Why are American-made Fender guitars so boring?
The image at top is of a Squier Affinity Telecaster in Metallic Red. Make no mistake, that is one seriously good guitar. It may have a price that's cheap, but it doesn't feel cheap at all. The playability and sound you get out of it is truly top-notch stuff. More on that in a moment.
It has been told to me by those I've turned on to Squier guitars on more than one occasion that after taking a second look at the brand and buying a Squier axe, they don't bother with Fender guitars anymore. Not only because Squiers are cheaper, but because they have character.
The character of a guitar is a tough thing to describe, but I'll give it a shot.
Squier guitars have a different character compared to Fender guitars. While Squier Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jaguars, Jazzmasters and so on have all the traditional design cues from the Fender models they're inspired by, they're not Fenders. They're Squiers. As such, there is such a thing as Squier guitar character.
This character I speak of isn't something that can be defined easily. Basically put, you know when you're playing a Squier. And as time goes on, there are more players out there who prefer Squier character over Fender character.
Fender guys almost universally hate Squiers. However, there's a growing number of Squier guys who hate Fenders. The reaction by a Squier guy who plays a Fender is usually this:
"This guitar is boring."
Why does this happen?
Guys and gals who play Squiers get used to them. And then when they pick up a Fender, it may look very familiar, but it doesn't feel nor sound familiar at all.
Why does the Fender guitar feel so wrong to someone who's used to Squier?
Fender pickups for the most part are designed to be vintage-voiced while Squier pickups aren't.
Fender model guitars are full-bodied, but most Squier guitars aren't. The bodies on Squier axes are typically smaller, and sometimes thinner and lighter. The Squier Bullet Strat for example has a slim-profile body.
The biggie however is the neck.
Fender American Standard Fender nut width is 1.685in/42.8mm.
Fender American Vintage Series nut width is 1.650-inch/42mm.
Guess which nut width Squier uses?
Vintage-spec, except for Affinity models which are skinniest at 1.60-inch/40.6mm.
Does this mean someone who's used to Squier will have an easier time transitioning over to an Fender American Vintage Series, such as Fender American Vintage '56 Stratocaster?
Answer: Sort of. While the nut width will be familiar, the fretboard radius and neck shape won't be as the '56 has a 7.25-inch radius, "Thick Soft V" shape and tall, skinny frets on it. A Squier guitar in comparison will have a 9.5-inch radius and a "C" shape neck. And yes, it's true that Fender modern-spec also a 9.5-inch with a "C", but remember, the nut is wider on the Fender.
Anyone who is used to Squier guitar character will find Fender guitar character boring
The sound, shape and feel of Squier guitars is in fact unique to the brand, and that's where Squier guitar character comes from.
Squier made their best effort to emulate Fender design, but what happened is that their attempt to do so resulted in guitar character all their own.
If you've been playing Squier axes for a while, you're used to Squier guitar character. And when you pick up a Fender, chances are pretty good it won't agree with you. And for any guitar that doesn't agree with you, you will find it boring. Why? Because any guitar you find annoying to play will cause you to get bored with it quickly.
"But I want to upgrade from my existing Squier guitar. What do I do now?"
You basically have two options.
Option 1: Upgrade to a better Squier, such as the Squier Deluxe Stratocaster.
Option 2: Upgrade to a Fender, but not the American version. Using the Stratocaster as the example, the Fender Standard Stratocaster (as in Made-in-Mexico version) does in fact have the neck with the 1.650-inch nut width and the 9.5-inch radius, just like most Squier Strats do, but...
...it will still not feel the same as a Squier axe. The Fender will be full-bodied and probably heavier than you're used to. And the sound of it will be more Fender-like than Squier-like. But that may be something you could get used to.
"I can never find the upper-end Squier guitars in my local guitar store..."
You're not alone.
Squier has a whole bunch of great guitars, but they're never in the guitar store.
Solution? Buy online from Amazon. They have a very agreeable return policy if you don't like the guitar for whatever reason. But chances are you probably will like the guitar and keep it. 🙂