Fender Player Stra­to­caster SSS

FENDER RAISES THE BAR FOR ITS EN­TRY-LEVEL STRA­TO­CASTER, WITH (UN­SUR­PRIS­INGLY) SEXY RE­SULTS. WORDS BY PETER HODG­SON.

Australian Guitar - - Contents -

For decades now, the en­try point to the Fender brand was the Stan­dard line made in Mex­ico. Th­ese have been very re­li­able in­stru­ments that give you the essence of the Fender experience.

But Fender has de­cided that it’s time to change the way it does things at the en­try point to the brand: the Stan­dard is no more, si­mul­ta­ne­ously up­graded to and re­placed by the new Player Se­ries, which ad­dresses some of the things that the Stan­dard Se­ries did in a cer­tain way that gave Fender room to up­grade you later on to a higher se­ries.

That in­cludes things like pickup mag­nets, neck feel and bridge type. And on top of all that, they’ve re­vamped the colour of­fer­ings of the line. So es­sen­tially, Fender has dis­con­tin­ued the Stan­dard, made a bet­ter gui­tar line a for few hun­dred bucks more, and called it the Player. The line in­cludes six Stra­to­cast­ers (SSS, HSS, HSH, SSS Plus Top, HSS Plus Top and HSS Floyd Rose), two Tele­cast­ers (SS and HH), an HH Jazzmas­ter and an HS Jaguar.

There’s also a lefty SSS Strat and SS Tele. Bass play­ers are catered to as well with four- and five-string Jazz Basses, a fret­less Jazz, a Pre­ci­sion Bass, Jaguar Bass, and lefty P-Bass and Jazz Bass.

IT’S A STRAT, BUT NOT (QUITE) AS WE KNOW IT

For this re­view, we’re fo­cus­ing on the most Stra­to­caster-y of the Player Stra­to­caster – the triple-sin­gle-coil model with a maple fret­board. The gui­tar comes in a suite of great colours – Three-Colour Sun­burst, Black, But­ter­cream, Po­lar White, Sage Green Metal­lic, Sonic Red and Tide­pool – and depend­ing on the fin­ish you choose, you’ll get ei­ther a maple or a Pau Ferro fret­board, with the ex­cep­tion of Black, Three-Colour Sun­burst and Po­lar White op­tions, where you have your choice of both fret­board woods.

The body is made of alder (two or three pieces – you can’t ex­pect a sin­gle solid piece of wood at this price) with a gloss polyester fin­ish. The neck has a satin ure­thane fin­ish on the back and a gloss ure­thane fin­ish on the front, giv­ing you that crisp Strat fin­ger­board look with­out the sticky neck. The fin­ger­board ra­dius is 9.5 inches, flat­ter than a tra­di­tional Strat’s 7.25 inches but not as flat as the 12-inch or com­pound ra­dius boards you’ll find on some mod­els higher up in the chain. The neck shape is a very com­fort­able Modern C shape, and there are 22 frets. The nut is made of syn­thetic bone, and seems very well fin­ished.

The hard­ware in­cludes a two-point syn­chro­nised tremolo with bent steel sad­dles – a nice com­pro­mise be­tween per­for­mance and tra­di­tion – with stan­dard cast/sealed tuners, three-ply parch­ment pick­guard and parch­ment knobs and pickup se­lec­tor switch tip.

An­other nice touch is the ‘F’ stamped neck plate. It may be a sim­ple thing, but having that iconic Fender ‘F’ on the neck plate in­stead of noth­ing feels like that ex­tra lit­tle bit of ef­fort that el­e­vates this gui­tar above its Stan­dard an­ces­tor.

The pick­ups are a trio of sin­gle coils in the clas­sic Stra­to­caster vein, but they’re to­tally re­designed from those that used to be fea­tured in the Stan­dard. Whereas those pick­ups used cheaper ce­ramic mag­nets and had a bit of a harsher high end, the new re­designed pick­ups use Al­nico 5 mag­nets for a much more tra­di­tional Strat sound. If you’ve ever won­dered why your Stan­dard Strat sounded a lit­tle more brash

and hairy than your buddy’s Deluxe, those ce­ramic mag­nets are why.

STRATOCASTING

The first thing you’ll no­tice when you pick this baby up is just how com­fort­able that neck is. The Fender Modern C shape is a great ‘com­fort­able for ev­ery­one’ neck, in that there are prob­a­bly other neck shapes more per­fectly suited to any one in­di­vid­ual’s hand, but this one is go­ing to feel very playable by pretty much all play­ers.

Hit a note and you’ll feel that fa­mil­iar Stratty ‘spring’ – the lively snap that tells you you’re play­ing a bolt-on with a maple fin­ger­board. It feels more like an Amer­i­can Strat than the old Stan­dard ever did.

Plug it in and you’ll in­stantly hear it: that clas­sic Fender tone. Th­ese pick­ups aren’t quite on the level of Fender USA pick­ups, but they’re def­i­nitely much more faith­ful to what we ex­pect of a Strat than what was in the Stan­dard. The neck pickup has that SRV-ish, full-bod­ied-yet-grainy feel; the bridge pickup has a nice bite with­out be­ing overly harsh; and the mid­dle pickup is the unsung hero, com­bin­ing singing har­mon­ics and a nice full body.

The mid­dle pickup sounds es­pe­cially great for play­ing with­out a pick, Mark Knopfler-style. One in­ter­est­ing quirk is that the first tone con­trol cov­ers both the neck and mid­dle pick­ups, with the sec­ond con­trol op­er­at­ing on the bridge pickup– tra­di­tion­ally left with­out a tone con­trol at all in con­ven­tional Strat set­ups. This is a pop­u­lar mod, and it’s not the first time it’s been seen on a Strat from the fac­tory, but it rep­re­sents a pretty big leap by be­ing used in the Stra­to­caster en­try point.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This is a great place to start for those who want an au­then­tic, yet up­graded Stra­to­caster. It’s re­li­able enough to be your main gui­tar, and even if you want to up­grade the pick­ups in the fu­ture to some­thing more high-class, you’re al­ready start­ing with a heck of a gui­tar.

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