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Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster and Stratocaster HSS review

These might just be Fender's best electric guitars yet

Fender American Ultra Stratocaster HSS and Jazzmaster
(Image: © Fender)

Our Verdict

Fender’s new Ultra series guitars are by far the best instruments to ever come off the company's production line, providing truly luxurious playability and an impressive variety of awesome tones with distinct character.

For

  • Contours provide enhanced playability and comfort.
  • Modern D-shaped neck profile really delivers a flat, slim feel ideal for fast, precise playing.
  • Attention to detail is fantastic.

Against

  • Price point may deter some buyers.

Shopping for a new Fender solidbody electric guitar can be an intimidating task due to the overwhelming variety of instruments the company offers today. For example, it produces about a dozen different series of Stratocaster models alone, often with several variations within each series. 

Deciding between an American Original, American Performer, American Professional, Deluxe, Player or Vintera model can require a daunting amount of research and legwork, but the good thing is if you have an ideal Fender model in mind, Fender probably makes it.

For guitarists seeking only the absolute best for themselves, the task is much easier as there are only two words to remember: American Ultra. This is the series to choose if you prefer traditional tonewoods over exotic varieties, aren’t interested in artist models and want a player-centric combination of modern upgrades and timeless, classic appeal. 

We took a closer look at the American Ultra Jazzmaster and Stratocaster HSS models, but Fender also offers the American Ultra Telecaster and an additional Stratocaster model with the traditional triple single-coil pickup configuration.

Features

All Fender American Ultra models share a few common features, including a body made of either ash or alder, featuring enhanced body contours and tapered heels, a maple neck with a Modern D-shaped profile, 25 ½-inch scale and Ultra satin finish, maple or rosewood fingerboard (depending on body finish) with 10- to 14-inch compound radius, medium jumbo frets (22 on the Stratocaster HSS, 21 on the Jazzmaster), bone nut, locking tuning machines and an included premium molded hardshell case.

All models also offer advanced electronics. The American Ultra Stratocaster HSS provides an Ultra Double Tap humbucker at the bridge and Ultra Noiseless Hot Strat single-coil pickups at the middle and neck, and controls include a five-position blade pickup selector, a master volume knob with S-1 switch that activates the Custom Double Tap feature, neck/middle tone knob and bridge pickup tone knob.

The ultimate feature of Fender’s Ultra series guitars is their stellar variety of tones

The American Ultra Jazzmaster is equipped with a pair of Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazzmaster single-coil bridge and neck pickups, and controls consist of a three-way pickup toggle, master volume with S-1 switch, neck tone knob, bridge tone knob, inset individual bridge and neck volume controls and a phase switch. 

The Jazzmaster’s S-1 switch engages both pickups in series, and the individual bridge and neck volume controls will work only when the phase switch is set to the out of phase position.

Performance

Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster

Fender American Ultra Jazzmaster (Image credit: Fender)

I’ve played hundreds of Fender guitars, and I can unequivocally state that Fender got it right when they decided to name this series Ultra as these are the best production models that company has produced to date. The quality and attention to detail are noticeable from the moment the case is first cracked open, as the finishes are gorgeous and details like the gold logos immediately identify these guitars with an image of luxury.

That sense of luxury is further established when the guitars are played. The edges of the finger boards are smoothly rounded off and the frets are immaculately dressed, providing a polished feel. I found myself pulling off difficult licks with ease that I usually struggle to play on other guitars. I particularly loved the contours on the back of the treble cutaways, which provided smooth, comfortable access to the uppermost frets.

However, the ultimate feature of Fender’s Ultra series guitars is their stellar variety of tones. The Strat HSS delivers big and beefy single-coil tones from the neck and middle pickups as well as the bridge pickup with the S-1 switch engaged, and the bridge humbucker produces fat, aggressive wallop with extra definition from its treble bite. 

The Ultra Jazzmaster simply sounds awesome, with a distinctive midrange snarl that delivers killer clean twang and delightfully demonic distortion with more body than a Strat or Tele but also more cut and snap than a P90. 

This Jazzmaster’s sounds are truly unique, which is just the ticket for players tired of the same old sounds that most companies are delivering these days. Both models offer a wider palette of tones and textures than standard Strat and Jazzmaster models, making them perfect for pros who need a wider variety of sounds than average.

Specs

American Ultra Stratocaster HSS

  • LIST PRICE: $1,899.99 to $1,999.99
  • MANUFACTURER: Fender
  • BODY MATERIAL: Alder
  • BODY FINISH: Gloss Polyurethane
  • NECK MATERIAL: Maple
  • NECK FINISH: Satin Urethane with Gloss Urethane Headstock Face
  • NECK SHAPE: Modern D
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
  • FINGERBOARD RADIUS: 10" to 14" Compound Radius (254 mm to 355.6 mm)
  • NUMBER OF FRETS: 22
  • FRET SIZE: Medium Jumbo
  • BRIDGE PICKUP: Ultra Double Tap Humbucking
  • MIDDLE PICKUP: Ultra Noiseless Hot Strat
  • NECK PICKUP: Ultra Noiseless Hot Strat

American Ultra Jazzmaster

  • LIST PRICE: $1,999.99 to $2,099.99
  • MANUFACTURER: Fender
  • BODY MATERIAL: Alder
  • BODY FINISH: Gloss Polyurethane
  • NECK MATERIAL: Maple
  • NECK FINISH: Satin Urethane with Gloss Urethane Headstock Face
  • NECK SHAPE: Modern D
  • FINGERBOARD: Rosewood
  • FINGERBOARD RADIUS: 10" to 14" Compound Radius (254 mm to 355.6 mm)
  • NUMBER OF FRETS: 21
  • FRET SIZE: Medium Jumbo
  • BRIDGE PICKUP: Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazzmaster
  • NECK PICKUP: Ultra Noiseless Vintage Jazzmaster