Review: Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster

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Review: Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster

70th Anniversary Stratocaster
Words by Christopher Hockey

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster | Fender Australia | RRP $1799

In 1954, Fender changed music forever with the release of their second electric guitar design, the Stratocaster. Now, 70 years later, Fender are celebrating their revolutionary design with the 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster. Featuring everything that made Fender’s original and largely unchanged creation so innovative in 1954, as well as some brand new modern appointments, this anniversary model is a Strat at its very best. 

Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster review

Featuring an eye-catching, celestial ‘Nebula Noir’ finish, the Strat’s famously comfortable curves have never looked so good. Originally suggested by country musician Rex Gallion, the guitar’s contoured body took inspiration from the Precision Bass and was a move away from the squared-off and somewhat uncomfortable shape of the Telecaster. Known as the ‘Original Contour Body’ the Strat’s shape was not only the most comfortable to date, but its double cutaway design allowed for unprecedented fret access.

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Whilst not instantly embraced for its futuristic look, the Stratocaster eventually blossomed into the archetypal instrument that it is today, embraced by legendary stars like Buddy Guy, Jimi Hendrix, Buddy Holly, Jeff Beck and David Gilmour for its smooth playability and extremely versatile sound. That sound shines as brightly as ever in this 70th Anniversary model thanks to its Pure Vintage ‘59 pickups. 

Whilst the original Statocaster featured a three way pickup selector, players soon realised that by lodging the switch between positions with toothpicks and the like, they could unlock a myriad of hum-cancelling new tones. In 1977, this eventually led to Fender officially introducing the five-way selector we all know and love today.

Stratocaster pickups

In the bridge position, the 70th Anniversary Player sounds clear and bright, exhibiting the classic bell-like tone and biting midrange that has been making waves since 1954. When pushed into overdrive, this position sizzles and screams like only a Strat can, providing all those lovely midrange frequencies that can cut through any mix. 

In the second position, the bridge and middle pickups are combined to create an unmistakably funky tone, often described as ‘quacky’, something these Pure Vintage ‘59 pickups really excel at. Luckily this model’s modern five way switch means you can leave your toothpicks at home without fear of knocking it out of place.

The often overlooked middle position in this guitar retains some of that quack but dials it down to a more natural sound that is warm, focused and balanced. Whether set clean or dirty, this position has enough high end shimmer to be heard without ever sounding brittle and is particularly popular with slide players for its even response.

In the fourth position, this Strat potently exemplifies that familiar out-of-phase sound rocked by many famous players. From beautiful spanky cleans to rich and harmonically complex distortion sounds, this position has become an integral part of what makes a Strat a Strat, despite not originally being part of its inception. 

Finally, the neck pickup in this very special Stratocaster is as lush, warm and bluesy as it gets. Deep lows and mellow highs have always made the Strat’s fifth position perfect for jazzy chord work when set clean as well as smooth, singing sustain when distorted. These Pure Vintage p’ups nail that brilliantly. 

The original Stratocasters, like their predecessor the Telecaster, featured maple fretboards until in 1959 Fender brought Rosewood boards into the mix. Known for their comfortable porous texture and slightly darker timbre, Rosewood boards became increasingly popular over the years and Fender have chosen to celebrate that with the 70th Anniversary Player model. A perfect match for its enticing new ‘Nebula Noir’ finish, the Rosewood board perfectly rounds off this model’s uniquely sleek aesthetic, which is also punctuated by a dazzling Pearloid pickguard. 

In a nod to the Stratocaster’s original specifications, this guitar features Kluxon-style ‘Classic Gear’ tuners which are true to the traditional 50s aesthetic of the instrument. These tuners however, have been updated for maximum tuning stability, featuring an 18:1 gear ratio and a contemporary dual-pin mounting system. Other modern appointments to this anniversary model include an ultra-comfortable Modern C neck shape, a 9.5” radius fretboard and a supremely stable two-point vibrato bridge. 

The Stratocaster’s vibrato system was a huge part of what made it so innovative in 1954 and continues to be the gold standard for bridges today. This innovation, in conjunction with an inertia block to ensure no loss of sustain and individually adjustable saddles for each string, resulted in an incredibly functional and stable design. A design that eventually led to far more radical uses of the effect, dive-bombing for instance, than Leo Fender ever would have envisaged. 

All in all …

The 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster perfectly balances the old with the new, celebrating the instrument’s original design with features such as its traditional single coil pickups, vintage style tuners and even Fender’s original spaghetti logo with its modern tech-specs, glittery finish and black controls.

Originally conceived as merely a more comfortable and versatile update to the Telecaster, the Stratocaster quickly became so much more. In the hands of players like George Harrison, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Mark Knopfler and more recently Cory Wong, the Stratocaster has become an iconic cultural image synonymous with the words ‘Electric Guitar’. 

The 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster is a fantastic celebration of that legacy and continues to push this beloved instrument forward into a prosperous future. 

For local enquiries, visit Fender Australia here.