A versatile and appealing vintage-meets-modern take on the classic maple-neck Strat, marrying popular specs, classic looks and well-conceived pickups and switching.
Great balance of vintage and modern appointments.
Fret ends slightly sharp on the review sample.
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By virtue of just a handful of specifications, the ’50s Stratocaster Modified fully embraces the “vintage looks, modern performance” ethos of the Vintera line. The body is a traditional solid-alder construction, with polyester gloss finish options for Two-Color Sunburst or Daphne Blue.
The solid maple neck is a four-bolt number with heel-end truss-rod adjustment, and of course the seminal 25.5-inch scale length.
Departures toward the 21st century begin here with a 9.5-inch fretboard radius, 21 medium-jumbo frets and what Fender calls a modern C profile. In the hand, this feels broadly similar to the Jaguar’s neck shape, albeit extrapolated across the longer scale length. The fret ends were a little sharp but didn’t protrude as much as those on the Jaguar.
Down at the body end, the modernity continues with a two-point Synchronized Tremolo, and three Hot ’50s Strat single-coil pickups reading 5.98k ohms neck, 6.10k ohms middle and 6.48k ohms bridge. They are given the popular modern wiring mod that shares one tone control between the neck and middle pickups and devotes the second to the bridge pickup, plus an S-1 switch (a push-button within the volume control’s knob) to add the neck pickup to positions one and two.
However, from the bridge’s bent-steel saddles to the locking vintage-style tuners, single-ply eight-screw pickguard, and parchment knobs and pickup covers, the look is enticingly circa ’57.
Fender has pitched the vintage-meets-modern ratio extremely well on the Vintera ’50s Stratocaster Modified, and I imagine this guitar is one that a high proportion of players will like. The neck feels great in the hand and plays easily all up and down the maple ’board, with choke-free bends aided by the 9.5-inch radius and medium-jumbo frets (specs most players insist upon these days for their S-style guitars). Unplugged, it has a lively, woody resonance, and tuning stability is good, even with significant vibrato use.
Tested through a Friedman Small Box head with 2x12 cab and a tweed Deluxe-style 1x12 combo, the Vintera ’50s Stratocaster Modified admirably nails what we can reasonably guess were Fender’s sonic intentions for the model.
There’s plenty of ’50s-inspired, maple-neck character here, with the snap, quack and articulation of a good vintage-spec Strat, yet just a little more drive from the pickups and a slightly easier segue into breakup with either amp set to the sweet spot. The bridge pickup also handles higher-gain amp settings and overdrive pedals a little better than some vintage-wind single-coils, particularly when gnarly, aggressive rock is the goal.
Overall, it’s an impressively versatile Strat. The S-1 switch is a nifty bonus, too, and while I rarely found a use for the all-three-together option, there are some rich, round, open tones to be had from the neck-and-bridge setting. Tasty stuff.
PRICE $999 street
NUT WIDTH 1.650" synthetic bone
NECK Maple, Modern “C” profile
FRETBOARD Maple, 25.5" scale, 9.5" radius
FRETS 21 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Locking vintage-style
BODY Solid alder
BRIDGE Two-point Synchronized Tremolo
PICKUPS Three Hot ’50s Strat single-coil pickups
CONTROLS Master volume, tone control for neck/middle pickups and for bridge pickup, five-way switch, plus S-1 switch to add neck pickup to position 1 and 2.
FACTORY STRINGS Fender .009–.042 WEIGHT 7.6 lbs
Dave Hunter is a writer and consulting editor for Guitar Player magazine. His prolific output as author includes Fender 75 Years, The Guitar Amp Handbook, The British Amp Invasion, Ultimate Star Guitars, Guitar Effects Pedals, The Guitar Pickup Handbook, The Fender Telecaster and several other titles. Hunter is a former editor of The Guitar Magazine (UK), and a contributor to Vintage Guitar, Premier Guitar, The Connoisseur and other publications. A contributing essayist to the United States Library of Congress National Recording Preservation Board’s Permanent Archive, he lives in Kittery, ME, with his wife and their two children and fronts the bands A Different Engine and The Stereo Field.