A review of Fender’s 2022 Stratocaster range, from beginner-friendly Squiers to US-made professional models. What is the best Strat for your playing style and budget?
The Best Fender Stratocaster 2022 – TL;DR
The best Fender Stratocaster for beginners is not a Fender, but a Squier; the Bullet and Classic Vibe models are good entry points to the Strat sound. Fender provide numerous options for more experienced players; the Fender Player Stratocaster is a solid guitar for gigging musicians; the American Professional Strat is a well-regarded pro-level instrument with a price tag to match.
Introduction To The Fender Stratocaster
Both the sound, and iconic shape, of the Fender Stratocaster are burnt into rock and roll history. The humble “Strat” can handle sparkling, jangling clean sounds, the searing fuzz of Jimi Hendrix, the subtle, articulate blues playing of Eric Clapton and even blistering metal lead solos like no other electric guitar.
Although the original Stratocaster line was limited to just one model in just a few different colors, today Fender offers a wide variety of Strats to suit every price point.
Whether you’re a total beginner or a seasoned professional, there’s a Stratocaster out there for you. Here, we’ve compiled a handy list of ten Strats, from entry-level Squier models all the way up to Fender’s USA-made custom shop range…
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Prices on this page are a guide and reflect typical retail prices in Feb 2022.
1. Squier Bullet Stratocaster
The Squier Bullet Stratocaster is a simple, affordable guitar aimed at beginner players. It comes with a tremolo arm, although we’d recommend avoiding severe dive-bombing on this guitar as it will likely go out of tune (for this kind of abuse we’d recommend a locking trem system, anyway).
HT, or “hard tail” models are also available – these come with a fixed bridge, rather than a tremolo.
This guitar is light in weight thanks to its basswood body. This means it doesn’t have the snap and twang of a maple or ash guitar, but will sound sufficiently close to classic Strat recordings that beginners will enjoy playing it.
- Beginner guitar
- C-shaped maple neck with laurel fingerboard
- Single coil pickups for classic Strat tone
- Lightweight basswood body perfect for beginners
- Made in China
This is an entry level guitar for entry level players, which is reflected in its modest price point of around $199.99.
2. Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster
The Classic Vibe Stratocaster is the first entry on this list for intermediate guitar players. Bodies in the Classic Vibe series are made from Nyatoh wood, a soft wood often used as a replacement for mahogany. This wood lends these guitars a warmer, darker tone than the ash or alder of a genuine vintage Stratocaster. It also massively reduces the production cost, making the Classic Vibe Stratocaster very affordable.
The Classic Vibe series features models based on Fender’s 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s models. The main differences between them are aesthetic, with the 70s model boasting a larger headstock.
The 70s model also has the option of a humbucking pickup in the bridge position, a nod to Fender’s first introduction of a non-single-coil pickup on the Stratocaster. These models feature nickel hardware, a maple neck, and Fender-designed single coil pickups.
- C-shaped neck profile
- Superior pickups to Bullet Strat with Alnico magnets
- Nyatoh body with maple neck
- Made in China
The Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster is an intermediate guitar for players looking to add a vintage-sounding Stratocaster to their arsenal at the attractive price of around $459.99.
3. Squier 40th Anniversary Stratocaster
The 40th Anniversary Stratocaster may be the most eye-catching model on this list. This guitar celebrates the birth of the Squier brand in 1982, celebrating the Fender subsidiary’s legacy in providing affordable Fender instruments to working musicians.
- Attractive gold-plated hardware
- Distinctive pearloid block fret inlays are rare on Fender-style guitars
- Bound Indian laurel fretboard on maple neck
- Fender-designed Alnico 5 pickups for hot, authoritative tone
This beautiful guitar is effectively a dressed-up version of the Squier Classic Vibe 70s Stratocaster. You can expect to pay around $599.99.
4. Fender Player Stratocaster
The Fender Player Stratocaster is the most affordable Strat to bear the Fender (rather than Squier) logo, with models running from around $849 to $909.
The Player Stratocaster, as the name suggests, is aimed at musicians who are playing often. It features Player series single-coil pickups (although models with humbuckers are available, retailing at $879.99), a lightweight alder body and maple neck.
You can even choose between maple and laurel fingerboards, depending on your preference. This guitar has the chiming, bell-like high end and punchy mids that the alder-bodied Stratocasters are famous for.
These guitars are built in Mexico, only a few miles from Fender’s USA factory in California. The neck features a non-stick satin urethane finish and the body is finished in gloss.
- Best for intermediate to advanced players gigging regularly
- Options for single-coil and humbucker-equipped versions
- You can choose between a maple or laurel fingerboard on the maple neck
- Alder body provides chiming, bell-like high end and punchy mids
The Player Stratocaster series also has a Plus Top model, which features a distinctive flame maple top, for around $909.99. The standard Player retails for around $849.99.
5. Fender Vintera Stratocaster
The Vintera series, like Squier’s Classic Vibe series, aims to capture the spirit and vibe of particular eras in Fender’s illustrious production series. Accordingly, Vintera Stratocasters are available in models reflecting the variations on the famous Stratocaster template through the 1950s and 1960s.
The Vintera 50s series is available with an alder or ash body, and features a very comfortable “soft V” neck. The pickups on the 60s model are hotter, with more crunch and snarl, and the 60s Vintera is only available with an alder body. We recommend them to experienced guitarists with a clear idea of their preferred tone and feel.
- Looks and feels like an old-school Fender Strat
- Period-accurate neck profiles and hardware
- Re-voiced pickups to reflect either 50s or 60s-style Stratocaster
You can expect to pay around $1099-$1199 for either of these Stratocasters. These guitars are best suited to players looking to channel these particular eras of Fender production.
6. Fender Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster
No list of Fender Stratocasters would be complete without mention of the greatest Strat-slinger of them all: Jimi Hendrix.
The Mexican-made Jimi Hendrix Stratocaster isn’t your typical Strat, and was designed in loving tribute to the Hendrix’s unique musical stylings.
Hendrix, despite being left-handed, played a right-handed Strat upside-down. Accordingly, the right-handed version of this guitar features a reversed headstock and backwards-slanted single-coil bridge pickup to mimic the appearance and sound of Hendrix’s own guitar.
The guitar even comes with Hendrix’s signature on the back of the headstock, as well as a neck plate engraved with the Authentic Hendrix image.
- Unique Hendrix-style appointments including reverse headstock and bridge pickup position
- Warm, aggressive American Vintage ‘65 pickups
- 9.5”-radius “C”-shaped maple neck with medium jumbo frets for easy bends
- Alder body
- Hendrix’s signature
This guitar is best suited to players studiously trying to capture Jimi Hendrix’s elusive sound and style, whether for personal joy or in a professional setting. You can unleash your inner Voodoo Chile for around $1,099.99.
7. American Professional Stratocaster
The American Professional Stratocaster is, as the name implies, designed for professional musicians. This is the most affordable American-made Stratocaster, adorned with features befitting Fender’s towering legacy of innovation.
- Maple neck with rosewood or maple fingerboard options
- Deep C neck profile
- Rolled fingerboard edges for comfort while playing
- 22 narrow-tall frets
- V-Mod II Stratocaster pickups with position-specific voicing
- Alder or roasted pine body
Even the guitar’s neck joint is an acquiescence to comfort, with a sculpted neck heel recalling the scalloped joints of Ace Frehley and Eddie Van Halen’s guitars.
For body material, you can choose between alder and roasted pine, the latter of which is a relatively new tonewood with a punchy, resonant tone.
The American Professional Stratocaster features a “treble bleed” circuit on the volume knob to allow the guitar to maintain tonal clarity at lower volumes, and a push-push switch on the second tone control activates the neck pickup in switch positions one and two. This allows players to use pickup configurations previously unavailable on a Stratocaster.
This is a professional guitar for pro players who will view the instrument as an investment in their career and development as a musician. It can be yours for around around $1,699.99.
8. Acoustasonic Stratocaster
Fender’s legendary founder, Leo Fender, was a radical innovator. That legacy continues today with the American-made Acoustasonic Stratocaster, a hybrid guitar designed to provide classic Strat tones as well as dreadnought-like acoustic sounds in one instrument.
- Hybrid guitar for both acoustic and electric sounds
- Blend knob to mix these voices
- Three pickups: Fishman Under-Saddle Transducer; Fishman Acoustasonic Enhancer; and a Fender Acoustasonic Noiseless magnetic pickup
- Mahogany body and neck for warmth and depth in tone
- Sitka spruce top
At $1999.99, this guitar is best suited to players who quickly need to switch between acoustic and electric tones during one performance. Gigging musicians in working bands, particularly those who cover a wide variety of music, will appreciate its sonic versatility.
9. American Ultra Stratocaster
The American Ultra Stratocaster is the American Professional’s sleeker, more luxurious older brother.
- “Modern D” neck profile with rolled fingerboard edges
- Treble bleed circuit
- S-1 switch adds neck pickup to whatever pickup configuration is selected
- Fender Ultra Noiseless Vintage pickups eliminate latent “hum” when not playing
- Alder or ash body with sculpted rear contours
- 10-14” compound radius satin-finished neck
- S-1 pickup switch
- Available with single-coil or coil-tapped humbucker configuration
This is a luxurious guitar aimed at experienced players. Expect to pay around $2,099.99 for the single-coil model and $2,149.99 for the HSS configuration.
10. American Ultra Luxe Stratocaster
The Ultra Luxe Stratocaster, made in Fender’s factory in California, is by far their most luxurious high-end production instrument.
- American-made high-end Stratocaster
- Noiseless Vintage pickups
- Ash body
- Medium-jumbo stainless steel frets
- Compound radius fretboard
- 2-Point Deluxe Synchronized Tremolo with Pop-In Arm.
- Locking tuning heads for maximum tuning stability
- S-1 pickup switch
The Ultra Luxe is the most expensive of Fender’s production models, and accordingly we recommend it to very experienced, serious guitar players (or collectors). Construction, materials and hardware are all top-notch. You’ll pay about $2,499.99 for an Ultra Luxe Stratocaster.