In some ways, the Fender Stratocaster has changed very little since it was introduced 60 years ago in 1954, but in other ways it has changed quite a lot.
Part of this is due to the staggering selection of Strat models that Fender has offered over the years (Fender.com currently lists 170 different versions).
Some, like the 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster, are faithful reproductions of past models, while others, like the American Deluxe Strat Plus, offer bold new innovations that pave the way for an exciting future. Then there are models like the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster, which combine vintage features that guitarists love with modern improvements to satisfy the demands of present-day players.
Features: The 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster is based on Fender’s very first version of the guitar.
Like the original, it has a two-piece ash body with two-tone sunburst finish, a one-piece maple neck with 21 vintage-style frets and a 7 1/4-inch radius, three single-coil pickups, a synchronized vintage tremolo bridge with six bent steel saddles (which are even stamped “Pat. Pending”), “mini-skirt” control knobs and a single-ply white plastic pickguard. The main significant difference between this model and an original vintage ’54 Strat is that this one ships with a five-position pickup-selector switch, although a three-position switch is provided for purists.
On the surface, the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster looks similar to the ’54, but closer examination reveals several significant differences, including the neck’s compound radius and 22 medium-jumbo frets, gold-plated hardware, tuners with white pearloid buttons, and three-ply parchment pickguard with beveled edges. Underneath the hood are upgrades that include a no-load tone control for the middle and bridge pickups, a two-point synchronized tremolo, a bi-flex truss rod with micro-tilt adjustment and a contoured heel.
The American Deluxe Strat Plus also looks a lot like the original Stratocaster, but in many significant ways it’s a radical departure from the classic Strat that still manages to remain faithful to its roots. It shares several features in common with the previous example, including a compound radius and 22 medium jumbo frets.
Where it differs, though, are in its noise-free N3 single-coil Strat pickups and plug-and-play modular Personality Cards, which provide instant access to different pickup and circuitry configurations. In addition to the standard configuration card loaded in the guitar, the American Deluxe Strat Plus ships with two additional cards: Cutter, which transforms the tone controls into master treble and master bass cut controls, and Blender, which turns the middle tone control into a master treble cut and the other tone control into a neck/bridge pickup blend control. (The neck and bridge pickups are also engaged in each pickup selector position except three, which engages only the middle pickup.) The Personality Cards are solderless and can easily be swapped out.
Performance: A non-playing collector recently paid $250,000 for a 1954 Strat that allegedly was the first one produced. But aside from a magic number stamped inside the tremolo cavity plate, there’s not much difference between that guitar and the 60th Anniversary Vintage 1954 Stratocaster to justify the $247,000 difference in price. If you’ve ever played an original ’54 Strat, the 60th Anniversary model will feel and sound just like that familiar old friend. The neck profile may be a little chunkier than today’s sleek examples, but when it comes to classic Strat tone, this new version truly delivers.
From a tone perspective, the 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster is a lot like the original ’54 Strat as well, with similar tones that every guitarist knows and loves. However, the feel of the neck is an entirely different matter, offering a comfortable C-shaped profile, medium jumbo frets and a compound radius that makes it significantly easier to play. The tremolo is also a little more refined and can handle deep dives much more competently and without going out of tune.
The American Deluxe Strat Plus model’s Personality Card feature is a major game changer. The different cards install in just seconds and transform the guitar into an entirely different beast. The Blender, in particular, can significantly expand the Strat’s tonal spectrum. The locking tuners and noise-free N3 pickups respectively provide rock-solid tuning and studio-quality quiet performance, and the guitar’s overall tone is bolder, bigger and more aggressive.
List Prices: 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster and American Deluxe Strat Plus, $2,099.99; 60th Anniversary Vintage 1954 Stratocaster, $3,099.99
Manufacturer: Fender Musical Instruments Corporation, fender.com
-The 60th Anniversary Vintage 1954 Stratocaster faithfully replicates numerous features of the original ’54 Strat.
-The 60th Anniversary Commemorative Stratocaster includes player-approved features like a compound radius and no-load tone control.
-The American Deluxe Strat Plus includes Fender’s acclaimed noise-free N3 single-coil pickups, which provide fat, assertive tone.
-The Personality Card feature of the American Deluxe Strat Plus allows guitarists to instantly change pickup and circuitry configurations.
The Bottom Line: Whether you’re a vintage purist, present-day practitioner, or modern visionary, these three new Fender Stratocaster models satisfy the needs of almost any guitarist and celebrate the Strat’s 60th anniversary in style.