The Fender Stratocaster was first introduced to the market in 1954 as the company’s new top-line guitar. These electric guitars were designed by Leo Fender, Bill Carson, George Fullerton, and Freddie Tavares.
They were originally all built in America. But today they have manufacturing plants in three different countries.
Are there any significant differences between American, Mexican, and Japanese Stratocasters? Do those differences justify the price disparities?
Let’s take a look at what sets them apart, other than where Fender builds them.
Where Are The American, Mexican, and Japanese Stratocasters Made?
All American Stratocasters are made in the company’s flagship factory and headquarters in Corona, California, USA. It opened in 1985, and since then, it is the home of the Fender’s Master Builders.
Nicknamed the “Dream Factory,” it has crafted guitars for legends like Eric Clapton, Jimmy Page, Jeff Beck, Yngwie Malmsteen, and Stevie Ray Vaughan.
It is also in the Corona Factory where the Fender Custom Shop debuted.
Fender then decided to build a second manufacturing facility located in Ensenada, Mexico, in 1987.
Ensenada produces the following Strat series’:
- Player Plus
In 1982, Fender established a joint venture with Kanda Shokai and Yamano Gakki. Since the start of Fender guitars in Japan, the factories were FujiGen Gakki, Tokai Gakki, and Dyna Gakki until 2015, when Fender took over the whole Japanese business.
Most Fenders made in Japan are sold exclusively in that country, except the Japanese Vintage Modified Series, which are available abroad as well.
American vs. Mexican vs. Japanese Stratocaster Pickups
Pickups are an essential part of creating the best guitar tone.
American Performer Stratocaster
These Strats come equipped with three Yosemite single-coil strat pickups that include a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity (RWRP) middle pickup to help reduce humming.
These pickups are a mixture of Alnico 4 and Alnico 2 magnets. They’re equipped with a plain enamel-coated wire, producing an expressive and well-defined sound.
American Professional II Stratocaster
This line of Stratocasters comes with single-coil Strat pickups known as V-Mod II. They’re even more articulate than their predecessors.
The pickups are voiced specifically for each position, striking a balanced tone with the vintage warmth and crispiness of Fender guitars.
American Original Stratocaster
It has three pure vintage ’65 Strat pickups, giving powerful, clean, surf-rock tones like the Stratocasters made in the mid-1960s.
The pickups feature Alnico 5 magnets, which provide focus and enhanced dynamics. The pickups are equipped with an enamel-coated magnet wire to deliver the warm vintage-style tones of the mid-1960s.
American Ultra Luxe and Ultra Stratocasters
Equipped with Fender’s flagship pickups, the Ultra Noiseless Vintage Stratocaster pickups, feature a lower output for a classic Stratocaster tone with no humming.
The pickups are equipped with Alnico 5 magnets and polysol-coated magnet wires to produce a vintage voice with a classic bell-like chime without the 60-cycle hum.
Of course, there are other great options if you want to upgrade. Make sure you pick the right strat pickups to upgrade for the tone you want.
The Player Stratocaster Series has three Player Series single-coil pickups. These pickups are equipped with Alnico 5 magnets, producing a classic sound, bell-like high frequencies, a punchy mid, and robust low end.
Player Plus Stratocaster
The Player Plus Stratocaster Series comes with three Player Plus Noiseless Strat pickups. Like the Player Stratocasters, the pickups also have Alnico 5 magnets that produce a bright, touch-sensitive classic Strat tone without humming.
The Vintera Stratocaster has three vintage-style ’60s Strat single-coil pickups. Its middle pickup has a reverse-wound/reverse-polarity feature to reduce humming. The pickups are fitted with non-beveled Alnico 5 magnets and enamel-coated magnet wire to produce a classic ’60s tight and focused sound.
The Noventa Stratocaster is equipped with two Noventa single-coil pickups, which give a P-90 pickup vibe. The Noventa pickups produce a midrange bite, crisp highs, and smooth lows.
These pickups are capable of providing a saturated distortion when paired with the right amp. It’s not the standard Strat tone, but something a little more modern.
JV Modified Stratocaster
A JV Modified Stratocaster is equipped with three Vintage-Style single-coil Strat pickups, producing tones just like classic ’60s Stratocasters. It has a push-pull feature on the Tone 2 knob, allowing for more tonal possibilities than many other Strats.
A Modern Stratocaster comes with a set of three Gen 4 Noiseless single-coil Strat pickups. The pickups are equipped with Alnico 5 magnets, producing a tight low end, clear highs, and punchy mids. The wires are also shielded for noise reduction.
Construction Materials and Neck Shapes
For American Stratocasters, their bodies are either made from Ash, Alder, or Pine, while their fingerboards are usually made from either Maple or Rosewood. Their neck shapes are mostly C-shape, aside from the American Original, which also offers a V-shape neck, and the American Ultra, which also offers a D-shape for faster play.
The bodies of the Mexican Stratocasters are from Alder, while their fingerboards are either Maple or Rosewood. All their neck shapes are C-shapes, except for the Vintera, which also offers V-shape necks.
The bodies of the Japanese Stratocasters are made from either Alder, Ash, or Basswood, while their fingerboards are either made from Maple or Rosewood. Their neck shapes are also C-shaped, except for the JV Modified series, where they also offer V-shaped necks.
Which One Should You Get?
The Mexican-made is the cheapest Strat while the American-made Stratocasters are the most expensive. Each is an excellent guitar for its price point and is worth every penny.
You should definitely opt for an American-made Fender if you can afford it. Yet, even the lowest cost Mexican Stratocaster is leagues above most Strat copies.
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