With its stylish contours, three single-coil configuration and elegant six-in-line headstock, the Fender Stratocaster is the most recognisable electric guitar in music history. And since the first Strat rolled out of the factory in 1954, the model has been refined, redesigned and re-engineered – it’s also inspired a legion of imitations.
In our hunt for the best S-type guitars, we’ve chosen models that not only tick the boxes for appearance, sound and feel, but also bring something fresh to the Fullerton formula. Here they are:
1Fender American Original ’50s Stratocaster
Fender’s American Original series boasts select features from across a chosen decade. This particular model, as its name suggests, is a compilation of 50s-era Strat specs, including a trio of Pure Vintage ’59 single-coils and a soft V neck profile. These classic trimmings are joined by a modern 9.5-inch fingerboard radius and vintage-tall frets, two components that collectively enhance playability in the higher registers.
Retails at £1,609/$1,999.99. Check out our full review here.
2Xotic California Classic XSC-2
Xotic has opted to add a few new ingredients to this axe’s artfully aged recipe. The standout twists include a roasted and oil-finished maple neck, a modified six-in-line headstock shape as well as a versatile HSS pickup configuration. The latter comprises a single RV-PAF humbucker at the bridge and Raw Vintage RV-60 single-coils at the neck and middle positions, respectively.
Retails at £3,099. Check out our full review here.
Macmull’s S-Classic model is inspired by vintage Fenders of the 50s and 60s, but the Israeli company goes further than most when it comes to wood selection, light weight and bespoke electronics.
The C-shaped maple neck and Madagascar rosewood fretboard have an appealing broken-in feel straight out of the case, with rolled edges for comfort. The pickups, meanwhile, are Macmull’s own vintage-inspired design, hand-picked for each individual instrument.
The S-Classic’s angular six-in-line headstock is a modernistic touch but the tone is authentically vintage.
Price varies according to custom order. More info here.
With Jackson/Charvel veteran Grover Jackson on the Friedman team, it’s no surprise that the brand nailed it with this S-type guitar. Upon closer inspection, you’ll see that the guitar’s wear isn’t created by a simple template – great attention is paid to the dings, abrasions and fine checking lines that make every instrument one-of-a-kind.
Despite the old-school appearance, the Vintage-S caters to the needs of the modern player. It sports a 10-to-14-inch-radius compound fingerboard as well as Zero-Shift neck pins that virtually eliminate neck shift from the body.
Retails at £2,599/$2,899.99. Check out our full review here.
5PRS Silver Sky
Following his public break-up with Fender, John Mayer found a kindred spirit in Paul Reed Smith. The partnership eventually yielded 2018’s controversial Silver Sky, a guitar that Mayer has dubbed “sort of a high-definition Strat.”
The Silver Sky’s neck dimensions are reminiscent of a pre-CBS Strat but its 635JM single-coil pickups have been voiced to eliminate some of the very high trebles that Mayer usually dials out of his vintage Fenders.
Retails at £2,299/$2,299. Check out our full review here.
6Tom Anderson Drop Top Classic
Tom Anderson lauds this model as the ‘apex’ of S-shapes, a claim he backs up with his focus on stylish trimmings and unique craftsmanship.
You’ll also notice that this axe has a swooping forearm contour – more dramatic than a traditional Strat’s – that’s created from a bent (or dropped) top over the guitar’s body. As for the tops on offer, you have the choice of these stunning options: flame or quilted maple, koa and walnut.
Price varies according to custom order. More info here.
7Vigier Expert Classic Rock
The French brand pays homage to late-60s Strat tones with this model. The sounds in question are delivered by a trio of hand-wound, alnico V single-coils designed by Amber, a boutique manufacturer from Ribnitz, Germany. Tone-sculpting is provided by a single master tone control – rather than the conventional pair – a master volume knob and a five-way pickup selector.
The Expert Classic Rock’s sounds are complemented by innovative features such as a sturdy 10/90 neck with a strip of carbon for reinforcement. There’s also dampening material situated behind the Teflon nut that’s designed to mitigate excessive string over-ring when a distortion pedal is stomped.
Retails at £2,269. Check out our full review here.
8Fender American Professional Stratocaster
In 2017, Fender’s American Standard range was superseded by American Professional. The refreshed line of pro-workhorse guitars saw the introduction of V-Mod pickups – designed by pickup guru Tim Shaw – treble-bleed circuits and a new Modern Deep-C neck profile.
Of particular interest is the alnico magnet blend in each V-Mod single-coil. This is meant to flesh out the sound of each pickup while still preserving the unique tonal character of positions two and four. The neck has a mix of alnico II (wound strings) and alnico III (trebles), the middle is alnico II (basses) and alnico V (trebles), while the bridge is alnico V only.
Retails at £1,399/$1,449.99. Check out our full review here.
9Suhr Classic S Antique
Suhr’s Classic S Antique boasts a wealth of recognisable S-type trimmings, including a 60s C Vintage Medium neck profile and an Antique Nitro finish that sports natural checking and light ageing.
Adding to the vintage vibe are the alnico V “Special” magnets lodged in the V63 single-coils. According to Suhr, these magnets come from the very company that produced the early-60s magnets for Fender, and thus have undergone identical formulation and manufacturing processes.
Lists at $2,999. More info here.
10Charvel Guthrie Govan USA Signature
This San Dimas model stands out with a stunning flame maple top and a two-piece flame maple neck that’s been roasted for a balanced sound. Meanwhile the fingerboard, which has a thoroughly modern, shred-friendly 12-to-16-inch compound radius.
As for tone, Govan’s signature axe relies on an HSH pickup configuration that comprises specially wound Charvel custom MF pickups. A two-way mini toggle switch that can coil-split both the bridge and neck humbucker further adds to the guitar’s tonal versatility.
Retails at $3,299.99. More info here.
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