What's wrong with 70s Stratocasters


How did the Fender Stratocaster come about?

Jeff Beck, Rory Gallagher, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix - all these big names in the electric guitar had or have one thing in common: their commitment to the Stratocaster! The Fender Stratocaster is Leo Fender's second stroke of genius when it comes to solid body guitars, which he presented to the music world in 1954. The Strat is the most modified electric guitar in the world and is still used today as a model for many electric guitar models.

Before the Fender Stratocaster was ready for series production at the beginning of 1954, Leo Fender had worked on drafts and prototypes in his “laboratory” for several years. According to Don Randall, then president of the Fender sales department, numerous musicians such as Bill Carson, Jimmy Bryant, Freddie Tavares, Rex Gallion and others also contributed to the final design. Ideas and suggestions for improvement.

Leo Fender developed the "Synchronized Tremolo" for which a patent was pending on August 30, 1954, under enormous time pressure, as he feared competition from Doc Kauffman and Paul Bigsby. The only published photos of a Prototype Vibrato Strat are from the end of 1953. On one of them, a narrow spring chamber can be seen, in which there was only room for three vibrato springs. As with the first series Telecaster, the Stratocaster has basically changed little over the decades.

Incidentally, the term "tremolo" is mainly used in English-speaking countries because Leo Fender explicitly insisted on calling it that! In fact, however, it is a vibrato.

The video shows the creation of the legendary guitar in the Fender factory in Corona (USA):

You have just got your first Strat and you don’t really know what to do with the classy guitar? No problem! In the video, the Al from Fender shows what you should consider with pickups & Co.:

You can find out more about amps and other Fender guitars like the Telecaster on the Fender topic page!

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6 Fender Stratocaster models in comparison

After 60 years, the current model range of the Fender Stratocaster seems almost unmanageable, even for the troubled sales staff in music stores. Time to bring a little light into the darkness and compare the most important original specimens, which are of western origin and at the same time belong to the affordable variety.

By western we mean the instruments that Fender makes in the USA and Mexico. Since 1987, in addition to the main plant in Corona, California, Fender has also operated its own factory in Ensenada, which is just under 300 km from Los Angeles within Mexican borders. By American standards, it's almost around the corner. Since wage costs are far lower there than in the United States, it can be produced cheaply.

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How is the Stratocaster constructed?

All six Strats have in common the four-fold screwed, one-piece maple neck with oval C-profile and small headstock, the obligatory counter plate and the rosewood fingerboard in slab board design, which was glued to the flat maple base from the end of 1959. In the period from 1962 to 1983, the so-called "veneer board" replaced this construction, in which a 2 - 3 mm thick rosewood veneer was placed on the already curved maple neck. Fender uses bones for the saddles. The "Original Contour" body comes in the usual ergonomic design with a connection plate on the front and an inclined jack socket. With the exception of this, the entire electrical system is attached to the striking plate.

All vibratos are adjusted to float, which enables both down and up bends. It is well known that vibrato systems, apart from their pitch modulation, have a not inconsiderable influence on the sound of a guitar. Those whose individual components are made of solid materials, mostly steel, always have the edge in terms of sound. Cast components, even if they are manufactured under high pressure, absorb the vibrations of the strings due to their less homogeneous structure, so, strictly speaking, impair the sustain. The sustain block, on the underside of which the tension springs are attached, also plays a decisive role. It is usually connected to the angled base plate with three screws. Only one of our candidates is made of solid steel, namely the Vintage 62, which is easy to use on the saw or

Milling marks can be seen on the underside. All other sustain blocks, sometimes more, sometimes less bulky, are cast. (Tip: Separate steel blocks are available in well-stocked stores, with which you can significantly enhance your cast vibrato! You can easily tell the difference with the help of a magnet: Steel blocks are magnetic, cast not) Although highly compressed, they also originate the thicker base plates and the saddles of the American Standard and the Deluxe from the foundry. All other bridges (with fender embossing) and base plates were made from bent sheet steel. There are also clear differences with regard to the pickups, whose coils are all waxed.

The single spoolers of Highway No.1 and the Mexican Classic 60 seem suspiciously similar to me, especially since their resistance values ​​are close together and the different heights of the pole pieces (staggering) are identical. However, it is surprising why Fender no longer attaches importance to efficient shielding in view of the litter-sensitive single coils. With the exception of a scrap of aluminum foil under the striking plates, little effort has been made in this regard.

After all, an aluminum sheet shields the entire pickguard of the Vintage 62 - just like before. At this point you don't have to worry about the new SCN pickups of the American Deluxe, because they are noiseless after all! Commendably, regardless of the price range, Fender uses high-quality CTS pots and the sturdy Grigsby switch for all six Strats.

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Mexico standard

For the body of the cheapest Strat in our comparison, Fender put five to seven poplar blocks together and provided the top and bottom with poplar or birch veneer, depending on availability. If in stock,

Several strips of alder are also used for the body. Sunburst paintwork is visually enhanced thanks to maple veneer. In order to create a smoother surface and at the same time to conceal the seams of the wooden parts, veneers are also used for opaque varnishes.

What, in my opinion, can clearly be recognized as a classic 3-tone sunburst, Fender calls "brown sunburst". All plastic parts, the three-layer pickguard and the rear spring chamber cover are white. Vintage belt buttons offer sufficient support. The 21 "spaghetti" frets are carefully inserted, there is a little lack of edge dressing and polishing. While the saddle itself was perfectly trained, the notch on the A5 string got a little off track. The encapsulated Fender import mechanics work just as flawlessly as the standard truss rod accessible on the headstock and the vintage-style vibrato, which has to get by with a very slimmed-down sustain block.

The Mexico standard pickups have a construction that is unusual for Fender standards, as six non-magnetic pole pins are each placed between two bar magnets.

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Mexico Classic 60s

A very nice, especially detailed pre-CBS reissue for the small wallet in the new-old-stock look! If you want it to be as authentic as possible, you have to be prepared for an awkwardly accessible neck adjustment and a more curved fingerboard. Logically, savings were made somewhere, and there is massive, i. H. two-piece carcass wood is simply not included.

The slightly yellowed plastic parts and the mint-green strike plate give the guitar a tasteful vintage flair. Flawlessly processed and painted, with well-functioning, massive import hardware (except for the cast sustain block) and gigbag, the Strat goes over the counter at a fair price.

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Highway 1

With the next Strat model, we are moving up to the cheapest USA class, where a three-part alder body is waiting to be used and you will encounter a successful mix of vintage and modern. The classic blonde finish, a milky, transparent cream, allows the wood grain to shine through slightly. Here, the savings measures kill two birds with one stone: The nitro paint is deliberately thin and with the satin surface, Fender reduces time-consuming and labor-intensive production steps on the one hand, and gives the carcass wood more freedom from vibrations on the other.

Highway 1 is also carefully and flawlessly finished. From this price range, Fender's bi-flex truss rod, which is accessible on the head plate side, is used, which allows active adjustment in two directions. Strings thinner than .009 may also be stretched here. In terms of hardware, borrowings have been made from the Mexico Strats. We already encountered the mechanics on the Standard, the rest including pickups on the Classic 60. Stop, not quite!

The cast steel Easy-Glider-String-Trees, which hold the first four strings at saddle level, are also found on the more expensive American models. All plastic parts are white, the white giant doesn’t make it whiter.


As the successor to the American Standard Strat, which has been part of the Fender range since 1981 and has been manufactured in the present version (with 22 frets!) Since 1986, the American Stratocaster also has a three-part alder body. For optical reasons, two- to three-part ash is used for natural or white-blonde paintwork.

Compared to Highway No.1, Fender adds a package of higher quality hardware, an SKB molded case and extensive accessories for around € 400 more. The "hardware upgrade" includes Fender / Schaller machine heads, a standard vibrato, Schaller Security Locks (strap buttons), micro-tilt (adjustment of the neck angle using a single Allen screw) and a single coil trio with a more powerful bridge pickup. The pickups were apparently matched to one another afterwards, which the numbers applied by hand on the underside suggest. All plastic parts have a white labeled "Parchment", a color between white and aged white.

The delta-tone control is a circuit-specific feature, which initially works as a conventional tone control for both the bridge and the middle pickup. In position 10, the potentiometer and capacitor are bypassed and the pickup signal is fed directly to the output. The Micro-Tilt device, introduced by Fender in the 1970s, was avoided by many guitarists because of its supposedly vibration and sustain-absorbing effect. Today Fender equips some of its current guitar models with a modified version, which now has four instead of the three neck screws that used to be common.

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American Deluxe

This luxury Strat stands out not only because of its appearance and exemplary workmanship, but also because of its special features: new metallic paintwork (here: Candy Tangerine), pickguard and spring chamber cover made of vintage shell, aged white plastic parts, abalone dots on the fingerboard , staged locking mechanisms, bi-flex truss rod, micro-tilt adjustment, Schaller security locks and plug-in vibrato lever.

The highlight, however, is clearly the circuit: The new SCN single coils (Samarium Cobalt Noiseless), developed by none other than Bill Lawrence, have special samarium-cobalt magnets and two coils arranged one above the other. Samarium-cobalt magnets (SmCo5) have a high resistance to demagnetization, the optimized alloy Sm2Co17 even have higher magnetic properties and improved corrosion resistance. Due to their low weight, the magnets are among other things. also used in micro motors, sensors and hard disk drives.

Back to the Strat: A switch integrated in the volume control (push-push, press the surface of the control button) in cooperation with the five-way switch enables five other switching options in addition to the five conventional ones: pick-up switch

  • Position 1: Neck + middle pickup, connected in series.
  • Position 2: neck pickup with capacitor + middle pickup, in series.
  • Position 3: Neck and bridge PU parallel + middle PU in series.
  • Position 4: middle pickup + bridge PU with capacitor, in series.
  • Position 5: middle + bridge PU, serial.

This means that ten pick-up constellations are available. And the familiar Strat look is not spoiled by an additional switch - ingeniously solved! The built-in capacitors effectively create a high-altitude filter preset. As usual, the volume control can be operated as smoothly as butter. A standard and a delta-tone controller are also used here. Where the counter plate stabilizes the neck connection, the transition to the neck has been rounded off, which significantly increases the playing comfort in the high positions.

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American Vintage 62

Our most expensive test model comes from the American Vintage series, which replaced the Vintage Reissues, launched by Fender in 1982, in 1998. With the current instruments, with regard to the body contours and positions of the fret markings (clay dots) on the 12th fret, even more emphasis has been placed on attention to detail and authenticity. The body is made of alder, the one-piece maple neck has a rosewood fingerboard in slab board style with a 7.25 ″ radius and 21 narrow nickel-silver frets. As with the Mexico Classic 60s, the walnut inlay on the back was correctly omitted. The headstock with spaghetti logo features precise Kluson-style machine heads from Gotoh.

Aged white plastic parts and the mint green striking plate are intended to simulate a certain age and years of stay in smoky rehearsal rooms and pubs. The American vintage PUs are also modeled on the originals down to the last detail, right down to the waxed cables wrapped in fabric. A three-way switch selects the pickups, whose five-way version and wiring instructions are included with the extensive range of (vintage) accessories. The authentic Brown Tolex case is also included.

The American Vintage 62 is flawlessly processed As was to be expected, the six Stratocasters don't do much when it comes to playing comfort, it's all about nuances. From an ergonomic point of view, the necks of the US models allow more fluid play, as the edges of the fret wires have been rounded and polished more carefully. There is a particular problem with the Mexico Standard, in places even on the fret wires. First the so-called dry test.

Said Mexico Standard presents with an astonishingly vibrating neck / body construction, which delivers powerful and loud a balanced sound with silky brilliance, rich overtone range and not to be despised sustain. The Classic 60s sounds a bit more subtle, almost more well-behaved with not quite as intense bass, but has a lot of brilliance and overtones up to the fourth "floor" (e.g. third fret).

While it can keep up with sustain, it isn't quite as lively as the Mexican standard. The Highway 1 is just as vibrating as it is, delivering a full, balanced sound image with tight bass, showing increased presence in the upper mids, providing brilliance and overtones to the point of dropping, and also earning good marks for sustain. It is difficult to say what contribution the thin coating has to the sound properties. It is similar to the Mexican women with Highway 1 and American Standard. Although the construction of the latter also resonates properly, with the exception of the brilliance across the entire frequency spectrum, it is a bit more restrained overall. In addition, the overtone spectrum and sustain do not appear quite as pronounced.

The sound of the American Deluxe, on the other hand, is not powerful, but very balanced and detailed. Something for the stylistically refined: Soft bass, warm mids, silky highs and brilliance as well as overtones to the point of dropping, supported by intense sustain, direct response and lively tone development. The Vintage 62 is a bit more powerful and wiry: crisp bass, concise mids, plenty of brilliance and silky shimmering overtones, even if they don't go as high as those of the Deluxe. In terms of response and tone development, the Vintage proves to be a little more labor-intensive, as it does not get out of the starting blocks that quickly in terms of vibration. However, these are nuances, and so everything is still in the green, especially since expressive play is carried by a slowly and uniformly decaying sustain.

On the amplifier, the somewhat more powerful coiler of the Mexico Standard look rather bold. Although they have been given a lot of brilliance, especially the not too shrill bridge pickup, they sound full and round and airy and transparent when used clean. While the bridge and middle PUs master heavily dragging sounds with acceptable openness and assertiveness, the neck coiler has to fit here, because it grumbles quite a lot when playing chords. Of all pickups, they show the highest sensitivity to litter.As already suspected in view of the apparently identical single spoolers, the Mexico Classic 60s and Highway 1 sound very similar, they only differ by the finest gradations.

The two guitar models deliver the typical crystal clear, brilliant vintage Strat sounds with a slightly shrill bridge, bell-like open middle and bluesy warm neck pickup including the well-known somewhat nasal pairings. In high-gain distortion mode, the sounds retain their assertiveness and transparency, and the background noises are pleasantly defensive. The pickup set of the American Stratocaster, of which the slightly more powerful bridge PU is the hot variant for soloing, adds a little more output.

Overall, the guitar sounds even more wiry and concise than the Highway 1, delivers crisp bass and crystal-clear, brilliant highs, the bridge pickup a little more sharpness. With intensely dragging sounds, none of the lively transparency falls by the wayside, and the American also behaves rather good-naturedly when it comes to background noises. In our comparison, the sound of the American Deluxe is a bit out of the ordinary. This is by no means to say that it is unable to deliver the typical Strat sounds.

On the contrary, she already has them in her extensive repertoire, par excellence. The vibration properties of the guitar, which the dry test already revealed, are transmitted in an excellent way by the new SCN single-spoolers, which are de facto double-spoolers. Every smallest nuance of the attack is adequately implemented and transmitted very dynamically. The classic sounds of the first switching level sound airy, lively and powerful at the same time, the intermediate positions almost graceful.

Due to the serial connection of the coiler in the second level (S-1 switch pressed) and the additionally active capacitors in the intermediate positions, the sounds not only sound louder, but also much thicker. Logical, because in terms of circuitry we are dealing with real humbuckers in this case, so to speak. In addition, the SCN-PUs have background noises under control at all times, even with high-gain sounds, so they do not even let them come to the ear. Great, Bill!

The American Vintage 62 can of course best be compared with the Mexico Classic 60s, especially since both were provided with identical strings at the factory. Lo and behold, they actually sound so similar that only minor differences can be determined. The first impression shows that the pickups of the Vintage 62 sound rounder, more transparent, livelier and somehow “nobler”, which is less noticeable with clean than with distorted sounds. The bottom line is that the USA-Reissue makes the varied game more lively and lively. In terms of scattering sensitivity and background noises, both do nothing, both over there and over there are distorted sounds that amplify the background noises. However, if the pick-up pairs in the intermediate positions are used, the Classic 60s remains calm due to its reversed center PU.

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It remains to be seen that the buyer gets an instrument corresponding to the price in each category, nothing else says the adjective "inexpensive". Those who are more fond of the Mexico models do not necessarily have to plan for later upgrades with replacement parts from the outset. In such cases, however, it is important that the basis of the guitar is correct, because if it throws in the towel in the dry test, you can save the money for (possibly expensive) replacement pickups. The situation is different with the hardware, which is available from DeTemple, Fender, Gotoh, Grover, Kluson, Schaller and many others. a. and which is sometimes said to have miraculous effects. But here, too, one should orientate oneself on the value of the instrument.


  • Sounds
  • Vibration properties
  • processing
  • Playability


  • Mexico Standard: slight manufacturing defects


Author: Michael Dommers (guitar & bass 10/2004)


5 things you didn't know about your Stratocaster

The Strat is the most modified guitar in the world, we know that by now. In the video, Phillip McKnight shows five things you probably didn't know about your Stratocaster:

Also worth seeing: Top 5 Things That Make a Fender Stratocaster Awesome

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Free download: Fender Stratocaster in the test

Sure - the principle of the Strat is clear, but even a perfectly shaped figure can be staged even more effectively with fresh styling and, as is well known, clothes make the man. Is it all just a vain look, or is there more to it?

We have put together a big Strat special in which you will find 21 reviews of the most legendary Fender Stratocaster models on over 60 pages:

  • Fender 1969 Strat Relic Floyd
  • Fender American Standard Stratocaster HH
  • Squir Classic Vibe Stratocaster 60s
  • Fender Custom Shop Masterbuilt ‘66 Stratocaster
  • Fender 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1945 Strat
  • Fender Select Stratocaster HSS
  • Fender Road Worn Player Stratocaster & Telecaster
  • Fender Duotone Stratocasters
  • Fender Ritchie Blackmore Stratocaster
  • Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster RW
  • Fender Classic Player 50s Stratocaster
  • Fender American Standard Stratocaster
  • Fender VG Stratocaster
  • Fender John Mayer & Eric Johnson Stratocasters
  • Fender Stratocaster: 6 models in comparison
  • Fender Mark Knopfler Stratocaster
  • Fender Yngwie Malmsteen Stratocaster
  • Fender American Vintage '62 Stratocaster
  • Fender Stratocaster Eric Clapton model

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In the video, Eric Clapton presents his electric guitar:

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