We take a look at picks for S-style fans, from authentic Fender-branded gear to innovative alternatives.
Working to a lower budget? Take a look at the best Strat-style guitars under $/£1,000.
G&L CLF Research Skyhawk
The Skyhawk plays with the Strat’s outline a lot. The body wood is okoume, while it features the Dual Fulcrum vibrato which was very much a part of the improvements Leo Fender made to the original G&L guitars.
The Skyhawk’s pickups look conventional, although they feature the distinctive polepieces where a height-adjustable screw sits within a threaded insert, plus the versatile Expander function.
This is the sort of guitar that the more you play, the more you discover. It covers a lot of tonal ground, and to some extent, blurs the lines between single coils and humbuckers. Put simply, an extremely likeable guitar.
Read our full G&L CLF Research Skyhawk review
A new name for us too, Vola offers both Japanese- and USA-made models, though it’ll be the former that are available shortly in the UK. The Oz veers on the modern-rock side of the classic recipe with its stylised shape, and more-pointed-than-Suhr headstock, in either HSS or HH pickup configurations, a 22-fret 12-inch radius fingerboard, Gotoh 510 two-post vibrato and Gotoh tuners with height-adjustable posts and an altogether modern-vintage vibe in Daphne Blue or Vintage Ivory gloss.
Read our full Vola Oz 22 MF review
John Page Classic Ashburn Special
$1,559/£1,629 (inc gigbag)
These Japanese-made guitars, designed by ex- Fender veteran John Page, show how the Strat can be thoughtfully reimagined. This Special version of the standard Ashburn offers tinted maple neck and ash body. It’s a proper bolt-on too with a 12-inch radius ’board, Gotoh 510 vibrato and rear-lock Gotoh tuners. Throw in the Page-designed JP-1 single coils and you have quite a piece.
Read our full John Page Classic Ashburn Special review
Fender American Original '60s Strat
$1,949/£1,639 (inc case)
The 2018 reboot of the previous American Vintage series, the American Originals give us a 50s and 60s Strat (both available left-handed) in a choice of three nitro colours per model. They’re obviously the most vintage-specific USA-production models with the more contemporary 9.5-inch fingerboards. If you like your USA Strats more vintage-spec but can’t afford £3k in the Custom Shop, these are the obvious choice.
Read our full Fender American Original 60s Strat review
Fender American Elite Strat
$1,949/£1,799 (inc case)
The American Elite series offers an innovationladen approach with features such as fourthgeneration noiseless single coils, expansive S-1 switching, 9.5-14-inch compound radius fingerboard, truss-rod adjustment wheel, locking short-post tuners, two-post vibrato and even ‘softtouch’ control knobs. You have a choice of seven colours with both maple or rosewood fingerboards plus there’s the HSS Shawbucker-equipped Elite Strat at £1,769.
Read our full Fender American Elite Strat review
Ibanez AZ2204F Prestige
Okay, so this one pushes the budget a fair bit, but the AZ could be a game-changer, judging from the AZ2204 we’ve just got our hands on. Bringing £2k-plus specs to a wider audience, highlights include the roasted-maple neck and 12-inch fingerboard, stainless-steel frets, oil-impregnated bone nut, All Access neck joint, Ibanez-design/Gotoh-made vibrato, and Seymour Duncan Hyperion HSS pickups with passive dyna-MIX 9 switching, offering four additional sounds. It might be the best Ibanez guitar we’ve ever played.
Read our full Ibanez AZ2204F Prestige review
We really liked this guitar when we reviewed it. It's the more classic Strat-alike made in Fullerton, USA, by G&L and remains a valid option, not least when USA guitars seem to be escalating in cost by the month. Combining a distinct headstock design with an equally distinct two-post vibrato, the sounds from the CLF-100 Alnico V pickups are unmistakable. Unique features include the treble and bass tone controls while the 9.5-inch radius fingerboard and Jescar frets offer a smattering of modernism.
Read our full G&L Legacy review