It feels like lately the kind folk at the Fender dream factories have decided to smarten up their already spiffy act. Gone are the modern appointments, nay quirks, of the Blacktop and Highway One series. Workhorse American Professional models have well and truly planted themselves in the hearts and minds of players from all walks of life and their classic era builds have those of us with nostalgia on the brain tied up in knots.
What next then for the biggest name in the game? Why not leave no stone unturned, take a trip south of the border and tweak the whole catalogue from the ground up? It’s about time to close the gap between the made-in-Mexico standard riff sticks and the rest of the family. Say hello to the new and improved Player Series Stratocaster.
Over the course of the last few years of cleaning up, Fender has gotten very good at identifying its own faults. Standard Series guitars are probably one of their highest sellers, owing mostly to the price point, and it stands to reason that this is where they should look next in order to get that classic Fender sound into as many hands as possible. I’ve always had a lot of time for Mexican builds. With the Corona, California factory mere miles from door-to-door there is no reason why anyone should snub one build in favour of another, aside from the obvious differences in spec sheets and the necessary variation from piece to piece. The Player Series picks a few cherries from their neighbour's tree in order to sweeten its own pie.
The most obvious improvement by far is the way these things sound. Again, I’ve always had a lot of time for Mexican guitars but as soon as I picked up this aged Malmsteen yellow axe I knew that something had changed. Side by side the old stock has something of a dimmed, sock-over-the-mic dullness that has well and truly been replaced by a light, crispy chime much more akin to an American Standard with Texas Special pickups on board.
The neck too feels less like an imitation. It arcs gently across a more vintage ‘C’ shape than its predecessor, making for a smoother ride that is as easy on intermediate hands as it is familiar to a more seasoned Strat-ophile. Simply put, it’s Strat-ier than ever before. Twenty-two frets, a two-point anchored tremolo, ‘F’ stamped neck plate on the back of an alder body and some of the choicest, vintage paint jobs you’ve seen, the only thing that reminds you that it's not actually American is the MX at the beginning of the serial number.
Fender remind us once again that there’s classic, and there is classic. The improvements they have made to the entry point of their line are just enough to put the Player Series ahead of not only the old Mexican Standard stuff but streets ahead of any pretender to the throne. If this is where the story starts then more and more people than ever are going to be tempted to read on.
Hits and Misses
Improvements are actually improvements, not just changes for the sake of it