American Deluxe Stratocaster Review
A review by Sensible Jones
Instrument:- Fender American Deluxe Stratocaster.
Price:- £1,362. (inc. Case.)
Body:- Select Alder (this model, Ash also available.)
Neck:- Maple, bolt on, C profile.
Hardware:- Fender Deluxe two-point synchronised Tremolo with Pop-in Arm, Fender Deluxe Staggered-Post Tuners - all chrome plated.
Electrics:- 3 x Fender noiseless N3 Strat stacked-coil Pick-ups, 5 – way lever pick-up selector switch, master volume with Fender S-1 switch, tone (neck), No-load tone control (bridge and middle.)
Not another new model of Strat I hear you say! Well, yes and here it is, the American Deluxe. I'm guessing that this model is being aimed at players who want something classic looking yet versatile and aren't purist enough to want the normal vintage hardware.
My review model comes in a very pretty 2-tone orange sunburst topped with an amazing metallic gloss urethane finish. Underneath this stunning finish is an Alder body, although Ash models are also available as is an HSS set up too.
This particular model has a slightly deeper Belly Contour and the edges have more of a radius than on other models and this makes the whole feel of the guitar a bit more 'refined' and not so 'rough around the edges' compared to the lower and mid priced range instruments.
The neck on this particular instrument has a very comfortable C profile that feels very modern and shallow. It seems to keep a fairly uniform depth for the whole length of the neck until it gets to the Heel turn out. The finish is beautifully smooth and semi-gloss, almost satin like. The fingerboard has a rolled edge, is lovely, dark and also well-oiled. It has 22 medium jumbo frets which help towards easy bending. The frets have been very well finished too, which you'd expect from an instrument in this price bracket! The fingerboard has what is known as a 'Conical Radius' along it's length. This basically means that it has a radius of 9.5 inches at the first fret and one of 14 at the top end of the neck. This is designed to make chord work feel more comfortable and then, when playing at the top end, there's no 'choking' out when bending strings.
The two-point tremolo system comes equipped with a push-in type arm (think Floyd Rose) and saves you from all the screwing in and out that you have with a vintage six-screw type. It's also set up to be floating which, if you're used to the vintage style tremolos, could cause a bit of trouble whilst Palm Muting. It's not as tightly sprung as a vintage unit either which makes it feel a lot more loose. I don't see as it would be too much bother to add another spring to alleviate this feeling, but only if it really bugs you that much!! It stays in tune too! Well, unless you go Dive Bombing excessively!! Vai and Satch 'play-alikes' beware!!!
These new models now come equipped with Fenders new N3 Noiseless pick-ups. They're still of a stacked coil design but where the old ones had Samarium Cobalt magnets these new ones sport Alnico. The bridge has an Alnico V for a slightly hotter sound, the middle is Alnico II and the neck is Alnico III. It's an interesting idea that seems to work and give quite a good tonal response across the pick-ups.
Now, that leads us nicely on to the switching options, which, courtesy of the S-1 system gives more than the usual 5. In the centre of the Volume knob is a push button switch that either engages or disengages the S-1 system.
So, here's how it all works....
With the switch 'out' the 5 way switch works exactly as normal but once depressed the positions become the following configurations:-
Position 1 ~ All 3 pick-ups in series. This is the loudest and fullest sound you can get.
Position 2 ~ Bridge and Middle pick-ups in series.
Position 3 ~ Mid and Neck in series.
Position 4 ~ Bridge and Neck out of phase.
Position 5 ~ Bridge and Middle out of phase, in parallel. The thinnest sound you'll get from this guitar.
So how does it sound with all this trickery on board?? Well, played through a clean amp (I was running through a Fender Twin) there's the usual bouncy tones you expect from a Strat and also the airy 'in-between' sounds. Both the Bridge and Neck pick-ups work well when you begin to wind up the gain, although you do need to roll the tone back slightly. Especially on the bridge as it did get a bit too 'high edged' for my ears!!
The 'noiseless' point of these pick-ups really starts to become evident as you increase in gain and volume. Think about the interference you get with normal single coils (lighting, PC Monitors etc) and then imagine all your favourite Strat sounds but without the constant interference going on and that's what these N3's do!! A serious plus for those into Home Recording for sure!!
Now, engage the S-1 system and this instrument changes dramatically!! Position 1 give a massive boost in level with all 3 pick-ups working. It's a great, usable sound with the bite of that slightly hot Bridge pick-up and the fatness of the Neck one. One word of warning though, do be aware of your Amps Bass settings!! In a live situation I could see this being a great way of boosting your levels when soloing!! As for the other positions? Well, the other two 'series' positions are nice, fat and I found the Bridge/Middle series particularly good, very 'meaty'!
Position 4 gives you the widest frequency response possible and is one of the favourite settings of a certain Mr David Gilmour!
Position 5 sounds very 'thin' and unusable but in all honesty I think it could be used to good effect as a tight, focused rhythm sound and also maybe when 'layering' several different guitar sounds in a recording.
This guitar is extremely well built and finished, a pleasure to play (either seated or standing) and with the S-1 an impressive array of sounds is available and not just that, they are very usable sounds too.
The N3 pick-ups are very good in their noiseless-ness and as good as many other after-market stacked coils I could mention.
So, in all honesty it's a great guitar. If you're in the market for a hard working, versatile guitar for home use, live work and recording and you don't have the extra money needed for a Custom Shop or equivalent then I would seriously consider one of these.
Ash bodied version with clear finish, beautiful!!!
--Sensible Jones 14:13, 8 March 2011 (CET)