I am a Squier snob
There are times when I butt heads with people online concerning guitar snobbery, mainly because I play Squier guitars and champion the cheap axes over the expensive ones. I have been told both by snotty kids and snobby adults to "play a real guitar" many, many times. Of course, they don't know I own not one but two "real" Fender Strats, one of which is an American model. But that doesn't matter to the snotty kid or the snobby adult, because all they see is Squier. They see that logo on the headstock, instantly make a judgment and that's that.
I'm a Squier snob, which is to say I'm a "reverse guitar snob". Instead of literally buying into all the b.s. about tonewoods, pickups and other fancy crapola that ultimately means nothing, I take an entirely different approach to guitars. Whenever I spot something I want, I say to myself, "I wonder what I can do with that thing?" And if it's something I feel I can get good sounds with, I'll play it, and if it plays nice, I buy it.
I am also anti-complicated with guitars almost to a fault. If the guitar is complicated, I want nothing to do with it. More on that later.
A few universal truths about modern Squier guitars vs. Fender axes
There is basically no such thing as a "cheap" Squier guitar anymore
You really have to look hard these days if you want to find an electric that's junk. And by 'junk', I mean something that just feels totally cheap when you first pick it up, and then falls apart in less than a year. With new Squier axes in particular, it's honestly not easy to find one that fits those characteristics.
Could you find a Squier in the past that did feel cheap and fell apart quick? Sure. But not anymore. Or to be more specific, not since 2006, because if I remember correctly, that was the year Squier stopped using plywood bodies (unlike other companies who still use them even on super-expensive models).
The only thing "cheap" about a Squier is its price, and that's only for baseline models. Guitars like the Classic Vibe Telecaster are for all intents and purposes midrange guitars now. Yes, really.
"Made In USA" is simply not a selling point anymore
I could understand paying a premium for a Japanese guitar. Why? Because it costs money to have the thing shipped all the way over here to America, and Japanese luthiery even on a mass-produced level is known to be some of the best in the world.
What's the difference between a mass-produced Made-in-USA compared to a mass-produced guitar made in an Asian country? Answer: Where it's made, and nothing else.
When I see a "Made In USA" decal on a guitar and the ultra-high price tag that goes along with it, I know I'm not paying for "quality". What you're really paying for is a $500 guitar with $400 tacked on for employee benefits, $50 for shipping and handling and another $100 for middleman (read: guitar store) costs, markup and who knows what else.
The price point Squier guitars sell for is in fact what American mass-produced guitars should be selling for in America. But instead, all of the extra you pay is for basically nothing but red tape. And that's not what American-made guitars are supposed to be about, yet they are.
Said another way: The fact I can buy a China-made Squier Strat guitar with all the international shipping and duty fees added in for 90% less than the American version even WITH taxes included is just plain dumb.
To note: The highest-priced Squier solid-body you can buy right now ($400) is still 55% less in price compared to the lowest-priced American solid-body Fender model ($900).
Do you get better "quality" with the Fender? No. Do you get more for your money? No. Is the 55% higher price tag for the American model worth it? Absolutely not.
Fender's overcomplicated way of making USA guitars ruins the mystique of the instrument
No, I am not saying "they don't build 'em like they used to". Not at all. In fact, USA-made Fender guitars today are built much better compared to years ago. You can be rest assured that with a Fender, you're getting a well-built guitar...
...but the same can be said for Squier.
What used to make a Fender magical was its simplicity. Just a curvy French-inspired design with plain white pick guard and knobs, a few bits of hardware, plain electronics, a few cool color choices and that was it; it didn't need anything else.
The modern mass-produced USA Standard Stratocaster, simply put, isn't magical at all because of all the crap Fender changed and added in. And the bloated price tag doesn't help, either.
Did it need "Custom Shop Fat '50s Single-Coil" pickups? No. The pickups should have been just plain standard issue. Did it need a "No-Load Tone Control?" No. Did the tuning machines need to be "Deluxe Staggered"? No. All of that stuff should have been reserved for the Deluxe models only. The Standard should have been, well, Standard. No special treatment, no special circuits, no special anything.
Simple guitars are the most magical, and the American Standard Strat is anything but simple. The American Strat has a bad case of Added-In Crap Just For The Sake Of Justifying The High Price Tag Syndrome.
There are three things I appreciate on modern Strats. First is the "C" shape neck, second is the medium jumbo fret wire and third is the 9.5-inch flatter radius compared to the old 7.25-inch. Yes, that means I only appreciate the neck improvements and nothing else. No micro-tilt, no 2-point bridge, no special truss rod, no special pickups, etc. Just plain Strat and nothing more. And the only way to get a guitar with just those modern neck improvements and none of the other crap is to purposely buy a Strat not made in the USA. No "Plain Standard" American-made model exists. It should.
Yes, I am saying that simple, plain design is the best kind and is what made a Strat a Strat originally. The modern USA Strat, while built far better compared to how it used to be made, doesn't have the magic that it once did due to its overcomplicated crap.
My Squier snobbery does stem from the strong desire to play simple-build Fender-designed guitars
It is amazing to me that if you want a "plain" Strat made in the USA, you have to contact the Fender Custom Shop to have one custom built. That's so stupid that it almost defies belief, yet that is exactly what you would have to do to get the real-deal simple USA Strat.
This is how my phone call would go with a Fender Custom Shop luthier:
FCS: How would you like your Stratocaster designed?
RM: Standard issue American body with urethane-sealed finish, Standard Stratocaster single-coil pickups, 6-screw vintage-style bridge with high-mass tremolo block, brushed block saddles, 21-fret neck with 9.5-inch radius and medium jumbo fret wire, standard electronics with no special switching or special circuitry, cyclovac nut, standard non-staggered sealed tuners.
FCS: Um.. that's our Mexican Standard.
RM: Right. I want one of those in an American version.
FCS: Okay... if that's what you want..
Sounds dumb to spend $2,000 for that, right? Well, that's what I'd have to do to get a simple, plain American Strat. It's either that or purposely buy vintage. And many players go vintage for that reason...
...or you say to hell with the Fender models and buy Squier instead to get that simple Strat design, manufacturing country of origin be damned. At the end of the day it's all about how much cash you have to pay, right? Right.
Why pay more for simplicity?
Answer: There's no reason to, so I don't.
More articles to check out
- The Fender Modern Player Marauder needs to come back
- Fender 75th Anniversary Stratocaster confusion
- Are there any real advantages to a headless guitar?
- Telecaster is a good example of a one-and-done guitar
- The guitars I still want that I haven't owned yet
- Casio W735HB (I wish this strap was offered on G-SHOCK)
- EART guitars are really stepping it up
- Using a Garmin GPS in 2021
- Converting to 24 hour time
- The best audio tester for your song recordings is your phone