The most pervasive, enduring and imitated of all guitar designs, Fender's iconic Strat might be the most adaptable instrument ever invented.
Here, we look at six more affordable options for S-style guitars from a range of manufacturers, ranging from sub-$/£500 stunners to versatile humbucker-equipped models.
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Sterling By Music Man CT50 Cutlass
The Cutlass features the V neck profile found on mid-'50s Fender Stratocasters. If you’ve never experienced a neck like this, it slots snugly into the V-shaped nook between your thumb and fore finger like a big maple Tetris piece. It also comes brandishing a sculpted neck/body join for easy upper-fret access, while the pickups have that crystal-clear delivery you expect from classic single coils.
Read our full Sterling By Music Man CT50 Cutlass review
G&L Legacy Tribute
The Legacy's basswood body has all the classic 50s contours, and the CLF-100 pickups are designed to take us back to that era, too. Loaded with Alnico V magnets, these pups are the result of research by G&L’s Paul Gagon, but add onboard PTB (Passive Treble & Bass) circuitry for a wider range of tones than your average Strat-style. Leo Fender’s Dual-Fulcrum vibrato also makes an appearance – it floats so you can push its arm down to detune the strings or pull it up to stretch ’em.
Read our full G&L Legacy Tribute review
Fender Player Stratocaster
While the Player’s headstock face and fingerboard are coated in a gloss urethane, the rest of the C-profile neck has a satin urethane feel. It’s your classic ‘best of both worlds’ scenario.
Its pickups are slightly higher gain than say 50s and 60s Strat pups but, yeah, those iconic ‘glassy’ clean tones, and Jimi Hendrix Little Wing in-between sounds, are all present and correct with the Player. Fender has also tweaked this model to offer a dedicated bridge tone control.
Unlike vintage six-screw Stratocaster models, the Player’s vibrato has two pivot points, Floyd Rose style. Used on its US-made guitars for years, this arrangement gives the vibrato an ultra-smooth feel.
Read our full Fender Player Stratocaster review
Chapman ML-1 Traditional
The ML-1 Traditional definitely punches above its price tag in the looks department. Allowing the ash top to shine through, and exposing its edges for a natural body binding effect, gives the guitar a boutique vibe. Yet its direct-mounted Venus Witch Zerø things are proper vintage-voiced single coils. The ML-1 Traditional looks like a modern rock guitar but it has bags of old-school feel and charm.
Read our full Chapman ML-1 Traditional review
Vintage V6 Reissued
There are numerous Strat-alike flavours offered by Vintage - SSS, HSS, three P90s, hardtail, with flame maple veneer top, maple or rosewood fingerboards, left-handers, ash or alder bodies and a selection of colour choices. There’s considerable value for money too with Wilkinson parts and pickups and a Chinese-build quality that will surprise many. Perfect for the modding community too.
Blade Texas Pro
Gary Levinson’s Blade guitars burst onto the scene back in 1987 with the RH-4, which featured numerous upgrades including the Variable Spectrum Control (VSC) - an active mid-boost or combined treble and bass boost, and finishes that were very evocative of the period. Back then it provided a hugely viable option to Fender. Today, Blade has a lower visibility but with nicely vintage-y features, the Texas Pro, in five colours, that still includes that VSC, remains very valid and pretty unique at this price.
Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s
Fender’s long-running affordable sister brand has long been the place to find Far Eastern versions of Fender’s finest. Prices start at an unbelievably trim £125 for the classic-spec Bullet Strat (also available in HSS) rising to the Classic Vibe 50s and 60s with left-handed options. Colour choice is narrow - Sherwood Metallic Green and Black (50s) or Three-Colour Sunburst (60s) but necks are tinted gloss with a C profile and Alnico V loaded single-coils.
Read our full Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster '60s review
Fender Classic '50s Stratocaster
For years, the Mexican-made Classic Series has been the go-to if you want the classic recipe at a pub-gigging price. Along with the 50s model, available in four colours, the 60s version (£729) sports a pau ferro fingerboard in three colours, while the large headstock, ash-bodied 70s model (£799), in natural ash or Olympic White, is maple only with bullet truss-rod adjustment and three-bolt/ micro-tilt neck joint. All have the controversial 7.25-inch fingerboard radius and small frets.
Yamaha Pacifica 612V MK II
Here’s another bolt-on that has a place in Strat-alike history by introducing an affordable solid-wood body (rather than plywood), in 1990. The current version, the 112V, now costs £276 - the 012 is just £197 - while the range rises to the 612V, which boasts Seymour Duncan HSS pickups, Wilkinson vibrato and Grover locking tuners an alder body, maple neck and 13.75-inch radius rosewood ’board. There are flame maple veneer top versions, left-handers, but no SSS models.
Chapman ML1 Pro Traditional
This brand was conceived by internet whiz Rob Chapman and is going from strength to strength. The ML1 Pro Traditional provides a modern take on Fender’s finest. The ultra-thin satin-finished body has a carved top, for example, rear-lock tuners, two-post brass-block vibrato, Alnico V Venus Witch single coils, stainless steel frets and side-mounted output jack. Its originality and ‘boutique’ spec, at this price, is hugely commendable and highly recommended.
Read our full Chapman ML1 Pro Traditional review