Review: Fender 70th Anniversary Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster

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Review: Fender 70th Anniversary Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster

Fender Antigua
Words by Chris Hockey

Fender Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster | Fender Music Australia | RRP $2599

In 1954, Fender changed the world with the release of their second electric guitar design, the Stratocaster. With its comfortable contoured body, adaptable three-pickup configuration and highly stable vibrato system, the Stratocaster was a momentous innovation for Fender and for the electric guitar itself. Now, 70 years on, Fender is celebrating their beloved design with the 70th Anniversary Stratocaster Collection. Featuring everything that made Fender’s original creation so revolutionary in 1954, as well as some modern additions, these anniversary models showcase the Strat at its very best. 

Antigua Stratocaster

Amongst these fantastic new models is the 70s inspired Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster. Featuring Fender’s iconic Antigua finish, complemented with a hand painted matching pickguard, the Vintera II perfectly encapsulates Fender’s 70s era aesthetic. Most Antigua models from that era have since faded to an off-white colour, so it’s a real joy to see an Antigua finish in its true form as it would have looked fresh out of the factory all those years ago. The Antigua finish is perfectly offset by black hardware, an inversion of the Stratocaster’s better known colour scheme from the 50s and 60s that works very well here. 

Read more gear reviews here.

The Vintera II, like most Fenders, features an alder body, a tonewood favoured for its punch, clarity and strong midrange presence. Also typical of Fender is the maple neck, however in keeping with its 70s era specs, this model features a slightly unusual U-shaped profile. Fender’s U-Shape is deeper and rounder than their more common C profile and is incredibly comfortable, particularly suited for players who like to wrap their thumb around the neck. The thumb wrap technique historically seems to lend itself well to the Stratocaster, having been preferred by some of the most iconic Strat players of all, such as Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante and John Mayer. 

The Vintera II’s Rosewood fretboard features an old school 7.25” radius as well as vintage-tall frets, providing vintage playability with plenty of room for big bends and expressive vibrato. Pulling off those Gilmour two-step bends has never been easier thanks to these period-correct specs and despite the fear some players have of ‘bottoming out’ with a 7.25” radius, once you get used to it, it can be incredibly advantageous. 

Other hallmarks of Fender’s 70s era are the Vintera’s larger headstock, vintage-style ‘F’ stamped tuning machines and 3 bolt neck plate. Whilst the classic specs most people associate with the Stratocaster tend to be more geared towards the 50s and 60s, the 70s were a great era of experimentation for Fender and those quirky attributes are what makes this guitar a real collector’s item. Finished off with a vintage-style hardtail bridge with block saddles, the Vintera has proper intonation, full adjustability and rock solid tuning stability right out of the box. 

Fender Antigua Stratocaster

Under the hood, the Vintera features a set of 70th Anniversary Vintage-Style ’70s Single-Coil pickups that deliver the perfect blend of warmth and bite. Strat players will understand the familiar feeling of wanting to ‘dig in’ while playing a Strat. Something about the tonality of the instrument makes you play differently, bringing out a more percussive picking style that

really exaggerates the guitar’s unique midrange character. The pickups in the Vintera are perhaps the ultimate example of that sound, making this the perfect instrument for Nile Rodgers-style ‘chucking’ and the like. 

In the bridge position, the Vintera sounds crystalline and bright, producing the classic bell-like tone and ample midrange that Strats are famous for. When using distortion, this position can really roar and has excellent sustain for lead playing, providing plenty of midrange frequencies that can cut through any mix. 

In the second position, the bridge and middle pickups are combined to create that unmistakable funky ‘quack’ that only a stratocaster can produce. The lovely rich blend of tonalities that live between the brightness of the bridge and the mellower middle position creates a midrange presence that adds depth and definition, great for rhythm playing. 

The middle pickup in the Vintera carries a little of that quack but rolls it back to a more natural timbre that is warm and even. Whether set clean or dirty, this position has enough top end glassiness to be heard over a band, without ever sounding too thin. This position in a Strat is popular with many slide guitarists due to its balanced response and focused sound. 

In the fourth position, the Vintera expertly provides that classic out-of-phase sound utilised by many well known players to produce a smooth and uniquely hollow sound. From deep, spanky cleans to rich and harmonically dense overdriven sounds, this position has become a beloved part of the established Stratocaster sound and the Vintera exemplifies that perfectly. 

The neck pickup is as warm and lush as you’d expect from a good Strat, perfect for those creamy blues tones. Deep lows and rounded highs make this a great pickup for jazzy sounds, remaining articulate and clear despite the generous bottom end. When overdriven this pickup provides a smooth, singing sustain that lends itself really well to soulful playing, the long sustain encouraging a less busy, melodic approach to soloing that is very much associated with these guitars. 

In short, the Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster does a fantastic job of exemplifying the uniquely cool attributes of an overlooked era in Fender’s history. Whilst the brand’s pre-CBS era is often quite rightly glorified, the 70s saw Fender broaden their horizons and experiment with their established models in a myriad of interesting ways. Whilst stock Fender models have since mostly reverted to a pre-70s aesthetic with some modern upgrades, it’s great that the brand’s rebellious adolescent period is being proudly represented here once again with this model. 

Whilst the retro Antigua finish, jumbo headstock and other groovy features of this guitar may not be for everyone, it’s going to make certain players extremely happy to have access to a really high quality 70s Stratocaster they can buy fresh off the rack in 2024. If that sounds like you, go grab yourself one sooner rather than later, this limited run is likely to get snapped up very quickly.

For local Fender enquiries, keep reading at Fender Australia.