American vs Mexican strats is it really a difference between them?

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Stefan272, Nov 1, 2020.

  1. CB91710

    CB91710 No GAS shortage here Double Platinum Supporting Member

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    Interesting coming from a Fender "insider" given that Fender never made them in Fullerton and Mexico at the same time.
    There was some overlap with Japan and Fullerton, and Corona and Japan, but Fullerton production was 100% completely shut down long before the Ensenada plant was even started.
     
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  2. kjatexas

    kjatexas Strat-Talker

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    I have two American Standard Strats and love them both, but just bought a MIM, that I replaced the single coils with Lollar humbuckers. The nut had to be replaced, because the E6 string buzzed when played open, (I opted for a bone nut), and the frets needed to be dressed and edges smoothed. Cost me about $60. But, I have a friend who has a MIM, and it was perfecto. I prefer the SSS configuration on a traditional Strat, but that's just me.
    If I were buying a new Strat, I would buy a Player, because I like the modern C neck,and replace the pickups, if I didn't like them.
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
  3. MusicManD

    MusicManD Strat-Talk Member

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    It really just comes down to what you like. When I was getting ready to finish my Master's Degree, I was shopping for a present for myself. I knew it would either be a Gibson Les Paul to replace my Korean Epiphone or a US Fender to replace my MIM Standard. Every American Fender I pulled down to test felt great, but the pickups just sounded dark, like somebody dropped a blanket over the amp. I realize now that it was a result of playing cheap Strats (Squier II, Cort and Hamer knockoffs, and then the MIM Standard), but those bright pickups worked their way into my ear as THE Strat sound. I ended up buying a Gibson as my Master's present.

    Fast forward five years and I have the chance to pick up a '79 Strat on a trade. Mojo for days, but the frets were so low and the neck so skinny, it really was tough to play. We had some medical bills crash down on us, so I ended up trading the '79 for a MIM Jimmie Vaughan Signature and a few hundred dollars of cash to make up the value difference. The JV is the best maple Strat I've ever played. Just for kicks, I was browsing a Suhr dealer last week and picked one up to compare. It felt nice, but I still preferred the neck of my $800 JV to the $3000+ Suhr.

    As far as HSS vs SSS, I'm a traditionalist with a SSS, but I will say that in college my main church guitar was a Dean HSS. It checked almost all the boxes for that style of music and I was able to just leave it at church while hauling my Epi Les Paul and MIM Standard Strat on the road with my gigging band. For some reason, there's a GLUT of red HSS rosewood MIM Strats in my area. I was at Guitar Center yesterday and there were two sitting side by side on the used wall. Luckily they weren't yet available to take home or else I would have gotten in SEVERE trouble. Lol.
     
  4. dbluesmi

    dbluesmi Strat-Talk Member

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    The better you are - the more you'll notice the differences.
     
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  5. iGav

    iGav Strat-Talker

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    Years ago I would have sworn the American Standards were better in every way, since I've started working in construction and manufacturing I'm less inclined to believe that stuff. I reckon that the USA models get better hardware and pickups, but that's likely it.

    You can't just take the seller's word for it that this is better than that, they would tell you that. Also, the factories are too close for me to believe that there aren't a lot of parts that are shared between factories - if I was employed there to manufacture guitars, I'd absolutely want access to be open between the two factories, I have no doubt that it is.

    I think they're largely the same, you're paying more for the 'MADE IN USA', but I'd bet that the bodies and necks for a huge amount are made in Mexico and sent to CA, vice versa - whatever is cheaper for them.
     
  6. johnjet6

    johnjet6 Strat-Talk Member

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    I own and play Roland Ready Strats; three of them. Only one is American made. It is now 23 years old as is one one of the MIM strats. My newest strat is MIM and a little better than the other two which came with standard noisy pickups. The newer one came with noiseless pickups which I would consider to be an upgrade. Having said this, I rarely use the pickups since I am using the midi pickups most of the time. The newer one does play better but that could just be to the age of the other two. I learned a long time ago to pick up the guitar play it and if you like it, purchase it. Any guitar builder can have a bad day, no matter where he or she lives. One of my favorite guitars is a Washburn J9. It plays and sounds great. The craftsmanship of the inlays and structure is exquisite. This guitar was made in South Korea. I am a "Buy American" kind of guy but I will not buy junk just because of the "Made in USA" sticker. I still own a Peavy T-60 which is one of my favorites from good 'ol Meridian Mississippi.
     
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  7. mbonness

    mbonness New Member!

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    I can't offer any comparison between MIM and MIA because, being a beginner, I don't think I've ever handled a MIA Strat. But, as others have said here already, inspecting individual guitars is the way to go, if you can.

    I have a 2016 MIM Standard Strat that's fantastic; great assembly and finish. But I also bought and returned three 2019 or 2020 Players Series MIM Strats, spaced out over the course of five months, and the quality control was poor. One had a clear and persistent grounding or shielding problem. Another had veneer that looked to have been book-matched across both the vertical axis and a horizontal axis (on the upper horn). And two had obvious splitting of the fingerboard finish along multiple frets. (And I found the same splitting on additional units at a store.)

    All of this is consistent with others' opinions that quality control has diminished recently with the MIM Standard/Player Series. --Maybe they're just turning out way more guitars these days, at a faster clip, and quality (or quality control) has slipped.

    MX19077271 003a.JPG MX19082764 017.jpg
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2020
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  8. ptb1

    ptb1 Strat-Talker

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    Exactly. If it´s a mexican, chinese, american, bolivian or russian guy/girl operating the machines or do the mounting don´t matter at all.
    It comes down to the defines quality level of Electronics, Components and other materials - and the defined tolerances they are set to keep.
     
  9. martinmj

    martinmj Strat-Talk Member

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    Back to personal choice with pickups as usual-the Player pickups, basically 57/62 Fender, are my favourite! Thanks heavens for choice.......
     
  10. kjatexas

    kjatexas Strat-Talker

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    I like the player specs, because its basically an American Standard built in Mexico.
    Didn't know that the p/us were 57/62 Fenders, they should be great.
    I replaced the pickups in both my AS Strats, one with Xotic RV-50s, and the other with Xotic RV-60s. I like both. I was having a love/hate relationship with the fat 50's that came on the one, and I didn't like the stock pickups on the other, a 2007AS that I bought used, on reverb.
     
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  11. Scott Baxendale

    Scott Baxendale Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    “American Professional and Elite/Ultra have a bi-flex truss rod that can work out a back-bow.
    MiM and American Performer and Original have a conventional truss rod. If the neck is back-bowed, your only option is to move to heavier gauge strings or replace the neck.“

    This isn’t exactly true. If a neck is back bowed but only has a conventional one way rod in it there are ways to repair it. You can plane out the back bow and refret it or you can heat press the back bow out.

    One other point is that the 2 way rod sounds like it should be an improvement but it really isn’t. My experience with two way rods is that they are mostly unnecessary since back bowed strat necks aren’t very common and when you do see a back bow the neck has usually been subject to extreme humidity. They also tend to not adjust the neck evenly. I’ve seen more than one that as you adjust it it tends to put a “S” curve in the neck.
     
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  12. dirocyn

    dirocyn Senior Stratmaster

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    Leo's great contribution to the guitar was creating an assembly line technique so cabinet carpenters and unskilled laborers could do virtually all the work, and they'd do it for factory workers wages instead of artisan luthier wages. Build it for pennies, sell it for dollars--that's the way you do it, right?

    MIM and USA models have slightly different specs. 21 vs 22 frets, different pickups. The difference in specs alone would make the USA guitars more expensive--by $10 or $20 maybe.
     
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  13. gofmusic

    gofmusic Senior Stratmaster

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    Oh no this again. Fine, lets do this.

    First of all, there's no such thing as MEXI STRATS. The difference between them models and the eras is very noticeable.

    Americans are better? Yes.
    Mexicans suck? No.

    HSS vs SSS? Who's better Jimi Hendrix or Van Halen?

    Bottom line:

    1) Guitars are tools to make music, and also fettish objects :p, its rarely a matter of whats better or worse.
    2) If you need a good guitar for little money, go for Mexican Standards used from 2005 on. Have more budget? Classic player or Classic Series Mexican.
    3) Its important for you to own a top quality instrument that not only will serve you well on stage, rehearsal and at home, but also you wont probably want to flip down the line to get a better one? Buy an American Standard or Professional.
    4) Wanna splurge cuz it makes you happy, go for an Original, Elite, Custom Shop, or whatever you want, it doesnt matter if its better.

    Cheers!
     
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  14. Thrup'ny Bit

    Thrup'ny Bit Grand Master Curmudgeon

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    Of course it is.
     
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  15. nmoc strat

    nmoc strat Strat-O-Master

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    I havent played that many Strats, but for my experience, there's not that much difference between MIA and MIM models. Ok, you can say that MIA have some Better quality parts, like Pickups, but than again, sometimes its just a matter Of preference.

    I personaly , love the Stratocaster, but at the same time, struggle to find One thats perfect, so, most Of the Times end up moding my Strats to my personal preference. That Way , I tend to prefer MIM.

    I used to have about 5 Fender Strats, not all at the same time, as I'm always buying and selling, so nowadays I have just One Fender Strat, its my fave, and its a MIM (have another Strat, which is a partscaster made of Squier and Warmoth parts, so that doesnt count). But I think that Of all my Fenders, One thats I liked the most stock, was a MIM 50s, which was a very Nice guitar to play, and One thats I least liked was a MIA , couldnt get that Strat In tune, and also never bonded with it, sold both those guitars stock.

    HSS or SSS, sorry Strat purists, but HSS for me, I always prefer a thick bridge tone.
     
  16. Slartybartfast

    Slartybartfast Strat-Talker

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    The MIM Strats have improved more than the US every generation. In the 90s the US was clearly better on every point. A few years ago it was things like steel trem versus zinc, finish buffing, fret work. With a new generation I'd say you have to go to a store and compare. The MIM look better than ever so look at the small stuff, wobbly trem bar, fret ends, how does the switch feel, loose parts, compare the pickups. Check other stuff, which over time can end up being quite important. Let us know what you find. As for SSS strats, I won't own anything else. I want my strats to sound like strats and I think HSS looks kind of "scotch tape". I do always have an extra strong bridge pickup.
     
  17. bobalu

    bobalu Strat-Talker Silver Member

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    I've owned umpteen Strats since the 80's, both MIA & MIM, and I don't think the quality has ever been closer between the two than now. In my experience, MIJ was without a doubt always a cut above (and still is). I currently own a couple of MIM's that are equal quality to my MIA's in every way.

    Notwithstanding, I think the biggest difference between MIM & MIA is in the re-sale value. Regardless of how better a MIM plays, sounds or feels, the MIA will always be worth more on a trade or re-sale - thats just the way it seems to be as a result of "perceived" quality or value. I will say that I think the pick-ups are the weakest link in some MIM's though. ;)
     
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  18. oddjobdobson

    oddjobdobson New Member!

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    some MIM's are better than bottom end USA Strats, I have two perfect examples of KILLER MIM's. If you're shopping for a Strat look at the high end MIM's like the Deluxe or the Blacktop. You cannot do better for the money than a MIM Deluxe . . . . Good Luck this is my Deluxe Player, it's my #2 behind my Blacktop HH #1. 35 years I've been playing and these are my best two guitars I've ever had, better than my Jacksons and Kramers and Gibsons, well maybe not better than one of my old Jacksons, I never had them side by side to compare, but you get the point, there are some really fine instruments coming out of Ensenada, and these models have USA bodies, necks and pickups so you're not missing out on anything
     

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  19. surfbeat

    surfbeat New Member!

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    I’ve had the same Strat my mom purchased for me since 1961, tore it apart, made modifications and painted it more times than I can remember.
    i have Disassembled Dick Dale’s Strat at least a dozen times since about 1964, so I know my way around Strat’s.
    Both Dale and I have been to Fender in Fullerton before and after the move to Corona many times as well as a couple times to the plant in Ensenada.
    What did we see and learn from these trips?
    At the plants in the USA, especially Corona, almost all Mexicans, many with limited English comprehension, making, assembling, painting Strats.
    What did we see at the Ensenada plant: Mexicans, with limited English language comprehension. using the identical equipment as in Corona, making, assembling, painting Strats.
    Making a Strat does not require much skill! Assembling one requires minimum skill, therefore all the hype about the skill of employers at the Custom Shop, in most cases is just hype so Fender can sell high priced guitars.
    Find a MIM Strat, and I bet it will sound and feel as good as mine or Dick Dale’s Strat!
    Remember, our Strats were probably made by Mexicans back in 1960 or 61.
    Do you really think a Mexican who snuck across the border to gain unlawful entry into the USA can make, assemble, or paint a Strat better than a Mexican who lives in Mexico and works at the Ensenada plant?
    Strat necks and bodies are made by machines, not made from scratch, using hands to carve out bodies and necks!
    Remember this important factor: most Fender assembly line employees are not paid well in the USA and are unionized, but all Mexicans working at the Ensenada plant are well paid, not unionized, so performance must be better than subpar or they will be terminated.
    Based upon the preceding observations, I think the question to this Thread is easily answered.
    My opinion, the best place to buy a Strat is on CL which consistes of a used MIM.
     
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  20. Hanson

    Hanson Strat-O-Master

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    I have had many Strats both MIA and MIM. I currently own a 2016 American Standard and a 2015 MIM Strat. If you can’t feel the difference in the finishing of those 2 necks or it doesn’t matter to you, then go for the cheaper MIM. If you like the pickups as well in the MIM, compared to the American Strat, then buy the MIM.

    If you plan on changing out pickups and electronics in the MIM, then I would just buy a used American Strat for $800; you’ll end up with a better neck.