Review: Fender Player Stratocaster HSS

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Review: Fender Player Stratocaster HSS

Fender Player HSS
Words by Lewis Noke Edwards

Player Stratocaster HSS | Fender Music Australia | RRP: $1,599.00

The Stratocaster is a classic design, released in 1954 and continuously produced since then. Building from the Telecaster, the Stratocaster is a double cutaway electric, traditionally with three single coil pickups for that world renowned clarity. The Player Stratocaster HSS, pardon the pun, bucks that trend, featuring a Player Series humbucking bridge pickup and two Player Series single-coil Stratocaster pickups in the middle and neck positions. Available in a variety of colours, we sat down with the Sea Foam Green model, the greeny blues offsetting and complimenting the maple fretboard. Different colours are available with different fretboards, both Pau Ferro and maple being available.

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The Player Stratocaster HSS encapsulates a lot of what has made Stratocasters so famous, from Fender’s bolt-on designs being highly modifiable, to the constant innovation instilled in the company by Leo Fender, the Player series are built for just that: the players. They’re affordable, well-built and feature both familiar and new specs. The Player series is Fender acknowledging that they know what works, while introducing new ideas and innovations in accessible packages to the masses.

Traditionally, Strat bodies are built from alder or ash, and the Player Stratocaster’s alder body is finished in a Gloss Polyester that shines while being more hardy than vintage finishes. The neck is maple, coupled with a maple fretboard, black dots signifying the 22 medium jumbo frets and a Modern “C” shape. The Satin Urethane finish on the back of the neck helps you glide around the fretboard, the double cutaway design offering no hindrance at all; quite the opposite. The Player Strats do away with the fiddly, vintage style tuning machines, offering a simple way to restring with Standard Cast/Sealed complete with a classy ‘Fender’ engraving on the back. The bridge is a 2-point tremolo with bent steel saddles, offering stable tuning and vintage good looks, and enough expression when needed via the tremolo bar. A synthetic bone nut supports things at the other end, Fender’s tried-and-true dual-wing string tree guiding those higher strings into place.

While the Player Stratocaster HSS didn’t come with a bag or case, they’re shipped safely in well-built boxes, and Fender has a huge catalogue of cases available. The Player Stratocaster HSS is, for lack of a better word, a ‘standard’ shape and it’ll fit easily into any ‘Strat’ style case you might find!

Amplified, the Player Stratocaster HSS sounds great. The neck and middle pickups give classic Fender twang and bite, while the humbucker gives more modern, full and controlled rock sounds. The five-way switch still offers the ability to split the coils of the humbucker, helping you achieve those out-of-phase positions that are unique to the Stratocaster. Traditional master volume is on hand, and two tone knobs control the neck/middle and bridge pickups respectively. The humbucker is alnico, so it lends itself to all those cliché terms that we can’t help but use: musical, warm, rich and sweet. These offset the twang and brightness of the single-coils beautifully, providing a wide array sounds.

The weight is good, the Player Stratocaster HSS feeling solid enough to withstand the rigours of the road, while not weighing you down literally nor figuratively. The Strat built on what the Telecaster lacked, its curvy body nestling comfortably against the player, whereas the sharper edges of a Tele sometimes really do feel like a slab of wood sat under your arm!

The Player Stratocaster HSS is well-built, feeling solid and tuning stability is not a worry. The tuning machines are accurate, with a reasonably high ratio that don’t require seemingly endless turning to reach pitch, but quality enough to be confident in your tuning; there’s a fine line! The tremolo system and bridge don’t rattle, the tremolo arm itself feeling solid even when really goin’ for it. I found myself switching between classic rock sounds that I expect from a Strat and bigger, albeit boisterous humbucker tones with ease, the Player Stratocaster HSS offering a versatile array of sounds. It can give classic Fender tones and more modern sounds with a literal flick of a (five-way) switch!

The Player Stratocaster HSS builds on decades of innovation from Fender, culminating in one well-built, solid and frankly affordable electric guitar. It’s tough to believe the value you get when you break down the specs, let alone hold one in your hands, the Player Stratocaster HSS offers a bunch of different sounds via three pickups, a five-way switch and dedicated tone pots. The playability of the satin finish of the neck, Modern “C” shape and medium jumbo frets feel familiar to Fender fans, while also modern and renewed, provide a great platform for playing, the body shape and comfortable weight designed to be gigged or used for extensive writing sessions. Tuning is stable, there’s a rainbow’s worth of colours available depending on your preferences, with maple and Pau Ferro fretboards available to offset different finishes. While the Player Stratocaster HSS isn’t strictly Fender’s flagship model, it’s definitely flying their flag with pride.

For local enquiries, see Fender Australia.