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4.75 Tone Bones - Almost perfect but not quite

stratacoustic

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.

Features:

  • 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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