There are many reasons why Jimi Hendrix did not sound like other guitarists of his time, including players who also favored a similar Strat and Marshall setup.
The most obvious reason is simply that no one else played the same way that Jimi did, from his distinctive chord voicings to his unique phrasing and touch.
But strictly from the perspective of his gear, there’s another important reason why Jimi’s Strat sounded like no other—he took a standard right-handed Strat, flipped it over, and re-strung it for left-handed playing.
This setup provides several changes that affect a Strat’s tone in somewhat subtle but still notable ways. The “reverse” six-on-a-side headstock changes the length of the strings behind the nut, which also changes overall string tension, and reversed angle of the bridge pickup now places the pole piece closest to the bridge under the low E instead of the high E while also changing the placement of the staggered pole pieces.
Fender’s new Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster incorporates several distinctive features of Jimi’s “flipped over” setup while still maintaining the comfort and playability of a standard right-handed guitar. While the model is essential for Hendrix enthusiasts who want to accurately cop his distinctive tone, the Jimi Hendrix Strat is also a great choice for players seeking a Strat with familiar look and feel but a slightly different voice.
Featuring an alder body and a 21-fret neck with a C-shaped profile, 9.5-inch radius, and oversized headstock, the Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster is clearly inspired by the late-Sixties Strats that Hendrix favored. Color options for the gloss polyester body finish are black or Olympic white, and the model is only available with a one-piece maple neck with contrasting “skunk” strip on the back.
Vintage-style tuners, the master volume/neck pickup tone/middle pickup tone control setup, and control knobs, pickup covers, and switch tip made of aged white plastic further enhance the model’s classic late Sixties vibe. However, a few features like the medium jumbo frets, five-position pickup selector switch, vintage-style synchronized tremolo (shipped with a floating setup), and American Vintage ’65 Single-Coil Strat pickups are provided to satisfy the preferences of today’s Strat players.
The model also includes an engraved neck plate with Jimi Hendrix’s likeness and Hendrix’s signature on the back of the headstock to celebrate its inspiration—Jimi would certainly approve.
I’ve tried to cop genuine Jimi tone by taking a left-handed Strat and flipping it over like Hendrix did with his Strats, but the results weren’t exactly ideal. The setup causes the cutaway horn to impede access to the high E string above the 17th fret, the controls are awkwardly placed, the neck profile is uncomfortable, and the reversed tremolo is just plain wonky (sorry Stevie Ray, but I also found it made no difference to tone or whammy effects either).
The Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster incorporates the most important tone-influencing attributes of Hendrix’s flipped-over setup—the bridge pickup’s reversed angle and the reversed behind-the-nut string length on the headstock—while maintaining the familiar feel and comfortable playability of a right-handed guitar. The reversed pickup angle makes a big difference in tone, with the low E string delivering a crisp, percussive attack and enhanced metallic twang, while the high E string sounds slightly mellower and fuller while also providing longer sustain.
The reversed staggering of the polepieces also changes the string-to-string balance, making the D more prominent than the G and slightly bringing down the level of the A string. This setup sounds great when playing Wes Montgomery-style octaves using the low E and D strings.
STREET PRICE $899.99
MANUFACTURER Fender, fender.com
THE BOTTOM LINE The reversed angle of the bridge pickup and the reversed oversized headstock provide key tonal attributes of Jimi Hendrix’s “flipped over” Stat setup. American Vintage ’65 Single-Coil Strat pickups provide classic Strat tone, while a five-position pickup selector makes it easy to access Jimi’s favorite tonal flavors. The Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster provides the critical tone-shaping elements of Jimi’s distinctive “flipped over” Strat setup while retaining the familiar feel of a standard Strat setup.