’t a revolutionary guitar - after all, the Sustainer itself has been around for decades - but in pairing its namesake system with a hugely versatile set of pickups and a classic outline at a sub-£1,000 price point, Fender has produced a guitar that will appeal to players from all sonic walks of life. 

Read the full review: Fender EOB Sustainer Stratocaster

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