Squier Sonic Stratocaster HSS review: is Fender’s most affordable Stratocaster a viable option for you?
At less than 200 bucks and with looks that would get heads turning on any stage, Squier’s most affordable Stratocaster has got a makeover
Image: Adam Gasson
If you’re not currently a teenager yourself, you might remember what the entry-level Squier Strat used to offer the discerning new guitar player – you got black, you got white, and if you were lucky you maybe got red. Tahitian Coral was not on the menu, but I wish it had been – this glorious pink-orange finish was a rare Custom Colour option in Fender’s Golden Age, but now you can have it on your guitar for under $200.
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The Sonic range effectively replaces (and expands) the entry-level Bullet series, offering various permutations of Strat, Tele and Mustang in a bunch of cool traditional and not-so traditional colours. On the Strat side you can choose between a classic Strat configuration, a hardtail option, a Tom DeLonge-style single humbucker option, and this HSS model, which comes in the aforementioned Tahitian Coral or a very Gilmour-esque black-black-maple configuration.
On picking up the guitar, you have to remind yourself that this is a $199 (£159) instrument – the comfortable C-shape neck with matt-finished back offers an incredibly smooth and comfortable journey up and down the neck. For less than the price of a good delay pedal, you’d expect some compromises to the traditional recipe here, and so the body is poplar as opposed to the traditional alder, but it’s still a very light and resonant instrument, if lacking a little bit of depth.
Elsewhere the feeling that you’re playing something much more premium is continued with the controls, with the knobs and switch having a reassuring heft and the tuners feel stable and precise, even if they’re lacking branding.
Plug this beauty in and you’re treated to crystal clear Strat tones that while not likely to make you throw your Custom Shop guitar in the bin, are certainly far better than a guitar at this price point has any right to be. As I shift through the pickup modes, I find myself grinning from ear to ear – lost in that iconic Fender sparkle, completely forgetting that I’m playing through the very cheapest full-size Strat Squier makes.
It’s not a complete walkover – provided you’ve adjusted your amp settings to suit, the bridge’s ceramic humbucker sounds fine enough with plenty of punch and aggression, but it can sound a little thin when flipping from the other channels, and can get sludgy as you layer on the gain. It would also have been great to have some sort of coil-split to unlock proper Strat switching options, but that’s probably being extremely unreasonable at this level.
A slightly underwhelming bridge humbucker aside, this is a seriously impressive guitar for the entry-level player, and for Squier to have made it quite so cheap is nothing short of mind-blowing.