The right Strat for me

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by Tom_ZC, Oct 15, 2021.

  1. Tom_ZC

    Tom_ZC New Member!

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    I played in rock bands in high school in the early 80s and only recently got back into playing. I'm happy to own an Ibanez Artist AR325QA electric guitar and a nice cutaway Takamine acoustic-electric. I'm not complaining! These are nice guitars that I'm blessed to own. However, I've always wanted to own a Strat. I had a '76 Gibson Firebird and a Les Paul copy when I played in high school. The had their strengths. The Firebird had a nice, warm tone, and you could really get some great feedback when overdriven. However, one practice, I swapped guitars with our other guitar player. He had a Strat that had been custom-built for him out of Mighty-Mite parts. It's fretboard was easy to play like butter, and the intonation was perfect. The guitar was also perfectly balanced. My Firebird was always top-heavy. The Firebird was one of Gibson's weirder guitars, but that's another story.

    So fast forward to today. My first thought was to have someone do a Mighty-Mite Strat build for me, but I'm told that MM is no longer the leader in Strat parts and now Warmoth is. So I went through their web site virtual-building possible Strats. Turns out, if I sank quite a big pile of money into the project, we're talking thousands, I could get a high-quality instrument that is unique and is exactly what I want ... and has terrible resale value. So I can sink something like 4K to go to the max and have a great guitar that's what I want, if I end up keeping it for life.

    Turns out, I could get a way more affordable Mexican-made Strat. I've been checking out videos of them, and their tone sounds really nice. I want an easy-to-play fretboard and neck and quality tone. I haven't decided if I want a splitable humbucker in the bridge or a more classic single coil. My Ibanez already has a splitable humbucker in the bridge (and in the neck). So I can get that rich, midrangy humbucker sound if I want. When I split the humbucker, it sounds like an Ibanez that's brighter. It doesn't really sound like a Strat. But that's okay. It's not a Strat.

    So I'll have to figure out what direction I want to go in for the bridge pickup. But here's an alternate idea I had. I could get myself the best quality Mexican-made Strat I can find, and then buy only a Warmoth body for it. I love their use of unique woods with extraordinarily beautiful finishes. It would give me a unique and very beautiful Strat without sinking as much money into it as a from-scratch build. It would also preserve a good resale value. If I ever decided to sell, I could also put it back together with all original parts and then sell that. I could sell the Warmoth body separately.

    I want a Strat that's unique and high quality, and easy to play. Maybe this approach will get me there. I'm interested to hear from people who went with a splittable humbucker in the bridge. Does it do a good job of giving you that full mid-rangy, Gibsony tone if you want it? Then when you split down to single coil, do you get the brighter, twangy classic strat sound? I need to figure out what to do. I can get that Gibsony tone from my Ibanez. It's a question of whether I want to go for greater versatility or stick to the classic strat design and sound.
     
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  2. stratelespaul

    stratelespaul Strat-O-Master

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    I only read through half of that and maybe incorrectly, assumed where it was going.
    From what I gathered, build what you think/know suits your purposes.
    Nothing at all wrong with partscasters if they ring YOUR bell.
    Partscaster Strat for the win.
    Best of luck whatever your decision.
     
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  3. stevierayfan91

    stevierayfan91 DEEPLY SHY.

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    Welcome @Tom_ZC :)

    what part was thousands that were looking at?
     
  4. jrbirdman

    jrbirdman Senior Stratmaster Platinum Supporting Member Silver Member

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    You don't have to spend a boat load of money to get a great playing/sounding strat.
    You can pick up a used American standard or Professional and add your split humbucker and custom wire your strat to get many pickup options.
    Play as many as you can, IT WILL FIND YOU.
     
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  5. HighwayStar106

    HighwayStar106 Senior Stratmaster

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    I love my HSS Strat, but, as is common with them, the coil split is so quiet as to be pretty much useless.

    Since you already have a guitar with humbuckers, I say go with three single coils unless you find a HSS Strat that particularly speaks to you.
     
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  6. Lucius Paisley

    Lucius Paisley Strat-Talker

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    I wouldn't call Warmoth the "leader", they're the "most expensive".

    Buy a regular strat, upgrade to the specs you're looking for. You can even buy one that costs a couple of grand if that's ultimately what you're after.
     
  7. rolandson

    rolandson Dr. Stratster

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    #1, unique & #2, high quality = MIJ.
    #3 ... sorry, can't help ya.

    Unless you want to sink a few - few thousands more into a preCBS...
    Then I can help ya...!
     
  8. Red Bread

    Red Bread Strat-Talker

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    Go shopping and play some guitars
    It wont take long to figure out what you like and or dislike what you can or cant live with or with out
    Lots of good deals in the used market still
    Less think,more play
     
  9. Jimbo99

    Jimbo99 Strat-Talker

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    Everyone's 1st Strat, aren't those always a Sunburst SSS ? For a solid color it's black or some shade of blue.
     
  10. Duane_the_tub

    Duane_the_tub Strat-O-Master

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    Four grand? That's crazy money. You could probably order a Fender Custom Shop Strat with your dream specs for that much.

    I don't see any reason to spend anywhere close to that on a partscaster. I put together my no compromises, dream spec Strat for less than half that - even with a number of options you can't even get from Fender.
     
  11. Rickety

    Rickety Strat-Talk Member

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    Was just about to say this. You could definitely just order from the Fender Custom Shop and get a dream guitar for that much. Made to your exact specification, even getting to choose from colors that have been discontinued in the online custom builder from their retail store. You can get the precise, exact strat that you want, AND... it'll be a legit Fender.
     
  12. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Silver Member

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    hmmm...

    All I can say is that it took me a couple decades to find my perfect Strat. I'm not trying to bum you out, but every time I thought I found "thee one" I ended up being disappointed one way or another. I now see the problem as being two-fold:

    1) Most electrics I've experienced lack a certain liveliness and richness I prefer. If a guitar lacks these things no amount of tweaking can make up for it. While I agree that pickups play a major role in how an electric guitar sounds, I'm also convinced that there is a direct link between how a guitar sounds both plugged-in as well as unplugged, and that link involves how string vibrations are sensed by the pickups - especially since the strings vibrate exactly the same either way - therefore the underlying tone that the pickups feed to the amplifier are fundamentally the same as when the guitar is unplugged since everything originates from the exact same source. In other words, whether plugged or unplugged they both undeniably sound like a guitar! A pickup can only color the sound - it can not create the original quality of the sound.

    Here are more details on my theory, if interested: The Coupling Effect

    2) While pickups absolutely affect an electric guitars tone, with five pickup settings available on a Strat it can be very difficult getting all of these settings to sound equally great. So pickup choice can be a daunting task and finding that perfect balance can be tricky as well. To make matters worse, if the guitar lacks the inherently favorable tonal characteristics mentioned above, that makes getting the best sounds out of them even more difficult. The only exception (I believe) is when a lot of gain and effects are used, which alters the overall sound enough to makes the underlying tone less of a factor.

    I currently have three Strats; a 2018 Fender Road Worn 50s Strat and two "Fender partscasters" (each made entirely of Genuine Fender parts).


    E0832C04-5CE9-4CFA-8C95-ADF841F2B3FA.jpeg
    61 Strat 04-12-2021.JPG
    F95EC99D-A636-49C0-8642-CCE9E5383916.jpeg


    • TOP: The Road Worn has Fender Pure Vintage '54 alnico-3 pickups.
    • MIDDLE: The Black one has an (ordered new from Fender's website) "Classic Series 60s" body with a Fender Vintera 60s neck and Fender Original '57/'62 pickups.
    • BOTTOM: The 3-Tone Sunburst has a 2012 Fender Custom Shop '69 Relic body, a brand new 2021 Fender American Original 60s neck and a set of Fender Tex Mex pickups.
    Prior to those I've owned six other Strats. I've swapped pickups and electronics between each of them, tweaked setups and adjusted pickups heights, etc, but only the 3-Tone Sunburst sounds "outstanding" while the others, albeit undoubtedly "decent", are not what I'd consider to be particularly outstanding.

    They all have alder bodies, so the only other major physical differences involve neck materials and profiles: V-Shape on the Road Worn's maple neck, "Mid-60s C" on the Vintera with pau ferro fretboard and "Thick C" on the American Original with rosewood. While this doesn't prove anything, the other "best sounding" electric I own is my 2003 Fender AV52 Telecaster, which has a nice thick U-shaped maple neck on it.


    47428327-8C5A-4E4A-B874-048D41FF31C6.jpeg


    Regardless of all this, my point to you is to pay close attention to the "overall" tone of the guitar, since (in my opinion of course) not all electric guitars are created equal and just because they all follow a "relatively successful formula", that is in no way a guarantee of finding "Thee One".


    P.S. Both the 3Tone Sunburst and AV52 are equally tasty sounding to my ears and I'd definitely have a very difficult time deciding which to keep - if forced to make a choice...




     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
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  13. thegrasshopper

    thegrasshopper Strat-Talker

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    As Duane_the_tub mentioned, if you are willing to spend 4K, go for a custom-built Fender Custom Shop... Leaving aside the never ending debate about whether or not Fender Custom Shops guitars are worth their prices, they are absolutelly fantastic instruments, and with very good resale value (I bought a used one and sold it two months later for the same price).

    IMHO, modern Fender Custom Shops guitars are safe bets. I find the current quality of the Custom Shop to be very fine and consistent. I don't doubt that a partcaster could rise up to that level, but... you're taking some risk (quality and resale value wise)... sometimes the quality of the pieces do not sum up as one may have expected

    Myy custom-built would be loaded with hand-wound (a matter of taste, some people prefer machine-wound) pickups by Josefina Campos. Josefina Campos are now the Fender "master winder" (hype, marketing...) but her pickups have incredible resale value (she is currently only "winding" custom-builts and she will probably retire soon). Ordering Josefina pups will mean an upcharge, but, looking at the prices her pickups are being sold... it may be worth spending this money in such an expensive guitar.
     
  14. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Silver Member

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    The problem I see with going all-out on a Fender Custom Shop model is "What if it turns out to be a dog"?

    Anyway, it all comes down to what a person really wants. If great tone is the main objective, then price is not a factor, since I've played some fantastic sounding Squier Classic Vibe guitars that sounded excellent. On the other hand, if getting some sort of high-priced collector's item is the goal, well, that's something entirely different in my book...

    As mentioned earlier, I mounted a set of Fender Tex Mex pickups (their most affordable pickups) on my "Fender Custom Shop Partscaster" (t'which I have at least $2500 invested) and I hardly feel that I have "settled for something less". In fact, these pickups were originally suppose to only be temporary until I could get around to ordering Fender's Pure Vintage '65 Strat pickups, but the Tex Mex's sound so awesome I've put that plan on hold indefinitely.

    My point is this: These days price does not necessarily equal quality (relatively speaking), and, had my $2500 "Fender Custom Shop Partscaster" turned out to be a dog, I wouldn't have hesitated scrapping the whole thing and going back to the drawing board. In other words, I feel I was just lucky to have the stars align on this one, since now my quest for a Holy Grail Strat has finally ended - BUT - I'm also equally sure that luck didn't necessarily have anything specifically to do with the Fender Custom Shop either...


    '65 Clone 2.jpeg

    `
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
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  15. thegrasshopper

    thegrasshopper Strat-Talker

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    For me, this is very unlikely... You might end up with something different from what you had thought about... (I think sometimes we don't even exactly know what we are looking for, it happened to me quite a few times...) but you end up with a very fine instrument which for sure, you could resale quite good. As I said, I got a very nice FCS which eventually was not what I was looking for (it was my fault)... I sold it 2 months later with very little effort

    Obviously, I'm just an individual.. I can't infer the statistics of the entire population from my personal experience...
     
  16. AxemanVR

    AxemanVR I appreciate, therefore I am... Silver Member

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    Perhaps I should clarify...

    First off, I'm only talking about "Tone" here - which is the main factor worth considering to me. So when I ask "What if it turns out to be a dog?", I just meant "What if it turns out to be nothing special?" (tone-wise of course). Spending $4000+ on a guitar without hearing it first seems like a gamble to me. And even if I can get my money back (which is not guaranteed either) that would be of no consolation to me - since I still don't have that elusive Holy Grail in my hands!

    I've bought and sold many a great guitar over the years - because they ended up just sitting in the closet unplayed. Case in point: A very early 1988 Paul Reed Smith Custom 24 I once had comes to mind (rare Emerald Green Quilted Maple "Ten Top", full thickness abalone inlays, Brazilian Rosewood fretboard, "Sweet Switch"). It was a finely detailed example of superb craftsmanship with a super sexy finish and it actually sounded and played really well, but, for whatever reason I never bonded with it, so I let it go.


    PRS c24.JPG


    Once again, my point is that it's easy to blow a crap-load of money and still not be satisfied... so it pays to tread carefully in order to avoid heartache and death!

    (well, at least heartache anyways)...


    Good Luck!


    `
     
    Last edited: Oct 18, 2021
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  17. Will Lefeurve

    Will Lefeurve Most Honored Senior Member

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    You'll wince when I say it, and so will a few who are commenting, but you could do a lot worse than a Chinese Classic Vibe with Tonerider pickups. The quality and playability of those guitars is top knotch. For the money you could get yourself a CV Strat and a Tele. You would be well pleased with your instruments I can assure you..
     
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  18. stormsedge

    stormsedge Senior Stratmaster Gold Supporting Member

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    Personally, I wouldn't spend $4K on a guitar...but I might spend $2500-3000 (under the right conditions when the doctor isn't looking). In that range, I'd look hard at a Schecter USA Collection Traditional (~$2800) or a PRS Silver Sky (~$2600)...the PRS Silver Sky Limited has some cool paint, but I wasn't able to scare up the price on it above the Silver Sky. Definitely a SSS based on your wants and what you already have. Happy Hunting.
     
  19. Roach769

    Roach769 Strat-Talk Member

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    Let me suggest 2 things that have not been put out, yet.

    1. Try for Suhr or Nash guitar.

    Or

    2. Custom luthier guitar.

    I think number one is your best shot. Specifically Suhr.
     
  20. fos1

    fos1 Senior Stratmaster Silver Member

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    For less than half of $4K you can one of the Ultra series. Quality is exceptional and a range of options are available.

    As others have said, go to a nice shop and play your heart out until something sings back to you.
     
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