Fender American Special Stratocaster Review – 2020 Guide

Craig
| Last Updated: November 11, 2020

Leo Fender created an iconic guitar when he designed the first Stratocaster prototype in 1954. This prototype featured an innovative design that was more comfortable, a bridge with a vibrato bar, and an additional pickup compared to the Fender Telecaster.

The Fender American Special Stratocaster is a modern take on this classic guitar. Fender still manufacturers its guitars in the US, and you can expect a quality instrument from this brand.

Here’s what you should know about the American Special Stratocaster.

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  • Equipped with Trio of Texas pickups
  • A nice gigbag included with this package
  • Limited lifetime warranty included
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Fender American Special Stratocaster Guitar - Sonic Blue

PROS

  • Tone
  • Comfort
  • Iconic Design
  • Three Pickups and Five-Way Selector Switch

CONS

  • Neck Shape
  • Single-Coil Pickups

Fender American Special Stratocaster Specs

Here are the specs of the American Special:

Type of Guitar: Electric

Body Size and Type: Solid body, 43”

Number and Type of Strings: Six, Fender NPS, .009-.042

Tonewood: Alder

Orientation (left or right hand): Right

Neck Size: 9.5” radius

Action: 4/64" string height

Scale Length: 25.5”

Color: Sonic blue

Weight: 8.5 lbs

Pickup Type: Single coil

Fender American Special Stratocaster

Pros

Few guitars are as iconic as the Stratocaster. Here’s why.

Comfort

One of the reasons why the Stratocaster immediately stood out from the competition is the attention to comfort. The original 1954 design features deep cutaways and rounded edges.

The Fender American Special Stratocaster has the emblematic Stratocaster body shape with the deep cutaways that give you easy access to the fretboard. The upper horn design makes playing upper notes easier.

The contoured body of the American Special is pleasant to hold, and the rounded edges feel smooth and comfortable.

Tone

The Fender American Special Stratocaster uses an alder body. It’s a lightweight wood with excellent resonance. The result is a well-balanced tone and a guitar that delivers sharp attacks.

The American Special has an impressive tonal range, thanks to its alder body, pickups, and controls.

The 60-cycle single-coil pickups create a unique sound that you will recognize from many emblematic rock songs recorded with a Stratocaster. The Stratocaster also introduces a slightly larger headstock, a feature that helps with sustain and tone.

The Greasebucket circuitry is another feature that enhances tones by giving more dimension to your sound.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

Three Pickups and Five-Way Selector Switch

The Fender American Special Stratocaster uses Texas Special pickups. These pickups deliver a bluesy sound that is unique to the American Special, and the middle pickup design partially eliminates hum.

The five-way selector switch is a convenient control you will find to the right of the master volume knob. These five positions allow you to isolate one of the three pickups, select the bridge and middle pickup together, or use the middle and neck pickup at the same time.

Iconic Design

The Stratocaster is a highly recognizable guitar. Its body style hasn’t changed much over the years. Musicians like Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, George Harrison, or Buddy Holly have popularized this guitar, which makes it a great choice if you’re looking for something to play classic rock.

Cons

There are a few drawbacks to consider if you’re thinking about getting an American Special Stratocaster.

Neck Shape

The American Special comes with a soft V-neck shape. The neck shape can be an issue if you like to play with your thumb wrapped over your guitar’s neck. The soft V-neck shape can be uncomfortable if you have small hands or when you play lower notes.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

Single-Coil Pickups

The 60-cycle single-coil pickups are a crucial element for creating the recognizable Stratocaster sound. However, single-coil pickups tend to sound thin or harsh when you introduce distortion.

If you want to play metal, hard rock, or jazz, it might be best to consider a guitar with humbucker pickups instead.

What Are the Components of the Fender American Special Stratocaster?

Here are the main components that make the American Special a unique guitar.

Alder Body

Alder is a lightweight wood that delivers excellent resonance. The alder body is a feature that greatly contributes to the tonal quality and range of the guitar.

Bridge

The American Special features a tremolo-focused bridge. This bridge gives you precise control over pitch and string tension.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

Neck

The neck of the American Special Stratocaster has a fretboard radius of 9.5.” The jumbo frets deliver a pleasant feel and sound, and the satin finish gives the guitar a classic look.

Electronics

The American Special uses Greasebucket circuitry to enhance tone and make your sound more dynamic. The electronic components also include Texas Special bridge, middle, and neck pickups.

Whammy Bar

The guitar comes with a detachable whammy bar. This accessory allows you to adjust the tension in the strings to create effects like vibrato or dive bomb.

Strings

This Stratocaster guitar comes with six nickel-plated Fender NPS strings. The strings have a standard size of .009-.042.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

What Types of Music Is the Fender American Special Stratocaster Best For?

The Fender American Special Stratocaster is a versatile instrument you can use for different musical genres.

Rock

The Stratocaster is an emblematic rock guitar. The unique sound of this guitar helped define rock music throughout the 60s, and it’s a perfect choice for getting a vintage, classic, or psychedelic rock sound.

Blues

The Texas Special pickups make the twelve-bar blues sound even better than ever on this versatile guitar.

Country

Country musicians were among the first to adopt Fender guitars. You can get a traditional, twangy country sound with the American Special Stratocaster. This guitar will give your favorite country tunes an edge with its bluesy sound.

Pop

The alder body delivers a bright sound that is ideal for pop music. The versatile tonal range of the Stratocaster, dynamic pickups and fun feel of the instrument make it ideal for pop music.

Fender American Special Stratocaster

What Ages and Skill Levels Is the American Special Stratocaster Suitable For?

Experienced guitar players will appreciate the classic Stratocaster sound. They will get more from the pickup controls and fully explore the huge tonal range of the guitar.

The American Special Stratocaster is also a great option for beginners. The unique sound of this instrument will help beginners develop an appreciation for Fender and the role the brand played in music history.

The only potential problem is the 9.5” soft V-neck that might be too large for children or teens.

What Makes the American Special Stratocaster Stand Out From the Competition?

The Stratocaster delivers a unique sound. It’s a vintage rock ‘n roll sound that popular musicians have made highly recognizable. The single-coil pickups and their constant humming are a major component of this unique sound you won’t get with any other guitar.

The American Special introduces a few changes to the traditional Stratocaster design with circuitry and pickups that emphasize midrange sounds. This emphasis on midrange tones helps your guitar stand out from the mix when playing in a band.

The Fender quality is another reason why this guitar stands out from the competition. The Stratocaster is a durable investment and you’ll be able to play a huge selection of tunes, thanks to the versatility of the instrument.

Fender Stratocaster Bridge Types

You can upgrade the bridge of your Fender Stratocaster to customize its sound. Here are different bridges to consider.

Fender American Series Bridge Kit

The American Series bridge features the classic chrome look that makes Fender guitar easy to recognize. It features powder-coated steel block saddles.

You can find this bridge on American Series Stratocasters that Fender manufactured from 1986 to 2007. It delivers a vibrato sound that is closer to the original Stratocaster sound.

Factory ’62 Reissue Stratocaster Tremolo Bridge

This vintage bridge is a replacement part for classic Stratocaster guitars. You can also install it on more recent models for a classic sound.

This bridge kit features a vintage six-screw assembly and an angled tremolo bar.

Callaham Stratocaster Tremolo Bridge

If you’re looking for a quality third-party bridge, Callaham has a lot of interesting options to consider. The Callaham Stratocaster Tremolo bridge reproduces the vintage look and feel of the original Fender Stratocaster.

It features nickel-plated saddles for durability and cold-rolled steel blocks to enhance the sustain of your instrument. The only drawback of this bridge is that you won’t get the classic Fender logo.

Comparison Overview

Here’s how the Fender American Special Stratocaster compared to other guitars.

Gibson SG vs. Fender Stratocaster

The Gibson SG features two or three humbucker pickups, depending on the model. This guitar uses a Tune-o-matic bridge assembly, and the U-shape of the neck makes it easy to reach around with your thumb.

The pickups are a major difference between the Stratocaster and Gibson SG. The humbucker pickups of the Gibson SG use two coils, while the Stratocaster pickups only have one coil.

The two-coil pickups of the SG deliver a thick and warm sound. Sustain is more noticeable, and you will get better results when using distortion. You can get an excellent overdriven sound for jazz, metal, or heavy rock with the SG.

Epiphone Les Paul vs. Fender Stratocaster

The Les Paul and Stratocaster are two emblematic guitars with a design you can recognize instantly.

The Les Paul uses a mahogany body to create a solid and punchy tone. Mahogany has an excellent response for high tones and delivers deep and warm mid-tones. It has more of a bite compared to the alder body of the Stratocaster.

You can find Les Paul models with a 12” neck radius. The Stratocaster and its thinner neck might be easier to hold.

The Les Paul uses humbucker pickups with two coils. Like the Gibson SG, it sounds better once you introduce distortion.

Fender American Special Stratocaster vs. Player Series

With the Player Series, Fender offers a design that is closer to the classic Stratocaster models of the 60s.

The Player Series guitars use Alnico 5 pickups. These pickups deliver a powerful tone and response without the bluesy tones of the Texas Special pickups you can find on the American Special models.

The Player Series features different pickup controls. There is a tone knob you can use to control the neck and middle pickup together and a second knob for the bridge pickup. These controls are less versatile compared to the five-way switch of the American Special.

Fender American Special Stratocaster vs. American Standard

The American Standard guitars feature Custom Shop Fat 50s pickup for a sound that is both bright and dynamic. These pickups have an excellent bass response.

Fender used a thinner coating for the American Standard to enhance the resonance of the body. The C-neck profile of the American Standard might be more comfortable than the soft V-neck of the American Special, and the American Standard features an adjustable neck.

Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster vs. Standard

The Deluxe Stratocaster is a versatile guitar with Noiseless N3 pickups. These pickups eliminate the humming you can hear on Stratocaster guitars. It’s an interesting feature if you’re looking for a cleaner sound, but keep in mind that you won’t quite get the iconic Stratocaster sound with these pickups.

The American Deluxe guitar comes with S1 switching. This feature increases pickup configurations from five to ten.

How to Setup a Fender Stratocaster

You can personalize the way your guitar feels and sounds by adjusting the height of the strings. Here are the steps to follow:

  1. Start by lowering the bridge and middle pickups. Pickups use magnets and can cause buzzing if they’re too close to the strings.

  2. Use a hex key to adjust the height of the D and G strings first. Rotate clockwise to raise the strings and counterclockwise to lower them. Find a height that feels and sounds good to you.

  3. Adjust the E string next. You should be able to bend it without touching the other strings.

  4. You can then move on to the B string. Ideally, this string should sit halfway between the heights of the E and G strings.

  5. Adjust the height of the A string next. It should be around one millimeter lower than the D string.

  6. Finish by adjusting the height of the E string. You can set it one millimeter lower than the A string.

You can watch this process and learn more about setting up your Stratocaster in this YouTube video: 

Conclusion

The Fender Stratocaster is an iconic guitar with a unique sound. It’s a versatile instrument thanks to its wide tonal range. It’s a guitar that is comfortable and fun to play.

The American Special Stratocaster is an excellent choice if you are looking for a vintage rock or bluesy sound. The Texas Special pickups and circuitry emphasize midrange sounds and create a sound that is perfect for blues, rock, country, or pop music.

People Also Ask

Learn more about the Stratocaster with these common questions.

Where Are Fender American Special Stratocaster Guitars Made?

As its name suggests, American guitars from Fender are made in the USA, though Fender manufactures other models in Mexico, China, and Japan, too.

How to Care For a Fender American Special Stratocaster Guitar

Caring for your Stratocaster guitar is very easy. Store it in a protective case or gig bag, clean the fretboard every six months, and change the strings as needed.

How Much is a Fender Stratocaster?

You can find entry-level models under $700. Models that are harder to find can cost thousands of dollars.

How Much Does a Fender Stratocaster Weigh?

The American Special model weighs around 8.5 lbs. Other Stratocaster models have a similar weight.

What is a Fender Stratocaster?

The Stratocaster is an emblematic Fender guitar designed in the 1950s. It’s instantly recognizable thanks to its deep cutaways, and it delivers a unique sound with its three single-coil pickups.

How to Date a Fender Stratocaster

If you remove the neck of your guitar, you will find a stamp on the neck heel with the instrument’s serial number and production date.

What Size Strings Come on a Fender Stratocaster?

Fender Stratocaster guitars come with 9-42 strings. These light strings are easy to break in and make bending easier.

What is the Neck Radius of a Fender Stratocaster

These guitars feature a neck radius of 9.5.”

Who Designed the Fender Stratocaster?

Leo Fender created the original Stratocaster design in 1954.

How to Set Intonation on a Fender Stratocaster

Start by picking an open string to make sure the tuning is right. Make a note with the 12th fret. If the note sounds flat, move the saddle for this string forward. If the note is too sharp, move the saddle back. Pluck the open string again, tune it, and make a note with the 12th fret again to check the intonation.


Craig

Hi there, my name is Craig. I took over Gear Savvy in mid-2019 and have had a blast writing content about music ever since. My role here is to steer the ship and ensure readers have the best information available for learning a thing or two. When I’m not working on content, I’m a husband and a dad. I enjoy spending time with my family, playing guitar, or messing around in my woodshop.