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You may not like vintage-spec Stratocaster guitars

red stratocaster guitar

If you buy a Squier CV '50s Stratocaster, what are you getting? Other than the fact the fingerboard radius is a modern 9.5-inch instead of the old-style 7.25-inch curve, you are getting something "built like they used to make them", for all intents and purposes.

A lot of players don't take into consideration that vintage-spec a.k.a. "retro" is the simpler build of guitar and not the fancy stuff. On a Strat in particular, that means no noiseless pickups, no rolled fret ends, 6-screw bridge and not 2-post, 21-fret and not 22 or 24, open-style tuning machines with the top slot and so on. In other words, the same type of Strat you would have been able to buy back in the 50s and 60s.

Modern American Strats aren't vintage-spec whatsoever and are totally modernized. Different nut width, different truss rod, different bridge, 22-fret neck, sealed tuners and so on.

If you wanted to go "total vintage", you could pony up over 2 grand and get the Fender American Vintage '56 Stratocaster, where you do get the "thick soft V" neck shape instead of the modern "C", and the 7.25-inch fingerboard radius. But at the same time you get skinny little frets that many players absolutely hate because they "fret out" so easily.

If you've never played a Strat with the 7.25-inch radius fingerboard, I strongly suggest you sit down with one and play it first before handing over a bunch of money for a 100% vintage-spec guitar. You'll probably hand it right back after a few minutes after literally buzzing all over the place, because a super-round fingerboard with skinny frets is for most players just not a good combination - especially if you're not used to it.

The modern 9.5-inch with medium jumbo frets is much, much better compared to "true" vintage-spec. Far less string buzz, and far less fretting out. That's why the modern Strat and Tele uses 9.5 and not 7.25.

Can I personally play on a 7.25 with skinny frets? Yes I can, and I know how to make it sound good - but that's only because I understand the nature of how vintage-spec necks like that play. I totally expect a neck with a 7.25-inch radius and skinny frets to buzz and fret out even if it was perfectly set up by a luthier because, well, that's how those vintage-spec Fender necks are.

I have heard from a few players that bought a Squier CV '50s Strat, didn't like it and decided on getting another type of Strat guitar. When I asked them why they didn't like the CV '50s, they couldn't give a straight answer other than, "I just didn't like it."

I can guarantee you these same people wouldn't take a liking to the '56 American Vintage either simply because they prefer a more modernized Strat.

What makes a modern Strat truly modern?

Some players greatly prefer the Mexican-made Standard Strat or even the low-cost Squier Bullet Strat over the Squier Classic Vibe series or even the ritzy Fender American Vintage series.

But why?

There are several reasons, but I'll list 3.

First is vintage-style open tuners vs. modern sealed tuners.

I can work with either tuner type easily, but some players despise the vintage-style open-slot tuners with a passion and will happily take the tall-post sealed style any day of the week.

Second is 22-fret instead of 21-fret.

I personally prefer 21-fret, but I understand that many don't and want that high D on the 1 string so they can bend up to a high E easily.

Neither the Mexican nor the Squier Bullet has 22-fret, but the Fender Modern Player HSS (which I own) along with the American Standard does, as well as a few other models.

Third is weight.

"True" vintage-spec Strat bodies are really light. So light that it actually bothers some players who would rather prefer a body that "feels more there", so to speak.

To the best of my knowledge, the most heavy-bodied Strat is the Mexican Standard, which is at or close to 8lbs/3.6kg. The American Strat is usually slightly lighter at somewhere between 7.5 and 8lbs. Vintage-spec bodies are usually between 7 and 7.25lbs.

Squier Strat guitars are typically heavier, even with a slim-profile body like the Squier Bullet Strat. They're not as heavy as the Mexican Standard, but close.

Am I saying most players prefer the heavier-bodied Strats with sealed tuners, 22 frets and a modern "C" shape neck with 9.5-inch radius? Usually, yes.

Remember, "vintage" doesn't automatically mean "good". With vintage-spec, you really have to know what you're buying into before you do it.

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