Fender Player Stratocaster Review

The preamble

Before we start, know this: This latest guitar review is a long time in the making. If you’re a reader of this blog, you’d know I’ve written at length about hankering for a Strat, and in particular a Fender Player Stratocaster, for over two years now. Even when it finally fell into my arms almost three months ago (in Polar White, with a Pau-Ferro board), there were QC issues, but now all is well, and it’s time to finally put pen to paper.

Why the Fender Player Stratocaster?

As I’ve said a thousand times before. The Stratocaster is home to me, the perfect balance of form and function, capable of excelling in any style, but mostly this purchase was about acquiring a lifelong tool and friend to make music with.

This is also my eighth Stratocaster, so I think it’s time to stop messing about with lesser guitars, take the hint and give in!

Fender Player Stratocaster Quality and Hardware.

This is a really good place to start, as it has to be said, I’ve been plagued with QC issues with the Fender Player Stratocaster. Before going any further, the best advice I can give is to thoroughly check any guitar before the return period expires. I got lucky this time as GuitarGuitar kindly offered to fix the issues under warranty or send a replacement.

The issues then: A buzzing B string nut and a high fret. Not a good start eh?

Having resolved the faults, the next issue that cropped up was the bent steel saddles, which, although not faulty have a few design issues I couldn’t tolerate, let’s not get into it here, but they were quickly upgraded to block saddles (full story here).

I also installed an American Series string tree because I think they look and function better than the installed butterfly-style tree (less metal to stag onto).

*Note. In my quest to achieve the look of a USA Strat, I was disappointed to find Fender has gone for the old butterfly string tree and bent-steel saddles on their American Pro series. Cost cutting? Who knows.

We’re still pretty early on in the review and SPOILER ALERT. That’s all the negatives out of the way.

Still on the subject of quality and hardware, that £20 investment has delivered pretty much the perfect strat. The first thing I noticed was that the fingerboard has a lovely dark hue to it, closer to rosewood than some of the official pics would suggest, fretwork is great (bar that resolved high fret) with nothing snagging on the edges and a nice level of polish. The neck itself is a beauty, the medium C profile and satin finish melting into the palm.

Headstock? Perfect again, rock solid Fender branded tuners, a glossed front showcasing the newer and much nicer logo… and the icing on the cake, a Fender 75th Anniversary transfer, no less!

Moving to the body, and whipping off the back cover reveals a very neatly finished cavity, always a good sign, with reassuring glimpses of the body wood and detailed finishing. Nice. And check out that chunky tremolo block; No upgrade necessary here. On the front, the trem screws and selector switch have brass innards, which is PRS-style class, and everything feels solid, and well put together.

Special mention to the volume and tone pots. Not too stiff and not too loose. Just right.

To sum up, this is nigh-on American Series hardware spec for Mexican money.

Fender Player Stratocaster Playability

Nothing plays as well as a Fender Stratocaster, and this is the best I’ve played.

With this guitar, I wanted to set it up as per Fender’s official spec, and with a floating trem for the first time. The result? It’s effortless to play. It makes you want to pick it up, and once you’ve picked it up, it’s hard to stop.

What makes it so great? A number of finely balanced elements. Firstly, the satin-finished invisible neck, which your palm glides over, unhindered. It’s not too narrow, giving you plenty of room, and the 9.5inch radius is a perfect balance for old and new, chords and lead. With the floating trem, the string tension is super-slinky, to the point where, yes, you can go for that 5 semi-tone Another Brick in the Wall bend. Even full tone bends on the top E below the 12th fret aren’t the chore they used to be.

But the body and neck/body join also contribute. The contours of the Strat allow it to be played stood up, sat down, lounging on the sofa, or even in bed, with ease, and even though the four-bolt block is there, upper fret access, with the double cutaway, is still much easier than most other guitars.

The trem is also flawlessly smooth, stable, and quiet in use, the 2-point knife edge being a million miles away from the clunky 6-point-trem of something like the Classic Vibe (CV) series. It definitely inspires me to use it more often.

Fender Player Stratocaster Sounds

The new Player Series Alnico 5 Strat® Single-Coil pickups are fantastic, and not as brash or hot as the ceramics found on its predecessor, the old Mexican Standard Series Stratocaster, but they do still pack more of a punch than the CV series or other vintage-inspired.

In a nutshell, this is a modern Strat voice that again compares very favorably indeed to the American Pro II Series.

So what about those famous tones?

Neck: Nothing sounds as huge and soft at the same time. Clean, it’s like a warm comfy blanket, and overdriven you won’t need an arch-top. As the gain increases, it’s fluid and, well, just listen to Yngwie Malmsteen.

Neck/Middle. First of the out-of-phase, cluck positions you just don’t get on other guitars. This is the thicker variant, and like the other cluck position has a hidden surprise of a Gibson Les Paul tone with gain and the tone backed off. Clean, it’s just beautifully delicate and sweet, but can also be deployed as a syncopated backdrop to a funk track like nothing else.

Middle. The forgotten position is a jack-of-all-trades. Not as intense as the bridge but more bark than the neck. I almost always come to the middle position when I want something a bit different and it’s always surprising how much sonic ground it can cover. It’s the Middle man, in other words. No surprises, just a reliable workhorse with a fair bit of grunt.

Middle/Bridge. Possessing all the qualities of Neck/Middle, with a little more poke. Clean, it’s Sultans of Swing. Also, like the other cluck position, it’s hum-canceling.

Bridge. Some would say the Strat’s Achilles heal. They also say it can’t match the bridge pickup of a Les Paul or a Tele. That’s missing the point. The Fender Stratocaster isn’t about power, it’s about beautiful tones that sit well in a mix and this is the whole point of the bridge position, nothing cuts through a mix like it. This Fender Player Stratocaster has a ton of wildly different quality tones available, but sometimes you just want to break loose and hit the loud pedal as it were, and overdriven at least, the bridge position always delivers, which is why that biting, slicing Fender Stratocaster bridge position is probably one of the most recognisable lead tones in history

Clean, well, you have 4 other positions for that!

Overall, the Fender Player Stratocaster has that crystal transparency that occupies its own unique space in the sound spectrum. It doesn’t need the raw power of a humbucker or Tele bridge, but when gain is applied, those single-coils react in their own way, singing into harmonic feedback as only they can. Think Jimi Hendrix.

Many have described the sound of a Fender Stratocaster as simply ‘Beautiful’, and for clean tones, that’s true, but the real joy for me is when overdriven/distorted that sparkle becomes clarity, dynamics, articulation, and a very forgiving tone under the fingers.

Some question humbuckers as being too compressed and that Tele bridge as being too sterile. Personally, the Strat has always sounded the opposite, as organic as it gets, and never better on this Player Strat.

Fender Player Stratocaster Looks

With the new headstock logo, and the Polar White / Pau-Ferro colour combo, I think it’s one of the best-looking Strats on the market, and by extension, one of the best-looking electric guitars on the market, period. There’s certainly nothing like it in the Player Plus or American Pro II series catalogue.

Fender Player Stratocaster Value for money

I paid £580 for mine, which included a decent gig bag and three months of Fender Play. Add in £20 for the hardware upgrades and that’s £600 for what amounts to something VERY close to the core American models.

Essentially, that’s £600 for a perfect Stratocaster (once the wrinkles had been ironed out).

Let’s compare that to the CV range, which is just over half the price, but feels like a toy in comparison, or something a little more left-field, like the £500(ish) Yamaha Revstar, which is a Les Paul’s ugly brother and fairly generic.

… And speaking of Les Paul’s the New ‘Inspired By’ range of Epiphones look great, on paper, but in the flesh? very cheap looking, especially for £500+

So yes, weighing it all up you are getting a LOT of guitar for £600.

Is the Fender Player Stratocaster better than the old Standard Series?

I can see no reason to go back to the old Mexican Standard series, which the Player series has now replaced, here’s why?

  • The Standard series is still holding its value on the used market. So you won’t get one cheap. £400(ish) at least unless you are very lucky.
  • The Player Series has a significant number of upgrades over the Standard series, including an extra fret (22 vs 21), a far superior 2-point vs 6-screw trem with a thicker block, upgraded electrics, and pickups (Alnico 5 vs ceramic).
  • The Player Series looks nicer with that newer logo on the headstock.


It really has taken me a while to put this blog together, partially because I was sorting out the initial issues with QC, partly because I was tinkering with setting it up just so, but mainly because I’ve been whiling away the hours, not gigging with it, not recording with it, but just the simple pleasure of playing the guitar again, for hours on end, sometimes not even amplified.

But the true measure of a great electric guitar is, that when you do plug it in (preferably into a decent valve amp), it takes things to a whole new level, and you can’t stop. You want to explore tones, techniques, pedals, and then when you finally do stop, the wife asks you to carry on, as ‘that sounded lovely’.

Can anyone give a better recommendation than that?

Classic tones, legendary playability, timeless design, and stunning looks, all for £600? The Fender Player Stratocaster surpasses all expectations…


Pick up a Fender Player Stratocaster Today.

You can support the blog by ordering through my Guitar Centre affiliate link here, or by clicking the image below.

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