My Fender Player Series Stratocaster has been a part of my guitar collection for over two years now, and while it’s my trusty tool for music that I do recordings on as often as I can, I thought it might be worth doing a review of it if you’re trying to decide what guitar is for you.
About the Fender Player Series Stratocaster
The Player Series replaced the Standard Series range of Fenders in 2018, making it the main entry level for Fender branded guitars. I bought my Player Strat in the year it was released, and I was pleased to benefit from the small but nice updates the Mexican-made instruments received.
There were some changes to the previous design that made the Player Series seem more like American Fenders than the previous Mexico range, even if the Player Series is still made in Mexico (often just called MIM). We’re talking small cosmetic upgrades, like a Fender ‘F’ on the back plate that used to be left blank.
That and the price difference… with American Fenders (Professional Series) retailing for about double the price of the Mexican-made, although the consensus suggests that you’re not paying for double the guitar quality.
Reasons to buy a Fender Player Stratocaster
The main reason to play a Strat-style guitar is because you’re a fan of the music that’s made with Strats. Blues, rock, maybe some jazz or R n’ B… artists from Pink Floyd’s David Gilmour, Jimi Hendrix, the Rolling Stones’ Ronnie Wood and even Nile Rodgers of Chic all helped make Stratocaster’s famous, and many contemporary artists still use this model as their go to, such as Red Hot Chili Peppers’ John Frusciante, John Mayer, The Strokes’s Albert Hammond Jr, Arctic Monkeys’ Alex Turner and countless others.
It’s a great guitar and super versatile in what it can do. The MIM range of guitars all enabled musicians to own a Fender-branded guitar at an economical price model. The Player Series is a great example of this producing glassy clean tones and really comes to life with light distortion and the guitar holds its notes a decent length of time. I often combine my high-gain Golden Plexi distortion pedal with a TS9 tube screamer to get powerful distorted chords and piercing leads. Adding a thick layer of reverb and some delay to that and the Strat really takes over and becomes an emotional experience. For best sounds, I also use a compression pedal just to get it closer to how guitars sound on recordings.
Of course, I enjoy metal too and found the guitar can deliver some heavy riffs no problem. I did fine that for metal riffs it’s better to layer the same recording with different amplifier and cab settings to get maximum results. Nevertheless the guitar isn’t built for heavy metal, so the instrument reaches a point where it becomes an obstacle to overcome.
In terms of playing experience, I find it comfortable to hold and easy to play and well set up enough straight out of its box. It’s never had a set-up, because it’s never needed it (my GSR 180 however has need professional setting up, and still requires some neck adjustment)!
The guitar stays in tune well enough, although that won’t be true for players that depend on the tremolo bar. The alnico pickups are bright and clear, so the guitar delivers great sounds in any of the five pick-up positions.
Reasons not to buy a Player Stratocaster
The only reason not to choose a Player Stratocaster is because you need a Professional Series. Seriously, if you enjoy the range of sounds a Strat can deliver, then the Player Series of guitars are well built and dependable. In terms of sound, sure the Professional Series will exceed the Player, but then again it should – it’s for professional musicians. A home guitar set up won’t show the difference between the two.
Of course, there are things the Mexican-made Strats can’t do, and for those things, you’re best off looking elsewhere.
Extreme genres of metal, like thrash, death or progressive metal all rely on more performance-orientated instruments. The way the neck of a Stratocaster is built, and the instrument’s reliance on single coil pickups do not lend themselves to highly technical music. Single coils introduce an element of noise that can add an element of vintage, an element of beauty in impurity, whereas humbucker guitars deliver a reduced noise which allows for new tones. It comes down to what you prefer to play though.
But why not a Squier or Professional Series?
But if you love the music that Strat’s make, is the Player Series for you? Why not go for a Squier by Fender, which is cheaper; or an American-made Professional Series which will exceed the Player Series in quality?
I’ve never played either, but I chose the Player Series compared to the Squier series, because it had the benefit of better attention to detail in construction, better components and a Fender-brand on the headstock (something that was important to my ego). Against the Professional Series, you’re benefiting from greater affordability at minor compromise of components and build quality, and for a home guitarist, that was a concession I was happy to make, since I’m sure I wouldn’t be able to tell the difference. I was also aware I’d probably just damage the thing…
I’m super happy with my Strat, since I love the genre’s that it plays best; but no doubt I will add to my collection with time so I can spend more time on music the Strat isn’t built for.
This is a review of a product I bought at full price as an end customer in 2018. As such I have zero investment in writing a review aimed to sell more gear.