Dressed in hot 80s colors with a very impressive Japanese build, the HM Strat is a real blast for anyone pining for early days of shred guitar – or any player who needs a high-performance Strat that can master many kinds of voices.
Great period-correct look.
Big range of tones.
You’re either nostalgic for this guitar or you’re not.
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Back in the ’80s, it was almost a requirement for rockers to play a Strat-shaped guitar with a locking whammy, hum-sing-sing pickups, and either outrageous graphics or wildly vibrant colors. Interestingly, although these instruments were certainly descendants of the legendary Fender, many of them were made by companies other than Fender.
That changed in the latter part of the decade when Fender released the HM Strat, a hard-rocking departure from the Slowhand-style six-strings of yore. The instruments developed a loyal following, but as styles changed, so did guitar production, and the HM was discontinued in 1992.
But now it’s back, with a limited-edition reissue. I was completely psyched to dust off my massive dive bombs, Brad Gillis–style harmonic swoops, Rockman clean tones, and whatever else I used to do back in my long-haired, misspent pop-metal youth.
The review instrument is decked out in lovely Ice Blue, but the other colors in this series – Black, Bright White, Flash Pink, and Frozen Yellow – are equally awesome.
The HM is unique in the Strat family for many reasons, but the most obvious are the 24 jumbo frets and the 25.1-inch scale length. The neck is comfortable and fast, and for some reason it doesn’t feel quite as flat as the 17-inch radius would suggest, which for me is a good thing.
I made a couple of tuning adjustments on the Floyd Rose bridge (which most people would agree is an upgrade from the Kahler Spyder on the original) and plugged into a high-gain Friedman profile on my Kemper.
This guitar is a freaking race car, with slick playability and plenty of output from the bridge humbucker. Harmonic squeals, massive power chords, and sweet sustain are all right there.
The neck single-coil produces a focused, shred-ready tone, and thanks to its placement in front of the 24th fret, it can crank out the fifth-fret harmonics that are cancelled out on a traditional Strat. Bonus!
Selecting the neck and middle pickups and switching to a clean, compressed, chorused-out tone immediately transported me back to the late ’80s as I arpeggiated chords and dreamed of simpler, glammier times. The middle pickup by itself, particularly on medium-gain tones, takes you out of metal and pop realms to a clear and open sound all its own.
Although the HM Strat is clearly designed and marketed with old-school metal in mind, the hum-sing-sing pickup complement (with a coil-split option on the bridge humbucker) allows it to easily handle just about any style.
The bold colors obviously send a strong message, but guitarists in cover and show bands (back when there was such a thing) can bring flash and pizzazz to whatever they’re playing.
With Fender reissuing everything from Duo-Sonics to Lead IIIs these days, it’s only right they should revive these Day-Glo beasts as well. The HM Strat didn’t bring back my hair, but it certainly brought back the tones, tips, and tricks that I loved from that era, and a whole lot more.
- PRICE: $1,199
- NUT WIDTH: 1.66”
- NECK: Maple
- FRETBOARD: Rosewood, 25.1” scale with 17” radius
- FRETS: 24 jumbo
- TUNERS: Gotoh sealed
- BODY: Basswood
- BRIDGE: Floyd Rose Special Double-locking Trem (recessed)
- PICKUPS: HM humbucker (bridge) and two HM single-coils (neck and middle)
- CONTROLS: Master volume, two tone, 5-way blade switch, bridge pickup coil-split mini-toggle
- FACTORY STRINGS: Fender USA 250L Nickel Plated Steel, .009–.042
- WEIGHT: 7.6 lbs.
- BUILT: Japan
- CONTACT: Fender