Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster review – a worthy celebration of the most iconic guitar ever

A vintage-voiced instrument with a helping of modern specs and aesthetics celebrates 70 years of the Strat.

Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster, photo by Adam Gasson

Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster. Image: Adam Gasson

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Review Overview

Our rating


Our verdict

The 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster celebrates seven decades of the most iconic guitar in history in true style, offering killer playability and tone at a totally reasonable price point.

£949/$999, fender.com

It’s remarkable really, that the Fender Stratocaster remains the most iconic and recognisable electric guitar on the planet, now seven decades after its launch in 1954. The Strat’s ubiquity can sometimes cause people to take this remarkable design for granted, however, and so it’s fitting that Fender has chosen to mark the Strat’s platinum anniversary with a big celebration – with no less than seven instruments available at a variety of price points.

For anyone who remembers the 50th and 60th anniversary of the Strat, you won’t be shocked to learn that a few of these guitars are the classic Sunburst recipe that echo the guitars rolling out of Fullerton in 1954 – so far, so normal. However, there are also a couple of 70th anniversary models that are less about looking back, and more about pointing to the future.

One such guitar is this 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster – a revamp of Fender’s most affordable Strat but with some interesting tweaks, not least a striking and unique glitter-flecked Nebula Noir finish.

Otherwise, it’s relatively similar to the other (and cheaper) 70th anniversary Player Strat with an alder body, modern C-shape maple neck with a 22-fret, 9.5”-radius rosewood fingerboard, a trio of Pure-Vintage ‘59 single-coil pickups, ClassicGear tuning machines and a two-point tremolo bridge. Visually, you also get black pickup covers and knobs, plus a white pearloid pickguard and a 70th Anniversary Stratocaster neck plate.

For a sub-$1,000 guitar in 2024, the specs make for pretty alluring reading but we can’t pretend this isn’t a recipe we’ve seen before. The real question is, ‘How does it sound and feel to play?’ And the answer? Absolutely fantastic. On basically every mark.

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster neckplate, photo by Adam Gasson
70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster neckplate. Image: Adam Gasson

How does the Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster feel to play?

For a guitar as iconic as the Strat and a milestone as big as this, there’s definitely a sense that Fender didn’t want to veer too far from the classic Strat recipe in feel and sounds, even if the visuals are a departure.

Save for the modern C-shape neck and futuristic Nebula Noir finish, everything about this instrument pays homage to its storied history. But again, this is a 70th Anniversary model, so that is precisely the point.

Upon getting it out of the supplied gigbag, I was struck by this guitar’s familiar yet different looks. While your mileage may vary, I absolutely love the Nebula Noir finish, and the way it appears as just a standard black Strat until the light catches it and leaves it awash with a galaxy of tiny glints of light. It’s a classy way to make a guitar feel modern and different without being too radical a departure.

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster body, photo by Adam Gasson
70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster body. Image: Adam Gasson

I always find that playing a guitar straight out of the box without plugging in is good way to get the feel for a guitar before you have your judgement influenced by external factors. The Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster passes the playability test with flying colours. Its action is sublime, with its strings set up a perfect distance from the fretboard to facilitate effortless playing the length of the fretboard.

Tuning stability is also a big plus point. With many two-point tremolo-loaded electric guitars, the absence of a locking nut means any movement of the tremolo arm beyond a safe and trusted range often results in sudden detuning. In the past I’ve even steered away from using the tremolo arm on more affordable guitars for this very reason. But there’s no such problem with the 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster. The Fender-designed ClassicGear tuners and a clearly well-lubricated nut ensure the guitar stays perfectly in tune, freeing you to explore your creativity without it being stifled due to technological issues.

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster control knobs, photo by Adam Gasson
70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster control knobs. Image: Adam Gasson

How does the Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster sound?

Fender says the guitar’s trio of Pure Vintage ‘59 single coils deliver “rich, articulate tones that fit any genre”, and while your average vintage Strat enthusiast isn’t going to be tuning down and playing doom metal, part of the Strat’s longevity has come down to its apparently infinite versatility.

As this isn’t a slavish reproduction of a 50s, we get the standard Strat five-position selector switch, and as with any good Strat, it’s very easy to lose yourself in any of these positions. The neck position, in particular – in both clean and dirty applications – possesses a caressing warmth that comfortably elevates any blues lead line. Meanwhile, the bridge pickup offers a crisp twang that doesn’t bite too hard; perfect for high-gain rock licks and fast-paced clean country lines alike.

The articulation of the pickups is superb, too; in any pickup setting, whether you’re playing arpeggios or chords, notes ring out cleanly and crisply, while simultaneously retaining that all-important dynamic range.

While we’re talking about an instrument that pays tribute to a timeless guitar design, we’re in 2024, and that means more players than ever are opting for amp sim plugins over real amplifiers. With that, I play the 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster extensively both through a combo amp and a selection of digital amp sims, and in every setting that classic and enduring Fender Strat sound shone through.

So if you’re a guitarist who keeps your rig in the box, and are wary a classically spec’d Fender Strat won’t fit your vibe, don’t be; the 70th Anniversary Player Strat is every bit as at home plugged into an amp as it is into your laptop.

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster neck and middle pickups, photo by Adam Gasson
70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster neck and middle pickups. Image: Adam Gasson

How much is the Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster?

Like all Player guitars, this Strat is made in Mexico, and it’s nice that Fender hasn’t locked away its Anniversary guitars up at the USA/Custom Shop price point and allowed players on more modest budgets to get in on the fun, while also giving Ensenada a chance to show how well they can build a guitar these days.

There’s no escaping that this is a couple of hundred dollars more than a regular Player Strat, however, and so you’ll have to decide if the limited edition nature of the guitar, that unique and compelling finish, and a pair of upgraded pickups is worth that extra outlay. Compared to a lot of other guitars in 2024 however, the pricetag still feels respectable in this context – it’s a special guitar for a special occasion, with looks that will make you feel pretty special too.

70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster headstock, photo by Adam Gasson
70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster headstock. Image: Adam Gasson

Fender 70th Anniversary Player Stratocaster alternatives

There’s no shortage of non-anniversary Strats in the Fender line, and if you’re just after a good Strat for reasonable money, the Player Stratocaster ($799) is not to be sniffed at. If you want a fancier 70th Anniversary guitar, the 70th Anniversary Ultra Stratocaster HSS ($2,499) pairs a set of new Anniversary pickups with a wild iridescent Amethyst finish. Alternatively, if you just want an Anniversary Strat that gets weird but in a vintage way, the 70th Anniversary Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster ($1,499) is as polarising as it gets!

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