The Strat is an iconic and incredibly versatile electric guitar. If
you're looking for a cheap Stratocaster, it's worth considering the
Squier and non-Fender backed offerings featured on this page.
As the forum debates surrounding Fender vs Brand X rage on, the general
consensus seems to be that, sure, if you've got the cash, get the "real
deal". Knock yourself out.
But for those of us with less than $400 (or even $300) to spend, you
will be pleasantly surprised at the quality the budget end of the
Strat copy spectrum has to offer. Plus, there are variations on the
traditional Strat spec for those who want a more modern sound.
Compare the Best
First, a side by side run-down of the 4 picks. Click the table to
The Alnico V pickups have enough chime to illustrate your clean rhythms
resonantly and intricately, if a little on the quiet side. Very
well balanced, warm and rich yet with enough high end crispness to give
solos the bite they need. The neck pickup offers some wonderfully
chiming bell tones - far more usable in this position than other cheap
Only a few have flirted with the notion of changing the bridge pickup
(preferably to something with higher output), but this is more a minor
tweak of personal preference than the replacement of a cheap part. The
"out of phase" positions are where the CV (and in my opinion any Strat
worth its salt) shines and instantly deliver that famously smooth Strat
Again you have the experienced pickers admitting that a lowly Squier
out performs the Mexican and even US Fender standards.
a mere $350 (£280), the CV is only a "cheap Stratocaster" by
price tag, and
proved a very exciting purchase for Strat lovers.
Classic strat spec. Satin finished maple neck. 3 Duncan Designed
pickups. Tremolo system.
What users say
Considered the top player in the Squier range before the Classic
Vibe came along. Comparisons have inevitably been made between the
Deluxe and the Made-in-Mexico Fender Strats.
consensus is it's not worth the extra $200 for the MIM. There is also
the feeling that Squier's newer models from Indonesian and Chinese
factories follow firmly in the footsteps of their highly
Japanese production era.
The basswood body (compared to the more
expensive Classic Vibe's alder body) makes the Deluxe especially
lightweight. It's a softer wood than alder, so it will dent and ding
easily, but it helps to deliver a slightly warmer tone than your
typical Strat brightness and
brashness, naturally rounding off any unpleasant ice picky treble. It's
a less layered sound, with an emphasis on warm, fat mids rather than
low end beef or high end glass.
from the subtle tonal nuances, the Deluxe captures the full essence of
the Strat sound, in all its out-of-phase "quacking" glory, as confirmed
by long term
strat owners and collectors who were intrigued at Squier's higher end
Most users have expressed the desire to keep the
stock pickups which, along with the other built-to-last parts,
make this a solid "no upgrades" candidate, which is unusual for a
guitar of this price.
Note you can also get the Deluxe with a flamed maple finish, but most
places just stock the two current neutral finishes.
The Pacifica series has been
around since the
mid 90s and has slowly gained its reputation as thebudget modified
copy. The 112V is the newest model, a marked improvement on
112J which still receives tremendous praise.
The bridge humbucker provides you with a beefier output than the
classic SSS configuration for high gain
and distorted tones while you can still switch back to the middle-neck
single coils for those classically sweet strat cleans. The 5-way switch
is retained to
experiment with the 112's rich variety of tones. New on the V model is
the coil-tap, giving you even more tonal variation. Simply pop up the
tone knob to give that humbucker a more traditional single coil vibe.
Many players buy this guitar for its neck alone. Slimmer than your
standard Strat's. Quick, comfortable and
ultra playable. Low actions are easily attainable, given that the
factory standards have been met. People are constantly praising just
how good it feels,
before they even mention sound. It's no surprise, then, that shredders
are drawn to the Pacifica in the same way they are to Ibanez for their
super fast necks.
Also impressive is the build and material quality, which truly reveals
itself when you play the 112 acoustically. A very reliable gigger and a
more modern, well rounded alternative to the cheap Stratocaster models
offered by Squier, or even the Fender Standards.
Huge selection of finishes. Maple or Rosewood fretboard. Weighty, solid
ash body available.
What users say
Fetish give you a huge choice of finishes and woods within the $150 to
$200 price range. Very high quality and consistent output for the
price, whether you go for their solid ash model (which I would
recommend for the few dollar extra) or a lighter poplar/alder model.
Each guitar has that custom shop feel and it does make you think about
how much brand name reputation dictates price markup...
forgiven for assuming the XV-870 is primarily a modding/project guitar,
but experienced users have been surprised at the quality of the
construction and pickups, with very little hum from the latter. The
only modest expectations that have been met are with the tone pots,
offering little in the way of gradual, sweeping control and delivering
more of an on/off setting.
However, what you do get is a classic
strat tone out of the box, with more emphasis on the high end and the
stock GFS pickups generally wired hotter than your typical vintage vibe
strat. The result is powerful lead bite and choppy funk tones, but
perhaps don't expect too much bass-mid response.
Certainly one of the best beginner strats available new today and a
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