Fender, not content with creating one of the most iconic body shapes in history, continue to push boundaries in the accessible and affordable instrument market. Following the release of American Ultra last year, a new top-tier line of instruments (whose quality is exceeded only by the Custom Shop), Fender have revamped their Player series with some new colourways: namely this Stratocaster in Buttercream with three-single coil pickups and a Silver model with an alnico humbucker in the bridge.
As the name suggests, these guitars are designed for the player: they’re guitars to be relied on as both a consistent gigger and a studio workhorse. Mostly alder bodies, with both modern colourways and traditional and vintage styling, they’re a Fender guitar through and through; guitars built at the cutting edge, though steeped in years of tradition. These instruments feature specs to rival their more expensive, American made counterparts, and retain all the build quality and aesthetics you’ve come to expect from the Big F.
These two Stratocasters both feature maple fretboards and alnico pickups, and both play great, as do all models in the Player Series, while the new colour-ways offer even more options for the picky modern player. The famed Fender offset contour body is alive and well, and still serving its purpose. These Strats sit comfortably against the body, and resonate into you so you can feel the push and pull of every note from the strings that resonate through the two-point synchronized tremolo.
The pickups sound great, even for stock pickups, and definitely won’t require an upgrade unless you’re looking for something other than that classic Strat sound. Alnico pickups offer a generally warmer sound than their ceramic counterparts, which provides a nice offset to the alder tonewood, which is typically a bright and resonant wood. A five-way switch offers each of the pickups/humbuckers on their lonesome, while the positions in-between offer a phasey blend of the two, while a master volume knob and two tone pots allow you to further tweak those tones into something unique.
From headstock to strap pin, the Fender Player Series is spec’d fairly traditionally, but not like a vintage Fender, and it’s important to differentiate these two. While vintage and vintage spec’d guitars are highly sought after, we’ve made obvious and necessary improvements to guitars since the first solid-body electrics appeared in the ‘50s. The original Strats featured only a three-way switch, offering a single alnico pickup at a time, and all three pickups were identical (though different placement offers different sounds and tones). The Player Series, however, feature the classic single-coil pickups, but more attuned to their placement and use, with the addition of pickup blending via the five-way switch. The alnico 2 humbucking pickup featured on the Silver HSS Stratocaster answers the call for a much more modern sound, allowing you to drench it with gain without added hum and noise.
Both the Buttercream Stratocaster and Silver HSS Strat feature a 25.5” scale length and very comfortable ‘Modern “C”’ neck shapes. The slick maple fretboards present on both models nicely complement both the alnico pickups and alder bodies, tightening the low end of the alder and offering a snap that is synonymous with maple. Alternatively, you can purchase most of the Player Series with pau ferro, for a fretboard lighter in colour than rosewood, but similar in tone and sonic personality. Medium jumbo frets cover the fingerboard.
All in all, the Player Series Stratocasters are a great buy for players of any level. Even between vintage Fender and the American Ultra, they hold their own and capitalise on their own little space in the market: guitars designed for the player. They’re built to traditional specs, but with all the bells and whistles of almost 70 years of Stratocaster builds, embellishments and improvements. They’re a workhorse guitar that doesn’t sit in a price bracket that prevents it from being a legitimately road-worn guitar. Alder bodies and maple necks offer a refined playing experience, while the alnico pickups offer tones developed since the first Strats in the early 50s, and literally everything in between.
If single coils aren’t your game, then humbuckers are available as well, with some splittable options for that single-coil sound anyway. A myriad of colours are available to suit your style, and most likely you can choose between the increasingly-popular pau ferro or a maple fretboard. These Stratocasters are the result of years of research and vast improvements in electric guitars, in a price-point that not only keeps your wallet happy, but allows them to be toured without too much risk. They really are an instrument for the gigger and player, as are all the Player Series guitars and basses from Fender.