Review: Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS and Telecaster HH Guitars — Video


Whether you’ve been playing guitar for only two years or more than 20, you probably already know that Fender’s American Standard Series Stratocaster and Telecaster guitars are a great value.

Thousands of guitarists rely on these workhorse axes on a daily basis, and odds are good that you already own one if you’ve ever shopped for a new Strat or Tele.

However, many guitarists may not be aware that Fender offers American Standard Stratocaster and Telecaster models that stray from the traditional three- and two-single-coil pickup designs, respectively.

The Fender American Standard Stratocaster HSS features a full-size bridge humbucker in addition to middle and neck single-coils, while the American Standard Telecaster HH swaps a pair of humbuckers for the bridge and neck single-coils. Recently, Fender introduced new pickups for both models to offer the performance of a hot-rodded custom guitar while retaining the value and versatility that has made Fender’s American Standard series so popular.

FEATURES The American Standard Stratocaster HSS provides all of the expected traditional Strat features combined with the refinements that Fender has made to the model over the years.

The bridge is a two-point synchronized tremolo with a copper-infused high-mass bridge block and vintage-inspired bent-steel saddles with elongated string slots, and the control knobs and switch tip are made of aged white plastic with a “broken-in” appearance. The finish undercoat is thinner to enhance resonance, and the neck finish is tinted to give it a warmer, richer appearance.

Pickups consist of a Diamondback humbucker mounted at the bridge and Custom Shop Fat ’50s Single-Coil Strat pickups at the middle and neck positions. Controls include master volume, a tone control for the neck and middle pickups, and an additional tone control for the bridge only or bridge/middle setting. The five-position pickup selector provides the standard Strat pickup combinations.

The American Standard Telecaster HH is equipped with a pair of Twin Head humbucking pickups, master volume and master tone controls, and a traditional-style three-position blade pickup-selector switch. The back of the body has a Strat-style “belly” contour, but unlike a Strat the top has no contours. The bridge is an American Standard Strings-Thru-Body Tele model with a stamped brass plate and bent-steel saddles with elongated slots.

Both models have an alder body and a maple neck with 22 medium jumbo frets, a modern “C” profile, 25 1/2–inch scale, 9 1/2–inch radius, Bi-Flex truss rods, and four-bolt body attachment with Micro-Tilt that does away with the need for shims. Both models also offer a choice of maple or rosewood fretboards.

PERFORMANCE If you’ve ever installed a humbucker in a Strat or Tele, you may wonder what the fuss is, but actually Fender has done a remarkable job designing humbuckers that provide added body and punch without sacrificing the sparkle and percussive attack that makes single-coil Strats and Teles so appealing.

The Stratocaster HSS’s Diamondback humbucker and Custom Shop Fat ’50s Single-Coil Strat pickups work very well together and complement each other tonally, and the output remains consistent whether using just the humbucker or individual single-coils. You still get beloved Strat single-coil neck and middle-pickup tones but with the addition of fatter bridge pickup tones that still maintain a Strat-like honk and shimmer.

The Telecaster HH sounds more like a fat Tele than a typical warm and somewhat woofy double-humbucker guitar, with a brilliant, crisp treble that country lead players will adore and barking midrange punch that will please rock rhythm guitarists. As a result, the Telecaster HH is much more versatile than the traditional Tele. Both the Stratocaster HSS and Telecaster HH have their own distinctive tonal personalities that may be exactly what many guitarists have sought all these years.

Materials, workmanship and playability all satisfy the high standards players have come to expect from Fender. Both models look and sound like old familiar friends, with a solid feel that is certain to provide years of trouble-free playing enjoyment. Fender has vastly improved the quality of the satin and polyurethane finishes used on the necks, which now feel more like oil-rubbed wood than the somewhat plastic texture of the past. The body finishes also compare with Fender’s Custom Shop instruments—the Ocean Blue Metallic finish on the Strat we examined was particularly gorgeous.

STREET PRICE $1,299.99
MANUFACTURER Fender Musical Instruments,

• The Stratocaster HSS features a Diamondback humbucker at the bridge and Custom Shop Fat ’50s Single-Coil Strat pickups at the neck and middle.

• The Telecaster HH is equipped with a pair of Twin Head humbucking pickups instead of traditional single-coils.

• The Strat’s two-point synchronized tremolo has a copper-infused high mass bridge block and vintage-inspired bent steel saddles with elongated string slots.

• The Tele HH’s body is contoured on the back like a Stratocaster to provide improved playing comfort.

THE BOTTOM LINE If you look the look and feel of a traditional Strat or Tele but need a little more output and balls from the pickups, these new American Standard models are built to rock while remaining true to the models’ traditional character.

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Chris Gill, Video by Paul Riario

Chris is the co-author of Eruption - Conversations with Eddie Van Halen. He is a 40-year music industry veteran who started at Boardwalk Entertainment (Joan Jett, Night Ranger) and Roland US before becoming a guitar journalist in 1991. He has interviewed more than 600 artists, written more than 1,400 product reviews and contributed to Jeff Beck’s Beck 01: Hot Rods and Rock & Roll and Eric Clapton’s Six String Stories.