Fender has produced some of the most iconic guitars of all time. But their greatest contribution to music is undoubtedly the Stratocaster. With so many versions currently available, it can be hard to tell the difference between them all. While there are Strats available at all price points, thanks to their Squier line and Made in Mexico production models, the top of the line offerings come from one place and one place only, their US factory located in Corona, CA. The current American production models are grouped into four different series: American Performer, American Professional, American Elite, and American Original. While each series features Stratocaster models, no two are the same. Let’s take a look at each Fender American series Stratocaster and see which one is right for you!
American Performer Stratocaster – Starting at $1099
Fender’s most affordable line of American made guitars is the American Performer series. Introduced in December 2018, the American Performer series supersedes the beloved American Special line. The American Performer series, like the American Special series before it, aims to provide high quality instruments at a price point that won’t break the bank. The Strats specifically feature some upgrades that make them versatile, road-worthy guitars such as updated tuners, newly designed electronics, and a modern C neck profile. Available in some interesting finishes, the American Performer series straddles the line between vintage and modern and is sure to become a fan favorite. All American Performer instruments come with a Fender gig bag.
Yosemite Single Coils & DoubleTap Humbucker
Unique to the American Performer line are the Yosemite single coil and DoubleTap humbucker pickups. The Yosemite single coils are dynamic, expressive alnico pickups able to deliver the signature Strat sound with added flexibility and versatility. If you prefer the fullness of a humbucker, opt for the HSS models that feature a DoubleTap humbucker in the bridge position. SSS and HSS models both feature Greasebucket tone circuitry, which allows players to roll back their tone knobs without losing gain. A really cool addition is a push/pull pot in the second tone position. On SSS models, this activates the neck pickup regardless of what position your 5-way blade switch is in, producing even more tonal options. For HSS models, this pot acts as a coil split for the DoubleTap humbucker, which is able to maintain volume output and hum cancellation.
Modern C Neck Profile
Geared towards the musician of today, the American Performer series features a comfortable modern C neck profile for improved playability. Slimmer than a traditional C profile, players will be able to fly up and down the necks of these models with ease. A satin finish helps to keep your hands moving smooth and fast, while an oversized ’70s-style headstock and skunk stripe help to maintain the classic Fender aesthetic. All of this, plus a bunch of cool new color and finish options, make the American Performer series a standout of the Fender lineup.
ClassicGear Tuning Machines
Adorning the American Performer series are Fender ClassicGear tuning machines. With the ClassicGear tuning machines, you get vintage style combined with modern functionality. Featuring an 18:1 gear ratio, these tuning machines are able to provide optimal tuning stability, while still maintaining that classic Fender style we all know and love.
American Professional Stratocaster – Starting at $1449
The American Professional series by Fender takes the Stratocaster and adds some design elements to improve on tuning stability, playability, and tone. Featuring V-Mod and Shawbucker pickups, a modern deep C neck profile, and narrow-tall frets, the American Professional Strats are solid, versatile instruments that can’t be beat. Available in SSS (also available left-handed), HSS, and HH configurations, there are options available for any player or style, and a pop-in tremolo arm and treble bleed circuit make this a great guitar for stage and studio. American Professional series instruments come with travel-ready molded hardshell cases with TSA approved latches, so you can pack up your Strat and hit the road right away!
V-Mod and Shawbucker Pickups
V-Mod pickups are a revolutionary single coil design from Fender’s own pickup guru Tim Shaw. Pairing different types of alnico magnets, each pickup is voiced for its specific position on the guitar. This helps produce balanced output and great tone across the board. For HSS and HH models, Fender utilizes Tim Shaw’s namesake, the Shawbucker. This humbucker is notable for its clarity and impressive note definition, pairing just as well with V-Mod single coils as it does with other Shawbucker pickups. The included treble bleed circuit allows you to roll off your volume without losing any highs, which is perfect for players who ride their volume knob throughout a performance.
Deep C Neck Profile
Fender has chosen to go with a Deep C profile on the American Professional Stratocasters. Players will notice that, when moving up the neck, the profile starts out as a C shape for chords and fills out to almost a U shape in order to better accommodate lead playing. A satin finish on the back of the neck allows for smooth playability, while the headstock face features a gloss finish to better match the body. These Strats also feature a bone nut and narrow-tall frets, which help with tuning stability and allow strings to bend with ease.
The American Professional Strats feature Fender Standard tuning machines and a 2-point synchronized tremolo with bent steel saddles. The cool thing about this tremolo system is that it features a pop-in tremolo arm. No more having to screw and unscrew your tremolo arm to pack your guitar away. Simply pop the arm in, adjust the tension with a set screw, and you’re good to go! When you’re done, a quick pull pops it out in a flash.
American Elite Stratocaster – Starting at $1899
‘Elite’ is defined as a select group that is superior in terms of ability or qualities to the rest of a group. Arguably the most versatile, most comfortable Stratocaster currently in production, the American Elite Strats feature all the bells and whistles you could ever ask for. From the 4th Generation Noiseless single coil pickups to the S-1 switch, American Elite Stratocasters can do everything other Strats can do and more! You also have a compound shaped neck that goes from a modern C to a D profile, and an updated neck heel adds to the comfortability of these instruments. Go for the traditional SSS configuration or, for even more versatility, opt for the HSS configuration featuring a Shawbucker bridge pickup and additional Passing Lane switch. These high-quality instruments come with redesigned ABS Elite Molded hardshell cases with TSA locks for outstanding protection. American Elite Stratocasters are the Strats you never knew you needed.
4th Generation Noiseless Pickups
American Elite Stratocasters feature Fender’s 4th Generation Noiseless Pickups. These pickups provide players with single coil goodness while doing away with that pesky 60 cycle hum, perfect for overdrive users who enjoy a little (or a lot of) grit in their tone. On HSS models, the 4th Gen Noiseless pickups are paired with a Shawbucker bridge pickup, a truly awesome configuration. With the included S1 and Passing Lane switches, you are able to get more tones out of these Strats than any other in production. The S1 switch, integrated into the master volume knob, adds pickup configurations to the 5-way pickup selector, so right there is 10 tones at your disposal. The Passing Lane switch (on HSS models) adds one more tone to your arsenal, 100% Shawbucker. This nifty little switch takes all the output and tone from your Shawbucker and sends it directly to your output jack, bypassing all other electronics, producing a slight boost in volume and high end so you can cut through the mix!
American Elite Neck
American Elite Stratocasters feature a neck with a compound shaped profile. Towards the headstock you get a nice modern C profile perfect for chords. As you move up towards the body, the neck fills out to a D profile for leads. In keeping with this, the fretboard features a 9.5″-14″ compound radius, so it flattens out to further assist with solos and chords higher up on the neck. For added comfort, the American Elite Stratocaster features an updated neck heel perfect for those hard to reach notes. The neck is supported by a 2-way adjustable truss rod, accessible by an adjustment wheel at the base of the neck.
The American Elite series Stratocasters are loaded with high-quality hardware. Fender is all about performance and comfort when it comes to every aspect of a guitar. Short post locking tuners line the headstock, while players can enjoy 2-point deluxe synchronized tremolo with pop-in arm down at the other end. You also get a bone nut, further assisting tuning stability, and soft touch knobs for players who utilize their volume and tone knobs regularly throughout a performance. The American Elite series Strats are the embodiment of the word ‘elite’.
American Original Stratocaster – starting at $1949
The American Original series is a contemporary twist on the models that started it all. Traditionalists looking for vintage spec Strats have their choice of two different eras of Fender. The American Original ’50s Stratocaster pays homage to the early days of the Strat, while the American Original ’60s Stratocaster honors the changes Fender made to the instrument before the controversial CBS takeover., Both models feature modern feel and pickup switching, utilizing Fender’s own Pure Vintage hardware and pickups, all while retaining that old school Fender spirit. Vintage-style hardshell case included.
American Original ’50s Stratocaster (Also Available Left-Handed)
The Fender Stratocaster was first introduced in 1954. For the first few years, Fender played around with different aspects of the guitar in order to find the right combination of specifications. The American Original ’50s Stratocaster borrows different specs from these early versions of the Strat in order to pay tribute to this era. Available in three different colors, American Original ’50s Stratocasters feature alder (2-Color Sunburst, Aztec Gold) or ash (White Blonde) bodies with lacquer finish, as well as a maple neck with a soft V neck profile. The maple fretboard features a more player-friendly 9.5″ radius, a bone nut and vintage tall frets. Loaded into the ’50s models are a set of Fender Pure Vintage ’59 single coil pickups, and your traditional master volume, two tone controls, and 5-way blade switch. As far as hardware is concerned, you’ve got a set of Pure Vintage Single Line Fender Deluxe tuning machines and a Pure Vintage 6-Saddle Synchronized Tremolo.
American Original ’60s Stratocaster (Also Available Left-Handed)
The American Original ’60s Stratocaster, though similar to the ’50s model, adapts some of the changes Fender made to their iconic instrument moving forward. Instead of a soft V, these guitars feature a C-shaped neck profile. You also move from a maple fretboard over to rosewood, which adds a smoothness to the articulate tone of a Strat. Three iconic colors are available on an alder body with lacquer finish; 3-Color Sunburst, Candy Apple Red, and Olympic White. For pickups, Fender created the Pure Vintage ’65 single coils for that classic ’60s era Fender tone. Like the ’50s model, the ’60s American Original Strat features Pure Vintage Single Line Fender Deluxe tuning machines and a Pure Vintage 6-Saddle Synchronized Tremolo.
Whether you’re looking for a modern workhorse, or something with more of a vintage sound and feel, Fender’s American line of Stratocasters has an option for all playing styles and genres. With various pickup configurations, neck profiles, and colors to choose from, anyone can find their perfect Fender American Stratocaster.