Reviewed: Fender Vintera Series Stratocasters

Fender Music Australia | fender.com.au | RRP: Vintera ‘50s Stratocaster - $1,799, Vintera ‘50s Stratocaster Modified - $1,999, Vintera ‘60s Stratocaster - $1,799

The Fender Vintera series of period-correct Stratocasters are a gentle reminder for 2019. They’re a reminder that Stratocasters are not only one of the original and most iconic electric guitar models of all time, but they’re also still the best. There’s a reason they have and will continue to be played by some of the greatest to ever do it.

The Vintera Series of Stratocasters are redesigned models from the 50s, 60s and 70s and feature variations on pickups, neck profiles and body woods, as well as maple or pau ferro fingerboards. All the guitars feature the iconic triple singlecoil pickups and vintage-style tremolos. The guitars are well-built, with a few bells and whistles that make them stand out from a modern standard Strat, or even an older, vintage counterpart. The Vintera series is designed to be a tip-of-the-hat to Fender’s roots, but with modern features and specifications.

 

Beginning with the ‘60s model, this particular guitar is a Three-Colour Sunburst with an aged, 3-ply mint green pickguard - a really nice touch. It’s got an alder body with a bolt-on maple neck and pau ferro fingerboard, as well as 21 vintage-style frets (short and narrow as opposed to medium or medium-jumbo style frets on the series’ counterparts) along its 25.5” scale length. The guitar is topped and tailed by a synthetic bone nut and vintage-style six-point synchronised tremolo, while vintage-style Fender tuners complete the guitar. Straight of the box, the guitar has a spanky and demanding response, and produces a fat, creamy tone when plugged in. Different settings on the five-way toggle between the three Vintage-Style '60s singlecoil Strat pickups are reminiscent mostly of coveted players like Eric Clapton or Jimi Hendrix, allowing you to have big fat bluesy leads or phasey, thin tones to help you pop in and out of a mix of blues and rock. Each note in a chord is heard and the harmonies resonate beautifully. The bridge pickup is thinner than I generally like, but is complimentary to the overall sound of the guitar.

 

 

The two ‘50s inspired models, in this case a ‘50s Modified Two-Colour Sunburst and a more straight-down-the-line ‘50s Strat in Sea Foam Green are a step up again. The Modified Strat is alder, but features three Hot ‘50s Strat singlecoil pickups that respond more dynamically because of more modern components and a hotter output. The Modified Strat has a Modern C shaped neck with a satin finish, a welcome little addition, with a more contemporary 9.5” fingerboard radius and medium-jumbo frets as opposed to the thinner vintage fret wiring. The modified version of the 50s Strat also features Fender’s S-1 switch, a push/pull that toggles the neck pickup in and out of position 1 & 2 of the pickup selector. This essentially adds the neck pickup into bridge and bridge/middle pickup configurations, allowing you to pull impossibly big tones that were previously unavailable. Plugged in, the Modified ‘50s Vintera Strat is instantly rockier than its ‘60s counterpart. Chords are less articulate but feel more cohesive and powerful, without being a noticeably bigger or chunkier tone. The Hot ‘50s Strat pickups overall are more solid and full.

 

Finally, the Sea Foam Green finished, alder bodied ‘50s Strat, also available in an ash body, is the reigning champion of the three. The Sea Foam Green finish is a great addition as it feels inherently 50s and features three vintage-style ‘50s Strat single-coil pickups with dedicated tone controls for neck/mid and bridge respectively. The maple neck is finished into a soft-V shape, a reimagined and modernised take on the classic pointy V-shaped necks of the ‘50s. Vintage style frets litter the 25.5” scale length and sit nicely in the neck featuring a 7.25” radius that is fairly convex by today’s standards. Again, a synthetic bone nut and vintage-style tremolo finish the guitar. The tone from this Strat is easily the most unique of the three - but in the best way. It pulls the thickness of the ‘60s model and the bite of the modded ‘50s tone into one, providing a super forward lead tone on the neck and bright and twangy tone on the bridge - plus anything in between. Position two on the five-way pickup selector provides a solid, punchy and consistent tone that is noticeably more modern, but that may be because guitarist have been pulling tones with this seemingly perfect configuration since the 50s. If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.

 

 

Overall, the Vintera series of Stratocasters from Fender are a great set of guitars, whether you’re a Fender player or not. They’re very true to style and era, without being complete replicas. They’re vintage with modern and contemporary additions that make them phenomenal instruments for a player of any level. Vintage features, frets, neck profiles and colours, as well as woods that have been tried, tested and used endlessly by Fender. The guitars also highlight what a phenomenal build the original Stratocasters were, as they really haven’t changed much overall. The ‘60s models feature period correct neck profiles and pickups, as well as simply being phenomenally made guitars. The ‘50s models remind us how and why Strats have been played since time began (i.e. when rock and roll began, right?), but with modern modifications if and when you want them. At the end of the day, the stock standard ‘50s Strat is still a great guitar and will play whatever role you need it to play in your guitar collection.

Hits and Misses

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Very true to time period features and adornments

Modern and contemporary additions

All very different guitars in sound and feel

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No hard case

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