The Noventa Strat delivers a lot of bang for the buck and could easily be a go-to axe for players who gig in a variety of situations and need one guitar that can do it all.
Excellent playability and tones
Rock solid build
Nut corners are sharp
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Revolutionary as the Stratocaster was when it debuted in 1954, players seeking to improve its performance have often replaced the thin-sounding single-coil in the bridge position with a humbucker, or perhaps a P-90 – a single-coil pickup introduced by Gibson in 1946, about 11 years before the company started using its newfangled humbucking pickup on some electric guitars.
Fender has gone down the P-90 road in the past, beginning with the Strat-O-Sonic from 2003, which featured two Black Dove “Soapbar” pickups and a wrap-around-style Tech-Tonic bridge, and there have been various Custom Shop Teles and Strats carrying P-90s over the years. But the pickups haven’t been offered on recent production-line S and T models until the Noventa series Telecaster, Stratocaster, and Jazzmaster landed in 2021 (accompanied by the Player Mustang 90). All feature Fender Noventa single-coils – one, two and three respectively – as well as other elements that make them quite different animals from their classic-style counterparts.
The Crimson Red Transparent Strat on review here immediately gets the point across when you see its twin pickups, truncated control complement (two knobs and a three-way selector) and a chrome-plated hardtail bridge on which the strings load Tele-style into metal ferrules on the back.
The bolt-on maple neck has a very smooth satin finish and is carved into what Fender calls its Modern C profile, an inviting shape that practically begs you to play for long stretches. The striped, pau-ferro fingerboard carries 21 nicely crowned medium-jumbo frets that are trimmed on the ends for a smooth ride when sliding along the fretboard, and the synthetic bone nut received similar attention, so that it feels like part of the neck – only the top corners of the nut are a little sharp. The spot-on factory setup provides excellent playability and practically zero string buzz, and the intonation is tunefully accurate. At 7.28 pounds the guitar feels light and nimble.
The tightly coupled components, not to mention the absence of a vibrato system with its springs, claw and inertia block, help make the guitar sound resonant and sustaining when played acoustically, and those traits remained front and center when plugged into a Fender Deluxe Reverb, a Tone Master Super Reverb or a Victoria Double Deluxe 2x12 combo.
The Noventa is louder and meatier than a standard Strat, and it also reminded us a bit of the Reverend Gristle 90 in the sense that the bridge position is girthy sounding and has that slightly quacky-but-cutting texture that makes a good P-90 so cool for lead playing. The Noventa pickups also sound great combined for a full, crisp tone that’s less biting than the bridge pickup by itself, and the neck position is balanced and has plenty of top-end for solos, yet easily cops a cool jazz vibe with a downward twist of the tone knob.
This streamlined Strat has a lot of tonal vibe, and it’s a gas to play thanks to its nice setup and overall attention to detail. As a do-it-all guitar that can cover a lot of bases, the Noventa Strat delivers a lot of bang for the buck and could easily be a go-to axe for players who gig in a variety of situations and need one guitar that can do it all. In fact, in many ways this new Fender fills that need, just like the original. However, as the Noventa aptly demonstrates, less can be more when it comes to the Stratocaster.
- BUILT Mexico
- NUT WIDTH 1.650” synthetic bone
- NECK Maple, bolt-on. Modern C profile
- FRETBOARD Pau ferro, 25.5” scale, 9.5” radius, white dots
- FRETS 21 medium jumbo
- TUNERS Vintage style
- BODY Alder, Crimson Red Transparent finish
- BRIDGE Hard-tail Strat with six adjustable bent-steel saddles
- PICKUPS Fender Noventa single-coils
- CONTROLS Volume, tone, three-way selector
- FACTORY STRINGS Fender .010–.046
- WEIGHT 7.28 lbs (as tested)
Art Thompson is Senior Editor of Guitar Player magazine. He has authored stories with numerous guitar greats including B.B. King, Prince and Scotty Moore and interviewed gear innovators such as Paul Reed Smith, Randall Smith and Gary Kramer. He also wrote the first book on vintage effects pedals, Stompbox. Art's busy performance schedule with three stylistically diverse groups provides ample opportunity to test-drive new guitars, amps and effects, many of which are featured in the pages of GP.
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