|Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster
Summary: Finally a Strat that I love to play. This one has been upgraded with Kinman pickups and an L. R. Baggs Ctrl-X X-Bridge pickup.Features:
Tone Bone Score: 5.0 ~ Wow! What a tone machine! The Ctrl-X pickup has tons of gain on tap, and will give you plenty of crunch when you need it! The Kinman Noiseless pickups really smooth out the tone, and flatten the significant midrange that tends to be in stock Fender pickups.
I love estate sales because you can find some real gems. A friend of mine happened to get a bunch of stuff at an estate sale recently, and picked up this fine specimen of a Strat. What drew me to it initially was the 3-tone burst, which I love. Of course I had to try it out, so we hooked it up to a cheapo amp, and I couldn’t believe my ears! I was expecting that typical bright Strat sound, but what issued – even from that cheapo amp – was a much smoother tone. The tone definitely spoke “Stratocaster,” but it was in another dimension. Of course, I had to take it home with me to bring into my studio and to gig with this weekend… :)
For me, I had all but lost hope with Strats. I just couldn’t find one that really appealed to me. But with the changes in this particular Strat, I’ve regained my faith. This is an absolutely killer guitar!
Fit and Finish
The previous owner tragically passed away a few years ago, and the dude was a total gear nut! As a result, he just didn’t play his gear all that much, and so the guitars that were in his collection were in absolutely pristine shape. This particular Strat has the most signs of usage, but there is absolutely no major scratches, and just a tiny ding on the neck. Other than that, the guitar is perfect. The rosewood fretboard is in particularly great shape, and still retains a gorgeous sheen. The abalone dot inlays are a great touch. Here are some pictures:
Unlike a lot of Strats that have really narrow nut width, this Strat’s 9.5″ nut radius is perfect. The neck is a gentle C and even with my short fingers, I have no problem reaching the lower strings high up on the fretboard. The shape of the neck is simply terrific, and provides a nice balance between solid-feel and speed. I could play this guitar for hours and never get tired. It’s really a player’s guitar.
How It Sounds
As I mentioned above, it sounds like a Strat, but it has a much smoother tone. This is due to the Kinman Noiseless Pickups that replaced the original “noiseless” ones on the stock Strat (don’t have the stock ones, but don’t want ‘em). This Strat also has tones of sustain, which really surprised me. It’s not on the order of a Les Paul, but it sustains a lot more than other Strats I’ve played in the past. The Kinman pickups also add a lot of depth and complexity to the tone, picking up subtle harmonics that give the tonal presentation a real 3-D effect – it’s almost reverb-like. How cool is that?
On top of that, the original owner replaced the tremolo with an L. R. Baggs Ctrl-X system. This adds yet another pickup to the bridge that has all sorts of gain; very humbucker-like, but retaining the single-coil characteristics – there’s just more of it. The Ctrl-X system is cool in that you can switch between going fully magnetic to blend with Ctrl-X or fully Ctrl-X. The full-on Ctrl-X is great for soloing!
To demonstrate the gain differences, here’s clip I recorded this morning (actually, the two clips were included in my previous article that I wrote this morning). But here’s the first:
Finally, here’s the quick song that I recorded this morning that has the rhythm part in fully magnetic mode in the 4th switch position (neck/middle). The lead is played in the first position with the Ctrl-X system:
Both clips were recorded using my Aracom PLX18 BB Trem, a fantastic 18-Watt Plexi clone. I was originally going to record with my Fender Hot Rod because the guitar sounded great through it. But my problem with Strat tone came from switching to vintage Marshall-style amps like my PLX that have lots of midrange. Strats just didn’t sound right to me with these amps. But this one blew me away!
It’s difficult being a gear freak and having so many avenues to evaluate great gear. I have to have this guitar. Period. It’s completely changed my view of Strats!