Hello everyone, I hope you are all doing great! Back again with another brutally honest electric guitar review for you, this time we will be looking at a Fender American Standard Stratocaster (Maple Neck, made in 2013) in mesmerizing Mystic Blue colour! 🙂 To be honest, this particular guitar has been on my radar since I first came across it in 2014.
As I have mentioned in my other articles and reviews, I used to be one of the luckiest guitar nerds around since I had the chance to test, play and record dozens of guitars in the Turkish MI market. In my opinion, Fender did an excellent job between 2013 and 2015 in terms of providing one of the greatest Strats which come with an excellent combination of specs and sweet finishes and colours.
Unfortunately, I wasn’t really able to afford a US-made Strat back in the day and always went for more budget-friendly options, such as SX SST62 Stratocaster and Vintage V6 Reissue Stratocaster for my own collection of guitars.
Recently, in early 2020, I decided to go for the one and really put some effort to find the one I always wanted!
But there was a problem; Finding a second-hand Fender American Standard Stratocaster from that era was not an issue, however finding a Mystic Blue which is my all-time favourite Fender finish was almost impossible. In my first week of searching for this guitar, I was able to find one but by the time I contacted the seller, it was gone already 🙂
So I kept searching for it at random times every day and finally found one in the UK! The guitar was in a good condition, but there were risks to take as even though it’s a Fender American “Standard“, it may have had manufacturing errors.
You may say, “How can you be so certain about it? It’s a US-made Strat!“, well having tested almost all Fender and Squier ranges in that era, I can easily say that there was no standard even in US-made ones.
To be honest, US-made Fender guitars with rosewood fingerboards always came with higher consistency in terms of craftsmanship, but the ones with maple necks were always different. This would be much more obvious in the finish of the fingerboard as you will find out in this review.
Since I was aiming for a maple neck version, my risks were doubled. But I went for it anyway 🙂
Before we dive into many more details and talk about an almost enforced modification/upgrade that I did, let’s have a look at the tech specs first.
Fender USA Standard Stratocaster Tech Specs (2013)
|Neck Finish||Satin Finish on Back, Gloss Finish on Front|
|Neck Shape||Modern "C"|
|Scale Length||25.5" (648 mm)|
|Radius||9.5" (241 mm)|
|Number of Frets||22|
|Fret Size||Medium Jumbo|
|Nut Material||Synthetic Bone|
|Nut Width||1.685" (42.8 mm)|
|Position Inlays||Black Dots|
|Pickups||Custom Shop Fat '50s Single-Coil Strat (Bridge, Middle, Neck)|
|Controls||Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge/Middle Pickup)|
|Bridge||2-Point Synchronized Tremolo with Bent Steel Saddles|
|Tuning Machines||Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered|
|Control Knobs, Switch Tip||Aged White Plastic|
|Neck Plate||4-Bolt with Micro-Tilt Adjustment|
|Strings||Fender Super 250L, NPS, (.009-.042 Gauges)|
|Other Features||Bent Steel Saddles with Elongated String Slots,|
Copper Infused High Mass 100% Metal Bridge Block,
Thinner Undercoat Finish for Improved Body Resonance,
Tinted Neck, Aged Plastic Parts.
|Included Accessories||Hardshell Case, Cable, Strap, Polishing Cloth|
As you can see from the tech specs, it’s pretty much a standard, 3 single-coil Strat design and guarantees to give you the infamous Strat tones out of the box.
Excellent Craftsmanship? Maybe not…
As I have mentioned above, I was really concerned with the maple fingerboard as I had tested many brand new Strats from this era with different gloss finish thicknesses. There were even ones that came with a huge thickness along with the gloss finish being sticky!
The one I have fortunately did not come with a sticky gloss finish on the maple board, but with a quick check, I noticed some anomalies in the high register. In the image below, you can easily see they used an excessive amount of lacquer in the high register end. It doesn’t really affect anything playing-wise but still shows that not all US-made Fender Strats come with “Standard” build quality.
The second issue is all about cosmetics and has nothing to do with playing, however, I was very surprised when I noticed a flaw in the guitar finish. You can easily see this from the image below, the cooling and settling of this marvellous finish was probably done without giving much attention. Next to the output jack plate, the finish had a thickness difference which was really easy to spot with a bare pair of eyes from the right angle.
The third issue was about saddles. To be honest, even though I have a significant amount of experience in testing electric guitars, I didn’t even check them (silly me!), instead set them up and played them rarely.
Always check every component on your guitars!
The previous owner had strung the guitar with a set of Elixir Nanoweb Super-Light which is my all-time favourite guitar string brand and from my 10+ years of experience with Elixirs, I was confident that it had been 2-3 months old (checking the flakes that started to emerge on the D string). So I thought I could use them for the upcoming months without a problem.
But a really strange thing happened to me! I was practising some songs, and bent the 22nd fret on the high E string! Ended up with a broken string! :/
I was sad and ordered a new set of strings from Thomann and a week later restrung my Strat again. Guess what happened?
I played the same note again and on the very first try; boom, another broken high E string! I was first concerned about my playing as I hadn’t been playing the guitar often anymore in recent years which may have led me to have an uncontrolled power.
However, given the fact that I had only broken high E strings twice in the last 20 years, I wanted to look into this issue.
As you can see in the image below, the saddle was eaten up by the string which turned it into an almost knife, cutting the string from saddle end in the first attempt!
You may say, this can happen to any guitar, however, the guitar was almost in brand new condition since the frets had no marks of playing and also the previous owner just used it for some strumming chords at weddings/church events…
So I was really disappointed with saddle quality and went for another order from Thomann, this time including a set of Graphtech saddles!
Which Graph Tech saddles should I buy for my Fender Stratocaster?
With a sense of urgency to fix my guitar and start playing again, I ordered Graph Tech PS-8001-00 just by reading the short description, but I was wrong! Even though it’s promoted as a replacement for American Strats, it was offset, which means the intonation screws were offset rather than in the centre.
See the image below. It’s actually not Thomann’s mistake as you are responsible for measuring your string spacing and checking your bridge construction to choose the right one.
How to upgrade Stratocaster saddles with Graphtech?
The correct one is Graph Tech PS-8000-00 StringsaverMexStrat, as the product name suggests you should go for this one if you have an imported Strat (a.k.a Mexico or China ones). However, it has nothing to do with the quality of saddles. Both versions guarantee identical quality. Instead of going for the product description and name, I highly suggest you check out the Graphtech product catalogue.
On page 46, you can easily notice that there are only 2 different E-to-E measurements. Your Strat/Tele should have an E-to-E measurement of around 52.73mm unless you have a real vintage instrument. Then the next thing you should be careful of is to pick up the one with the correct intonation screw holes and not make the mistake I made 🙂
Installation is super simple, all you need to unscrew the intonation screws and mount them on your bridge. But don’t forget to adjust your intonation as it will be far from being intuned when you tighten those screws.
Since I had become really paranoid about string breakage, I also used Big Bends Nut Sauce which I believe has been really helpful for minimizing the amount of friction at the contact points. Lastly, I used Dunlop Micro Fine Guitar Polish 5410, to remove the thin layer of oxidized frets and also tried to thin out those excessive amounts of lacquer on the high register.
After I was done with this almost “enforced” upgrade and restrung my Strat with Elixir Optiweb 19027 Custom Light (not in the video) set. Then with the final touch of Dunlop Formula 65 Polish featuring Thomann Polishing Cloth here’s what I got 🙂
Fender USA Stratocaster Review & Sound Demo (no talking)
Along with this brutally honest review, I also wanted to record a demo video (MyDukkan style) in which I just played a couple of riffs, lines and some impro solos and riffs. If you are interested, I highly suggest you watch this video.
In this video, I’m using my ENGL E570 all-tube preamp, ENGL Cabloader directly into the RME Babyface PRO audio interface. Also added a touch of Lexicon reverb (VST). For the video, I had to restring my Fender Strat with Elixir Optiweb 19002 set.
What to say about a classic Fender Stratocaster? I strongly advocate that many Fender models, regardless of their series or models (down to Squier Affinity, Mexico Strats, and American ones…) promise a huge value and are mostly very consistent with quality.
In my opinion, Fender American Standards are just the sweet spot for Strat lovers with high-quality components. As you have seen in the article, there may be always nasty surprises waiting for you, but if you feel confident with the build quality and timbre of the guitar, chances are you will love your Strat.
I think Custom Shop 50s pickups sound excellent, they are my favourite single-coil pickups! Sound very full and rich in various settings. Recently, I published an article covering Fender Custom Shop Fat 50s Stratocaster pickups. So don’t forget to check that out as well!
Check out my Fender Custom Shop Fat 50s Stratocaster pickups review here.
If you want to own a Strat but don’t really want to spend your time and money upgrading every component, I definitely suggest you go for an American-made Stratocaster!
Unfortunately, you can not buy these particular Fender American Stratocasters brand new anymore as they have been replaced with many more Strat models. But you can still have a look at the new Fender American Ultra Stratocasters. This series is still a pretty standard Stratocaster but with modern features, see for yourself here.
Mind you, you can always search for these on Reverb.com and if you are lucky you can find one with your preferred colour and fingerboard options.
I hope you have found this article and video useful, thanks for visiting my blog and supporting me so far! I will hopefully see you in the next review here!
Osman Cenan Çiğil – cigilovic.com