What is the best Fender signature guitar?
There are 29 of these guitars that Fender offers currently. Which is the best one? Let's find out.
To note, what I'm talking about specifically are Fender Artist guitars. These are guitars named after particular famous guitar players designed to the artist's specifications, or to what Fender believes best represents the artist.
I'm specifically concentrating on the electric guitars, as there are Artist models for the electric bass and acoustic guitar. I'm also concentrating on in-production models, meaning not special run models from the Fender Custom Shop.
Of the 29 electric guitars in the Artist series lineup as of April 2018, there are models for Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jaguar and Jazzmaster. No Artist models for the Mustang nor Duo-Sonic are made at present.
These are all 29 models in alphabetical order, and I'll tell you my favorite of the bunch after the list:
- Brad Paisley Road Worn Telecaster
- Buddy Guy Standard Stratocaster
- Chris Shiflett Telecaster Deluxe
- Dave Murray Stratocaster
- Eric Clapton Stratocaster
- Eric Johnson Signature Stratocaster Thinline
- Eric Johnson Stratocaster Maple
- Eric Johnson Stratocaster Rosewood
- EOB Sustainer Stratocaster
- George Harrison Telecaster
- James Burton Telecaster
- Jeff Beck Stratocaster
- Jim Adkins JA-90 Telecaster Thinline
- Jimi Hendrix Monterey Stratocaster
- Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster
- Jimmie Vaughan Tex-Mex Strat
- Jim Root Jazzmaster
- Jim Root Stratocaster
- Jim Root Telecaster
- Johnny Marr Jaguar
- Kurt Cobain Jaguar
- Kurt Cobain Jaguar Left-Hand
- Richie Kotzen Telecaster
- Ritchie Blackmore Stratocaster
- Robert Cray Stratocaster
- Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster
- The Edge Strat
- Troy Van Leeuwen Jazzmaster
- Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster
While true I'm not a Strat guy, I have to pick this one as the best Artist model from Fender for one simple reason. It is the best player's guitar.
The best parts about this guitar are things you don't immediately notice. It has a 12-inch fingerboard radius instead of 9.5 for easier note bending without fretting out. It has no string trees because of the compensated tuner posts. The neck uses quartersawn maple instead of flatsawn, which is a stiffer board that handles humidity shifts much easier (meaning you won't have to adjust the truss rod as often.)
Out of all the signature guitars Fender makes in regular production runs, this is the one where you get the most for the money as it is designed to be played and not hung on a wall to look pretty. Other Artist guitars really don't give you any significant advantage over non-Artist models, but this one does.
The closest equivalent to the EJ Rosewood is the American Elite Stratocaster. That guitar is about the same price as the EJ, has a 9.5-to-14 inch compound radius fingerboard, but is also more modernized than the EJ is with the 2-post bridge, noiseless pickups, a different neck shape, and there's a string tree present among other things. Not a bad guitar by any means, but different.
Personally, I would get the EJ. I dig the look, and the changes made to it over a regular Strat genuinely improve the playability of the guitar without wrecking tradition.
If you want the best Artist signature guitar Fender makes, the Eric Johnson Strat is it. Rosewood or maple, your choice. I picked the rosewood because I think it looks better.
Rich's other picks
The EJ Strat Rosewood is #1, but these are also really good:
- Eric Clapton Stratocaster - The first Arist model guitar from Fender that's still being made today. It's a bit on the "techy" side, but then again it always was an advanced type of Strat with modernized electronics. Still a good guitar today.
- Jim Adkins JA-90 Telecaster Thinline - A very "growly" Telecaster with P90s in it, along with lightweight semi-hollow body construction. It's a bit Gibson-esque (you'll understand why when you see it,) but still good.
- Johnny Marr Jaguar - Arguably the best Jag Fender has made since the original in '62. It has changes to it that totally make sense to make it a better player's guitar. Very good if you can get your hands on one.
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