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This article was originally published in issue #26
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In 2014 Fender celebrates the Diamond Jubilee of the Stratocaster, marking 60 years since its release. This 60th Anniversary Strat is certainly appropriately ‘bling’ for celebrating six decades of the iconic design, thanks to its stunning Aztec Gold gloss finish and Gold hardware. In all other respects this is classic Strat territory through and through, with its alder body and maple neck finished in gloss polyester for a smooth but shiny appearance. Fender has opted for a ‘modern C’ shaped neck profile, 9.5” radius maple fretboard with 21 medium jumbo frets, three custom vintage-style single-coil Stratocaster pickups with five-way switching, three-ply parchment pick-guard, vintage-style synchronised tremolo bridge with six saddles, and vintage-style tuners, producing a package that combines vintage sensibilities with modern playability and genuine visual impact without being over the top. Although gold isn't to everyone's taste, this is certainly a great looking guitar that should appeal to a wide range of players without being so over the top that the average player will be put off. The only design issue is that the gold hardware will gradually fade over time as the plating wears, diminishing the look of the guitar, however, this is an issue with all gold hardware and not unique to this guitar.
The guitar features a few unique elements that should attract the collectors too, such as a laser-engraved "1954-2014 60 Years" Anniversary neck-plate, aged plastic pickup covers and controls and vintage-style strap buttons. This is definitely a unique and interesting guitar that makes an impact that transcends its budget minded Squier label.
When we inspected the guitar for the first time it was immediately obvious that Fender has taken a lot of care and attention over the build quality. The body finish on our sample was immaculate, with a slight sparkle that glowed beautifully thanks to the gloss finish and exhibited no signs of corner or budget cutting around any of the joints or hardware mounting points. There were no frayed pieces of plastic or sheered screw heads here and the hardware felt tightly fitted, responsive and smooth. The same high quality extended to the neck with fretwork and finishing that matched many of the high end, US-made Fender models, giving nothing away to hint at the Squier's lower price. In reality, if this guitar had a Fender logo on the headstock no one would raise so much as an eyebrow as it really feels and looks like an expensive US-made model.
The same care and attention has been applied to the factory setup it seems, as the guitar played beautifully straight out of the box. The action had been set low but with no buzzing and intonation was very good across the whole range, another great achievement for any guitar at this price point. No dead points or raised frets could be found and the whole guitar was very resonant with lots of natural sustain and tone. The vintage-style, six screw trem feels very responsive, giving a nice balance between subtle trem use for chordal vibrato and more modern, aggressive techniques a la Jeff Beck without any tuning issues to speak of.
The tone of the 60th anniversary Stratocaster is quite exceptional considering the price point of the instrument, thanks to the three high-quality, vintage voiced single coil pickups matched with the relatively lightweight alder body. All of the classic Stratocaster tones are available here, giving you access to a wide range of '50s vintage sounds that are authentic and feel great paired with the modern playability of this instrument. The five way selector switch works exactly as you'd expect giving you bridge, middle, and neck single coils, plus the usual noise cancelling positions two and four for classic, out of phase sounds. It's hard to imagine anyone requiring an upgrade for these pickups as they achieve a good balance of highs and lows whilst retaining lots of clarity and warmth without sounding sterile or like cut down budget friendly alternatives. It's easier to imagine, since this classic 50s guitar is such a great looking and playing instrument, that people might buy the guitar simply to add hotter or more modern sounding pickups to tailor the sounds to their preference, however its testament to Fender’s attention to detail here that this guitar not only plays great but sounds great too.
It's not hard to recommend the 60th anniversary classic vibe 50’s Stratocaster from Squire. Whilst this isn't the cheapest guitar Squier has ever produced, it is by no means expensive and for an anniversary model it represents a superb way to get hold of a unique and celebratory guitar that plays fantastically and sounds as good as many US-made Fender models at a significant saving. This is the kind of guitar where you can forget the name on the headstock and instead concentrate on just making great music, knowing that it won't let you down.