Posts Tagged ‘Fender Stratacoustic’

4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite


Fender Stratacoustic Deluxe

Summary: An extremely pleasant surprise from Fender with both electric and acoustic properties. Shaped like a Strat and a sporting a Strat neck, for any Strat player, it’s immediately familiar!

Pros: Amazing tones. First electric acoustic I’ve played through an amp that didn’t sound like an acoustic guitar plugged into an amp. Very natural acoustic tones, and Strat-like electric tones.

Cons: This guitar was obviously designed to be plugged in. Unplugged, it really doesn’t sound all that good. But that’s okay, because my particular application of this guitar is always plugged in.


  • Body Style: Stratocaster
  • Top: Spruce
  • Back: Solid Mahogany
  • Sides: Laminated mahogany
  • Neck: Maple
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • No. of frets: 21
  • Scale Length: 25-1/2″ (647.7 mm)
  • Bridge: Rosewood
  • Inlays:
  • Finish: Gloss
  • Electronics: Fishman Classic IV MT (with tuner and blend controls) and Fender Mexico Telecaster pickup
  • Controls: Volume, Bass, Mid, Treble, Blend, Tuner on/off
  • Machine Heads: Vintage Fender style

Price: ~$629 street

Tone Bone Score: 4.75 – Talk about versatility! If the Stratacoustic sounded good unplugged, it would get a 5.0.

Sometimes It Takes an Accident…

As I shared in a previous article, my Ovation Celebrity had a bit of an accident that made me look for a new acoustic in a hurry. What I ended up with was a guitar that simply blew me away! The moment I plugged it in, I was completely sold. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. It sounded like a miked acoustic! Now granted, I was playing through an acoustic amplifier when I was evaluating the guitar. But nothing would prepare me for the same, natural tone through a regular tube amp! I’ll have a clip in a little bit, but let me tell you, it’s nothing short of amazing. First I’ll talk about the guitar.

Fit and Finish

For Strat players, this guitar will be instantly familiar. The Stratacoustic has a bolt-on maple Strat neck with rosewood fretboard. The body is shaped like a Strat, though of course, with a wider body for the resonance chamber. I’ve got the black model as shown in the picture above. This is a gorgeous guitar! One would think that as it is made in China, the build quality might not be very good. But amazingly enough, this is a really well-made and well-constructed guitar. If I only had one complaint, it would be the 2nd string’s saddle peg, which turned out to be a little loose on my guitar, and required really pressing it in. That could be problematic later on, but I could probably rectify, so it’s just a little nit.

The neck on this guitar is absolutely perfect – at least to me. It’s a classic Strat C-shaped neck in all its maple glory. I love it! And the cool thing is that even though this guitar is technically an acoustic guitar, it takes electric strings, so not only is the neck a Strat neck, with the electric strings, it plays EXACTLY like a Strat, with a nice, low action.

The tuners are totally cool! They’re vintage-style Fender tuners, where you measure and cut the string first, then insert the tip into a hole on the top of the tuner. You bend the string down into the slot then start winding. The result is a nice, smooth finish, with no string stubs that can poke you. They also look cool with their slightly relicked, tarnished chrome finish. It’s a nice retro touch!

Did I mention that this guitar is light? I haven’t weighed the guitar, but it can’t weight much more than seven pounds! I gigged with it twice over the weekend, and it is absolutely comfortable to play! It’s a winner!

How It Sounds

This is the really special part of the guitar. It features a Fishman Classic IV MT acoustic pickup under the saddle and a Fender Mexico Tele single coil at the base of the neck. The Fishman comes with a tuner with individual controls for bass, mids, and treble, and a blend control to blend the Tele and Fishman. In full acoustic, the guitar sounds just like a miked acoustic guitar. With the Tele pickup isolated, the guitar sounds just like a Strat, but with a slightly hollow, acoustic tone. It’s gorgeous! When I play it for acoustic voicing, I’ve actually never gone fully acoustic. In fact, I lean more towards the Tele pickup. The reason is that the Tele pickup adds a nice chime and top-end shimmer to the tone with subtle harmonics and overtones. But don’t take my word for it, here’s a short song that demonstrates what this guitar is capable of:

The song was recorded with three overlayed parts. The base rhythm track is played fingerstyle with the guitar set dead center in the blend, and the tone controls centered as well. The strummed rhythm leans just a bit towards the Tele side, and I bled off a little of the base. The result was that strummed chords sounded like a piano! Very cool! The lead track was recorded with the blend at about 90% Tele, and just a tad bit of the Fishman. For the lead, I also ran it through my wonderful KASHA Overdrive pedal. The result was a gorgeous, dirty Strat tone!

I almost forgot to mention. All the parts were played through my trusty Aracom VRX22! It’s an electric guitar amp, for goodness’ sake! Acoustic amp? We don’t need no stinkin’ acoustic amp.

Overall Impressions

As you can tell, I love this guitar! It is so incredibly versatile, giving me acoustic and electric tones with a touch of a slider. Interestingly enough, I wouldn’t call this a hybrid guitar, though it is technically a hybrid. I’ve played several hybrids, and this guitar really has a voice all its own. It really is an electric acoustic, and for the most part, it sounds like an acoustic. But it’s easy to configure it to sound just like an electric as the song above proves out.

But despite being able to configure it as an electric guitar, the most amazing thing about the Stratacoustic is how natural and organic – acoustic – it sounds when plugged in! Unlike a lot of acoustic guitars I’ve played and heard plugged into an amp, which isn’t at all very pleasing, the Stratacoustic sounds like it’s supposed to; like an acoustic guitar. I have a feeling that the body has a lot to do with this. Yeah, it doesn’t sound all that good unplugged, but it’s evident that the designer had this guitar pegged for being plugged in and was willing to sacrifice its unplugged tone for simply gorgeous plugged in tone.

Before I got it, I had actually never heard of the Stratacoustic. I just saw it on the rack, thought it was cool, and picked it out as one of the guitars I was evaluating. As soon as I plugged it in, I was sold. It’s quite simply a great guitar. It’s funny that the unplugged tone is really uninspiring, and it might turn away lots of players. But once you plug it in, it’s a completely different story. I thought I was done with buying Fender equipment, especially after they upped their prices significantly a few months ago – I just didn’t see the value. But this guitar sells at a great price. I got it for a deal, but at $629, it’s still a great value. I highly recommend this guitar!

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blackie Fridays are solo gig days for me where I play at a restaurant doing a variety of tunes on both piano and guitar from the Beatles to Puccini (opera, that is). My shtick has been the ability to perform a variety of styles and genres of music, and for the classic rock, folk and country stuff I do, the guitar has been an integral part of my act.

As you might now, if you’ve been to my rig page, you’ll see that my acoustic has been an Ovation Celebrity Elite. I’ve been playing that guitar pretty much continuously for the past 16 years. That guitar’s been on the road with me and in the studio, and has always had a special place in my heart… until yesterday…

I won’t go into the particular details about exactly what happened to “Sunset,” but suffice it to say that she got a crack somewhere under her top that didn’t have a bad effect with her unplugged, but became very magnified once I plugged her in. Not good. I found her in this state yesterday morning (Friday), and while I didn’t freak, I knew I had to solve the problem! So I called the wife to explain the situation, and since I had to own up to putting the guitar in a place where she could get a crack – however inadvertently – I shared that I’d pay half for a new guitar out of my gig money.

I wasn’t too hopeful about finding a new guitar yesterday, considering the acoustic guitar store that I was originally going to go to mainly dealt with high-end acoustics; right, big money. But a chance call to B Street Music in San Mateo, CA where I work as I was leaving changed all that. I called them up to see if they carried Ovations, thinking that I’d just replace Sunset with another Ovation, and they said they carried them! Yippee!

Anyway, I got to the shop and started pulling guitars that looked pretty cool off the racks, and lining them up on guitar stands so I could do evals. Among them were a couple of Ovations Celebrities, a Godin (very nice looking), and the Fender Stratacoustic that I ended up buying. Mind you, I wasn’t at all interested in how the guitars sounded unplugged, though I love the Ovation acoustic sound. Since I use practically all my guitars in gigging situations, I really needed a guitar that sounded great plugged in.

As expected, the Ovations performed incredibly well. There’s something that Ovation has down with their electronics. After I tested the Ovations, I plugged in the Stratacoustic – it didn’t work. Luckily, it was just the battery that was out. Once I had it all set up, I took a few minutes to familiarize myself with the guitar. It really didn’t take that long because what I felt I was holding was an acoustic Strat! The Stratacoustic features a shallow acoustic body with a Strat neck, so from a feel standpoint, it felt completely familiar. I closed my eyes and felt as if I was playing my trusty “Pearl!”

The dude at the shop was helpful, and explained that the guitar was equipped with a Tele single coil, and a Fishman acoustic which you could blend with the Blend slider on the control panel; speaking of which, the control panel features independent controls for Bass, Mid, and Treble, a Volume slider, and a Blend slider. It also has a pretty decent built-in tuner. Nice features for sure!

Mind you, I was still a bit dubious of the acoustic sound of the guitar. It was flat and tinny, and was something I’d never play unplugged. Here are the sales guy’s own words, “Don’t be fooled by the acoustic, unplugged sound. It sounds like shit. Just wait till you plug it in. Fender’s done something really special with this guitar.” Yeah, right, I thought. It’s production line Fender after all! But I’ve learned to keep an open mind with respect to new gear.

Anyway, after I got familiarized with the controls, it was time to plug her in. So I plugged her in and WAS IMMEDIATELY FLOORED BY THE TONE! I had the Blend set dead in the middle, with both pickups contributing to the overall sound. Kind of hard to describe what I was hearing but it truly was a mix between an acoustic and electric; rich in mids, and not too much bass, but with a chimey, top-end finish. The Fishman provided a nice, organic acoustic tone, while the ring and chime I was hearing had to be coming from the Tele pickup. I proved that out by isolating each pickup.

I played through it for a couple of more minutes, and then turned to the guy and said, “Sold.” He just smiled… Not because he got a sale, but because he shared that as a Strat player himself, this was a total unsung hero in the shop. I commented that the guitar had a bunch of fingerprints all over it, and there was a tiny, tiny scratch on the top near the bridge, so would he give me a deal for it? And he did! I got the guitar for $499 plus a gig bag and a nice 3.5″ wide leather strap! The guitar normally retails for $629! Was I jazzed or what?

So now I am the proud and exceedingly happy owner of a very weird, but full of Strat mojo guitar, the Stratacoustic!

Gig Report

Of course, as I started today’s story, I had a gig last night. The real test for any device is playing it in a live situation. So how did it do? In a word, FANTASTIC!!! As I mentioned, each pickup contributes to the blend, and even though the guitar sports a Tele pickup, with the Tele pick isolated, the guitar still retains its acoustic qualities. So the gig for me last night was utter heaven! Plugged into my DigiTech Vocalists Live 4 then right into the PA, I was amazed at the incredible tones this guitar produces.

How It Sounds

I was going to end this article with my gig report, but I got inspired to record the guitar and provide a clip. This is a short song that I quickly put together that features the Stratacoustic. The left channel is a fingerpicked rhythm. Then in the right channel, I layer the same riff but strumming – it almost sounds like a piano! Nice. I used a light reverb effect on both rhythm parts using my Hardwire reverb. Then I do a solo dead center with the guitar in the Tele position, and playing it through my KASHA Overdrive in the Classic channel to get a real nice, slightly dirty Strat tone. Almost forgot to mention: I played all the parts through a regular amp, my Aracom VRX22! It is absolutely amazing how natural and organic this guitar sounds through a regular amp! I’m in heaven! Anyway here’s the clip:

Excuse the 60Hz hum from the single coil in the solo… 🙂 I wasn’t turned the right way to eliminate it while I played… 🙂 The guitar was recorded through a miked amp! The rhythm sounds are unlike anything I’ve ever heard plugged in! At least to me, it sounds as if I miked the guitar, then added reverb in production. But in reality the guitar was plugged into my board! I just can’t get over the plugged in tone of this guitar! And the Tele pickup is just to die for!

If you’re looking for a stage acoustic that sounds absolutely KILLER plugged in, look no further. You get all the benefits of the feel of a Strat, but in an acoustic, but you can also use this thing as a straight electric as well by just using the Tele pickup! Simply amazing!

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