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A cheap not-Strat Strat that's actually good


It might be cheap, but this guitar has it where it counts.

To start off, no, this is not as cheap as the Squier Bullet Strat. You will spend a little more to get this guitar, but only a little more. It's the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass SSS.

There are two immediate things about this axe that make it better than the Squier.

First is that it has two knobs instead of three. This means tone control on every pickup setting, whereas with traditional Strat wiring you get no tone control on the bridge-only pickup.

Second is the truss rod adjustment location at the heel. In the photo above you'll see a black notch after the neck pickup and before the neck. That's the wheel where you make the adjustment. This is, without question, the easiest possible way to adjust neck relief. Why? Because you never have to detune the strings. With a headstock location, at least two strings have to be detuned to make a neck relief adjustment. With the wheel at the heel end there's no such requirement. Just pull the strings slightly out of the way, tighten or loosen to your desired relief, and that's it. Done and done - and you can do it 100% from the seated guitar position too. Very convenient.

Actually, there's a third immediate benefit over the Squier. The volume knob is away from the bridge side pickup. A very common complaint of Strat owners is that they keep hitting the volume control accidentally. You will not have that problem with the Cutlass.

Now aside from all that, yes this guitar sounds like a Strat and it looks cool in Daphne Blue. The neck has the oh-so awesome satin finish, just like Fenders do. The truss rod is dual-action for even easier neck relief adjustments (as if it wasn't easy enough already). Tuners are all proper die-cast metal secured with nuts on top. Even the neck connection is more stable with a 5-bolt pattern.

Yeah, you get a ton of guitar for the money with the Cutlass SSS. But of course the best part is that this guitar is cheap. More expensive than a Squier Bullet, yes, but still far less expensive than the nearest available Fender.

Are there any downsides? The output jack is on the side of the guitar like a Telecaster instead of on top like a Stratocaster, and the headstock does look slightly "stubby" with it's 4x2 tuner layout. But then again, that is a staple of Music Man design.

And yeah, that's it. Those are the downsides, if you could even call them that.

Basically put, this is pretty much the best not-Strat Strat there is. Much easier neck relief adjustment, volume knob won't get knocked accidentally, sounds right, and is priced very nicely. Trust me, you can afford this one.

I should also mention there is a gorgeous rosewood board version and a very nice looking HSS version as well - all for the same price.

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