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Fender American Special Stratocaster HSS Review
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Review

Fender American Special Stratocaster HSS Review

by 2015/03/19
Positives

Skilled craftsmanship
Solid materials that will last long
Comes tuned out of the box
Classic look
High quality pickups
Comfortable
Holds the tuning for long time with good quality synchronous tremolo

Negatives

Frets are too sharp
The frets do not sustain the sound for long enough

Rating
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Sound Quality
95%
71%
Appearance
85%
90%
Worth it?
100%
93%
Ease of Use
90%
92%
Features
90%
86%
Bottom Line

Apart from the frets, everything is perfect and that makes this guitar a must have no matter if you are a professional or a beginner.

92%
Our Rating
86%
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Leo Fender first introduced the Stratocaster nearly 50 years ago and it has been one perfect guitar over the years. Back in the day, it was available for a price of $250, which is quite a lot of money if we take into consideration the inflation. $250 from 1954 would evaluate to $2000, yet the Strats cost only $1590. This means that the cost of our beloved Stratocaster has in fact decreased which has given some relief to new guitarists who would like to own this guitar. There have been changes to the base model of Stratocaster over the years to add improvements and enhancements but nevertheless all new Strats still sound like the good old Strats from the 20th century.

The Stratocaster HSS is part of the “Fender American Special Series” guitars which consist of the Telecaster, Stratocaster and humbucker-equipped HSS Stratocaster. The American hand crafted Stratocaster is available for even lesser cost of $1099 if bought in the USA. The high quality material and skilled craftsmanship just adds in to the appeal of the guitar.

Build

Firstly, you can choose two finishes for the Special Stratocaster HSS guitar; 3-colour sunburst and all black. The entire body is made from Alder and the has a glossy urethane finish whereas the fretboard is crafted from Rosewood.

The Special Stratocaster (non HSS) comes with a regular coil bridge pickup whereas the HSS version comes with a much better Fender Atomic humbucker bridge pickup with a high 16.4 kilo Ohms output impedance. If you do not know the difference between the two, lets say that the coil pickups are more likely to pickup stray frequencies while the humbuckers suppresses them which prevents the humming sound.

Many argue that humbuckers are good at producing more distortion while the coils produce clean tones, although this can be somewhat true because humbuckers enhance treble while coils are known to produce enhanced bassy sounds. Humbuckers or coil, it is more of a personal taste rather than trying to explain anything logically. The neck and mid pickups are made from Texas Special single-coils, the same ones as used in the non-HSS Strat.

fender hss special strat close

Performance

Right out of the box, the strings are already setup and sound absolutely perfect. The harmonics are just right and so is the tightness. You can always tune the strings according to your requiement and as always you can adjust the pickups to suit your taste. The tone of the strings is again much of a personal choice, so I will leave that up to you to decide.

Even after hours of playing, the strings do not lose their tone and still sound the same way as they did when you opened the box. This is thanks to the good quality tremolo on this one which holds on to the tuning for hours of finger bashing.

The only downside were the frets. Most users had problems particularly with the frets because they just sound too sharp. Also the frets do not seem to sustain the tone very long and it dies within 2-3 seconds. This happens only with the frets whereas everything else work absolutely perfect. The harmonics are perfect, the sustain is long enough and the tones are correctly adjusted. If Fender had managed to fix the issue with frets, it could have made the Stratocaster HSS one perfect guitar.

The Texas coil pickups are extremely clean while the Humbucker can go as dirty as you would like it to go. There is no buzz that is created within the pickups that can unnecessarily distort your music and that opens the gate to fast action. The strings feel very smooth and that is something that everyone will like no matter how experienced they are.

If you frequently play for small sized venues then you should also have a good amp to match the high performance of the Strat HSS. We have reviewed a bunch of high quality guitar amps in the past that you should look at.

hss special american back black

Conclusion

The Fender American Special Stratocaster HSS will surely be your guitar of choice for years to come because of the high quality craftsmanship and the superb hand picked material used to construct the guitar. It will definitely be a great guitar to play with. No matter who you are, a beginner or a professional, you will surely find a special connection with the Fender American Special Strat. Afterall the Strat HSS is a result of years of improvements and enhancements to the original one that came out 50+ years ago. If you are in the UK, buy from Gearsformusic in the link below to get a free case and a bunch of other accessories which other retailers are not offering.

United States: Amazon, Musiciansfriend, ZZounds

United Kingdom: Gearsformusic

Netherlands: Bax-shop

International

Thomann

I would buy a Stratocaster any day over any other guitar, besides some high quality Les Pauls and/or Telecasters. Great job Fender!

I think it's better than the early 60's strat I played in 1970.

Mine came out of the box already set up. I just had to get used to the HSS pickup

beginner or pro, this belongs in every collection

  • Body: Alder
  • Finish: Gloss Urethane
  • Neck: Maple, Modern C Shape
  • Fingerboard: Rosewood
  • Frets: 22, Jumbo frets
  • Scale length: 25.50"
  • Hardware: Chrome
  • Tuning Keys: Fender Standard Case/Sealed Tuning machines
  • Bridge: Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo
  • Pickups: Atomic Humbucker (bridge), Texas Special Strat Pickup (Neck / Middle)
  • Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup Position 2. Bridge
  • and Middle Pickup Position 3. Middle Pickup Position 4.
  • Middle and Neck Pickup Position 5. Neck Pickup
  • Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Greasebucket™
  • Tone Circuit, (Rolls Off Highs without Adding Bass) Tone
  • 2. (Bridge Pickup), Greasebucket™ Tone Circuit, (Rolls Off
  • Highs without Adding Bass)
  • Strings: Fender® Super Bullets® 250L, Nickel Plated Steel, (.009 to .042), p/n 073-3250-003
  • Unique Features: Gloss Urethane Finish, Atomic Humbucking™ Bridge
  • Pickup, Texas Special™ Neck/Mid Pickups, Large ‘70s Style
  • Headstock, Greasebucket™ Tone Circuit
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About The Author
Salil Tembe
Salil is an electronics engineer who loves to play around with the technology. He has a passion for expressing his love for technology through writing. Also, he firmly stands for open sourcing everything that makes our lives better, so that it can get even better.

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Sound Quality
Appearance
Worth it?
Ease of Use
Features