Fender Australia | RRP: $2,499
Fender’s Japanese Vintage Modified ‘60s Stratocaster is their modern day homage to the Japanese-built Fenders that were first produced in the early ‘80s with the addition of the coveted mojo possessed by American-built Stratocasters of the ‘60s. Outstanding Japanese craftsmanship coupled with the transcendent tone and holy grail-esque reputation of an American ‘60s Stratocaster promise a guitar dedication reminiscent of the greatest eras of Fender.
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Fender’s renewed relationship with the Japanese Fujigen factory has brought a series of guitars with superb build quality and exciting features. Setting your eyes on this instrument, it is evident why Japanese-built fenders are so highly revered in terms of build quality and attention to detail. Every individual part of the guitar comes together in a way that is flawless. The first thing that stands out is the large headstock, a look synonymous with late ‘60s Stratocasters of the time and their revolutionary virtuoso, Jimi Hendrix. Additionally, the guitar features a vintage style tremolo bridge and vintage locking tuners. The guitar manages to hold its tune extremely well even when succumbing to two step bends and hard rhythmic playing. A stunning maple neck shows off visually unique patterns and its natural resistance and hardness provide a great overall fretboard experience. The body is made out of basswood – a lightweight wood known for its dynamic, discreetly thick tone with great warmth. The midrange of this wood really shines through, yet there is a nice separation among each note resonating through this wood.
Loaded with Fenders’ own touch-sensitive vintage style pickups, the JV modified ‘60s Strat further encapsulates the sounds of that era. Think Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, and Dick Dale. There is a five-way selector switch and push-pull knob in bridge tone control that allows for the addition of the neck pickup in positions one and two, as the cosmic scope of sounds you can capture with this instrument are truly impressive and unique. The neck position pickup has that refined, warm tone yet with no sacrifice in typical Fender attack, especially if you combine the neck pickup with the centre pickup in position four. The middle position pickup really nails that sweet spot between neck-position delicate warmth and bridge-position spark and twang. Positions one and two have that dry, snappy ‘in your face’ tone that can push through in any mix, live or in the studio. There’s a truly endless amount of tone experimentation with the push-pull knob on the tone control, using it to combine the neck and bridge pickup creates a smooth sparkly tone that is phenomenal. One could spend hours tweaking the tone and volume controls to find their perfect tone or do so by simply choosing their desired pickup and setting everything to 10! Naturally, you should be aware that single coil pickups do tend to make some noise when you’re not playing.
The guitar responds to pedals extremely well. Cranking up some sweet gain on an overdrive or a fuzz pedal through this guitar and a slightly pushed amplifier creates a sonic atmosphere Stevie Ray Vaughan or David Gilmour would adore. Adding some reverb either through your amp or with a pedal really emphasises the guitar’s natural sustain beautifully. One thing is for certain, this guitar encapsulates everything about Fender’s famous tone adored the worldover.
The playability of the JV Modified ‘60s Strat is comfortable for all types of players. The Soft “V” profile maple neck that feels like butter as your hand glides up the neck with ease. The satin finish on the neck is a nice touch and has a very satisfying feel when running your hand over it. For those that like to play chords with their thumb fretting the low E string in the style of Jimi Hendrix or John Frusciante, this guitar allows you to do so without straining your left hand as the shape of the neck conforms naturally between your palm and thumb. The 21 medium jumbo frets and 9.5” radius fingerboard provide excellent ease of access up the higher end of the neck while maintaining comfortable rhythmic playability further down. Playing live with this instrument not only looks pretty, but is ergonomically comfortable for your back and shoulders even throughout the longest of sets as the basswood body makes it very lightweight in comparison to its alder body counterparts.
It’s no shock to say that this guitar does belong in the more expensive echelon of guitars you might find at your local music store. Upon playing the instrument, however, it’s easy to understand why. The Fender JV Modified ‘60s Stratocaster is an instrument that shows off just how good the renowned Japanese craftsmanship is, from the tone, to the look, to the build.
The aesthetic appeal of a vintage guitar with modern features and playability meets the demands of the modern day player, where more and more guitarists are now appreciating what the electric guitar once was. On paper, one would set high expectations upon a Fender guitar crafted in Japan that was based on its greatest ever era of Stratocasters. However, this guitar sits beyond these expectations and is in a league of its own, competing with guitars double its price range. It is well worth saving the money if you are interested in this bad boy, that is if you don’t play it in a store, fall in love and impulsively purchase it!
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