Review: Fender Player Stratocaster HSH

(Image credit: Fender)

Much in the same way VR (virtual reality) technology has advanced light years ahead with state-of-the-art sophistication at a lower cost to the consumer, guitar manufacturing has similarly grown by leaps and bounds in building affordable instruments with futuristic precision. I’m seriously blown away at how good most budget guitars are these days, with some companies going the distance in crafting highly polished instruments with up-to-date componentry that offers a plethora of sounds for the working musician. Fender is one of those companies that seems to nail this trend with stylistic verve, and the Fender Player Stratocaster HSH is one of those guitars that packs so much versatility and performance features, it’s the kind of guitar you’d want in your musical world — or virtual world, for that matter.

FEATURES The Fender Player Stratocaster HSH starts with a classic combination of an alder body and maple neck, with the body being hand-shaped to Fender’s original specs, making it even more sleekly contoured for player comfort. What’s different is the fingerboard is now Pau Ferro. Because of international trade laws placing certain restrictions on rosewood, Fender is replacing some of their rosewood fingerboards with Pau Ferro, which they’ve done here, and trust me, you won’t notice it aesthetically or sonically because it looks and sounds just about the same. Incidentally, Fender has been using Pau Ferro for years on the SRV Stratocaster.

The guitar is pretty much a souped-up Strat, so before you dismiss it, you should know the very hip designers at Fender made some fine-tuned tweaks that make this guitar one of the more player-friendly Strats out there. These desirable features comprise of a super-comfortable, modern “C”-shaped neck profile with 22 medium jumbo frets, a 9.5–inch fingerboard radius and a two-point tremolo bridge with bent-steel saddles. The guitar’s new sonic voice includes the Player Series Alnico 2 humbucking bridge and neck pickups with a dedicated tone control for the bridge pickup, a Player Series Alnico 5 single-coil middle pickup and custom 5-way switching.

PERFORMANCE Let me begin by saying I love this guitar’s striking tobacco burst finish on a black pickguard with white pickups and controls, because altogether, it just exudes a cool bluesy vibe. But as they say, beauty is only as skin-deep as your gloss polyester finish; what really matters here is tone and feel, and the Player Strat HSH flat out delivers. From the moment you pick it up, it’s apparent it’s a particularly well-made and set-up instrument that sounds as good as it looks. I used to pay hundreds of dollars to swap pickups and electronics, change the pickguard, install bigger fret-wire and so on, but here, the guitar has just about every upgraded modification most players desire at a fraction of the cost. The tone is exceptionally well-balanced, with the Player Series pickups yielding medium-output crispiness for the humbuckers, and the middle single-coil pickup offering shades of mellow spank when combined with the inner and outer coils of the humbuckers (in positions 2 and 4 on the 5-way blade switch respectively). All in all, the Player Series Stratocaster HSH is a bargain for an instrument that packs a wallop in tone and features.


● The Player Series HSH pickup configuration can command full-blown humbucking slice or be summoned for Fender’s textbook single-coil snap.

● The two-point tremolo bridge with bent-steel saddles offers better tuning stability and springiness in tension for a bouncy playing feel.


The Fender Player Series Stratocaster HSH is a fantastic, affordable Stratocaster that can cover any playing style.

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Paul Riario

Paul Riario has been the tech/gear editor and online video presence for Guitar World for over 25 years. Paul is one of the few gear editors who has actually played and owned nearly all the original gear that most guitarists wax poetically about, and has survived this long by knowing every useless musical tidbit of classic rock, new wave, hair metal, grunge, and alternative genres. When Paul is not riding his road bike at any given moment, he remains a working musician, playing in two bands called SuperTrans Am and Radio Nashville.