Review: Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster

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Review: Fender Cory Wong Stratocaster

Words By Lewis Noke Edwards

Fender Australia | RRP: $3699

Cory Wong is a masterful guitar player, and that’s in no unreasonable sense of the word. His right hand technique is unfathomable, his internal metronome is on point and his groove untouchable—and that’s even before you discuss his Grammy-nominated composition and songwriting as a solo artist or as a member of his band Vulfpeck.

More often than not, whether you see him on stage, on his YouTube channel, or giving lessons on his Instagram feed, Cory is playing his prized Sapphire Blue Stratocaster. Perhaps an odd colour for a Fender, but a colour that suits someone so far outside of the ‘norm’ of modern playing.

It makes sense then that Fender would honour someone so devoted to not just pushing the boundaries of modern guitar, but one who brings his fans and followers along for the ride, leaving no stone unturned as he discusses his technique, practice routine and thought process. His approach to music is zeitgeist defining, and his new signature guitar is reflective of exactly that.

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The Cory Wong Stratocaster is a fairly standard American-built Stratocaster at first glance, but within its build are a bunch of great and very intuitive design additions. It features a modern neck shape and subtle changes to the body and headstock, as well as some crafty wiring options, but modern hardware to keep the guitar perfectly in tune, even if you’re wailing on the synchronised tremolo.

The Cory Wong Stratocaster is an American-made Fender, built out of the Corona factory in California. It’ll arrive safe into your hot little hands via a Deluxe Fender Moulded case, along with the case candy aptly included for fans of Cory. It’s an alder bodied Strat, with a satin lacquer offering the deep blue hues while still allowing the wood to breathe.

The neck is maple with a rosewood board, and a compound radius fretboard that subtly transforms from 10-14” the higher up the Medium Jumbo frets you travel. The back of the neck has a satin urethane finish, allowing you to noodle easily, fret big complex chord voicings and breeze across the fretboard, and the rolled edges of the rosewood are a welcome addition usually reserved for super high end or Custom Shop guitars. Rolled fingerboard edges are something you didn’t realise you were missing until you tried it. The neck shape is a Modern “D”, so it pulls influence from the more modern Fender ranges such as American Ultra and American Elite.

At the other end of the guitar is the six-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo and a four-ply white pearloid pickguard to match Cory’s original Strat. It includes locking tuners as well as a push/pull tone pot to bypass all switching and default to position four on the five way switching—which is definitely all you should ever need for funk playing.

While all impressions may mistake this for a standard Strat, you’d be wrong. The body of the guitar is slightly smaller than a standard Strat, forcing Fender’s famous original contour body into an even more comfortable position against the body, whether standing or sitting.

The neck is super comfortable and is similar in feel from first to 22nd fret, thanks to the compound radius. The Medium Jumbo frets are a welcome addition, more vintage style fret wire can sometimes make guitar feel more jangly than most players may want, but Medium Jumbo is a great middle ground for more modern players and vintage purists alike.

The pickups, a set of Cory Wong’s Clean Machine (with a Custom Stack Plus in the bridge) are articulate and clean, as their name suggests. There’s a subtle high mid or high end boost that lends itself clean, funky rhythm playing, helped along with the included hair tie that Fender claim is the secret to Cory’s rhythm tones.

I beg to differ, I think the secret is countless hours of practise, an instinctual predisposition to groove and unparalleled creativity. This Stratocaster feels effortless, and it’s design and makeup pushes you to rethink how you play, all in the name of pushing the boundaries or whatever music we’re making—like Cory does.

Overall, Fender has absolutely hit this one out of the park. I supposed it’s not so difficult when you’ve got a player as innovative as Cory Wong to produce an innovative guitar, but this feels like more than that.

Fender and Cory Wong have redefined the Stratocaster, and this guitar allows you to redefine your playing, while Cory’s influence pushes you to rethink how you approach playing, rhythm and groove itself.

This Strat is a tribute to the clean tones produced by the Strat that have inspired so many styles and sounds, as well as Cory’s ability to blend sounds from music’s history into a modern melting pot of influence. The transparent Sapphire Blue is unlike anything you may have seen on a Strat before, but it’s just the tip of the iceberg.

The neck shape is modern, and the body and headstock shape and size is refined for the modern player, and the satin neck finish, the rolled edges of the fretboard and fretwire all make for a comfortable, effortless playing experience.

The neck shape itself and compound radius of the rosewood fretboard lend itself to comfortable fretting for more modern playing styles and sounds, while Cory’s very own Clean Machine pickups influence the final tone that emanates out of the guitar and into your amp.

All in all, this is a Fender Stratocaster re-invigorated for 2021.

Head to Fender to check this guitar out.