Fender American Special Stratocaster Review – Solid Axe!

Hello there, back again with another electric guitar review based on real-life experiences from the musical instruments industry! This time we will be looking at Fender American Special Stratocasters. Here in this article, I will be featuring both a maple fingerboard with SSS and a rosewood fingerboard with an HSS pickup configuration.

Before we start, I would like to remind you that Fender American Special series guitars have been replaced with Fender American Performer Stratocasters.

In this article, I will be sharing the tech specs of both series from different eras as well as the full review videos of Fender American Special Strats.

Fender American Special Series was designed to fill a gap in between the more expensive end such as Fender American Standard, Custom Shop and less expensive end such as Fender Standard Stratocasters and Squier Vintage Modified series instruments.

I personally love American Special Series as they offer some of the features that I’m a big fan of. The big headstock (70s style) and a very thin layer of lacquer on maple neck versions are just spot on for my own taste!

Note that these series don’t offer a way less value than an American Standard, in fact, they are seriously excellent instruments for even professional players and still made in the USA!

My first encounter with a Fender American Special was dated back in 2014. It was a Candy Apple Red with a maple fingerboard and SSS pickup configuration. Let’s hear it in action first! The audio was recorded again with a Marshall JVM205C valve amp and Shure SM57 microphone directly into TC Electronic Impact Twin.

All settings on 3 different channels on the amp were set to noon as in other videos for a better comparison.

You can even see how much satin look and feel this fingerboard has! I’m a big fan of maple fingerboards without any lacquer applied. This guitar has almost none of this layer on the board that normally feels very strange to me and sometimes even sticky!

I would say the amount of lacquer was in between an American Standard and the one I experienced on a Fender Road Worn Player Series Stratocaster. Just right!

Later on, we had another Fender American Special, this time was with a rosewood fingerboard and HSS pickup configuration. Here’s the full review video.

What has changed so far with Fender American Special vs Performer Stratocasters?

Here’s a simple comparison chart for Fender American Special (discontinued) vs Fender American Performer Stratocasters. As you can see, there are a couple of changes applied to the new model, however, it’s not groundbreaking or a completely new design.

As with many other companies from many fields of businesses, they usually have to come up with some fresh line of products. Fender also does the same thing regularly and now we have the Fender American Performer Series Stratocasters 🙂

The most remarkable difference is the pickups and the extra feature that enables you to coil-split the HB pickup, the rest is pretty much the same guitar.

Also, we need to mention that they have brought up different colours and finish options 🙂

Fender American Special vs Fender American Performer

ModelFender American SpecialFender American Performer
Body
Body MaterialAlderAlder
Body FinishGloss UrethaneGloss Urethane
Neck
Neck MaterialMapleMaple
Neck FinishSatin UrethaneSatin Urethane
Neck ShapeModern "C"Modern "C"
Scale Length25.5" (648 mm)25.5" (648 mm)
Fingerboard MaterialRosewood or MapleRosewood or Maple
Fingerboard Radius9.5" (241 mm)9.5" (241 mm)
Number of Frets2222
Fret SizeJumboJumbo
Nut MaterialSynthetic BoneSynthetic Bone
Nut Width1.685" (42.8 mm)1.685" (42.8 mm)
Position InlaysWhite or Black DotWhite or Black Dot
Truss RodStandardStandard
Electronics
Bridge PickupAtomic™ Humbucking (on HSS) Texas Special™ Single-Coil Strat (on SSS)Double Tap™ Humbucking (on HSS) Yosemite® Single-Coil Stratocaster® (on SSS)
Middle & Neck PickupTexas Special™ Single-Coil StratYosemite® Single-Coil Stratocaster®
ControlsMaster Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup) Greasebucket™ Tone Circuit, (Rolls Off Highs without Adding Bass) Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup), Greasebucket™ Tone CircuitMaster Volume, Tone 1. (Neck & Middle Pickup), Tone 2. Greasebucket™ Tone Circuit (Bridge Pickup)
Switching5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck PickupPickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup
ConfigurationHSS or HSSHSS or HSS
Special ElectronicsGreasebucket™ Tone Circuit (Rolls off Highs Without Adding Bass)Greasebucket™ Tone Circuit (Rolls off Highs Without Adding Bass) + Push-Pull Pot On Tone 2 for Coil-Split
Hardware
Bridge6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo6-Saddle Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
Hardware FinishChromeNickel/Chrome
Tuning MachinesStandard Cast/SealedAmerican Performer
Pickguard3-Ply Black or Parchment3-Ply Mint Green or 3-Ply Black
Control KnobsBlack or White PlasticAged White Plastic
Switch TipBlack or White PlasticBlack or White Plastic
Neck Plate4-Bolt Standard4-Bolt Standard
Miscellaneous
StringsFender® USA 250L, NPS (.009-.042 Gauges)Fender® USA 250L, NPS (.009-.042 Gauges)
Accessories
Included AccessoriesDeluxe Gig Bag, Polishing ClothDeluxe Gig Bag, Polishing Cloth

The price tag, the features remind me exactly the good old Fender American Special Strats. In my opinion, if you don’t bust your bank and still keep the damage around €1000, it’s one of the best choices out there while still guarantees you an American made Fender Stratocaster at affordable levels.

I would definitely recommend Fender American Performer Stratocasters to my visitors! You can have a look at the other colour options as well as the availability here.

I hope you have enjoyed this content as well, thanks for reading! See you in the next article 😉

Osman

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