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My Classic Series '50s Strat review

Discussion in 'Stratocaster Discussion Forum' started by RoscoeElegante, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2015
    TooFarFromCanada
    Hey, all. Apologies for repeating here, below, slightly modified, what I posted on a different thread about when to open the case of a guitar shipped on a very cold day. I got into reviewing the guitar on that thread, and realized that this may be better offered as its own thread. So here it is, FWIW.

    Been a long time since I spent so much time with a Strat as I did last night--the first time playing a little-used, non-lacquer version/"standard" Classic Series '50s Strat (in lovely sunburst, with a really pretty amber neck). Fit and finish seem great, with the only imperfections the adds-character minor playing wear of an almost mint used guitar.

    I used the AC15C1, both Top Boost and Normal, with bass, treble, and Tone Cut at Noon, Reverb at about 1/4, different Master and channel volume levels and ratios, but mostly Master at 1/2 and channel volumes at 1/2 to 3/4. No pedals, as not only did I want to explore it clean, but Strats, to me, are all about the clean tones, with just a little reverb and/or delay added to resonate the guitar's inherent ringing qualities.

    Whatever pickups Fender put into the Classic Series '50s Strats (all I know is that they're kinda vintage output) are impressive. Gorgeous string separation. Nicely touch sensitive, too. Bear in, and they all get some teeth.

    The volume and tone knobs had an impressive sweep to them, though they're less sweepy than what my Reverend Double Agent and Les Paul have. But that's okay, as the pickups themselves are so melodic and varied.

    That neck pickup is ROUND. Very rich, full, soft, smoky, sweet notes, and BIG chords. I kept going back to it for leads (so to speak). And amazing sustain for a stock single coil.

    The neck & middle setting--beautifully rich and springy, velvet and glass bells mix. Such an expressive tone.

    The middle--definitely the most straight-forward, Tele-ish of the settings, I thought. I went to it a lot for songs and tones I usually play on the Tele. Also the loudest of the settings, though otherwise the volume levels were pretty even.

    The middle & bridge--ahh, yes. Though a persnickety setting, in that it has to fit the song/mood and be played right, with pick/finger attack and space to resonate crucial, it too is such an expressive setting. Really feels like you're weaving stained glass tones into the air. Sproingy and lacy, and rich with colors.

    The bridge--yep, kinda brittle, very biting, but has its place. On this one, since the traditional wiring puts tone control out of the equation, the amp/pedals part of it is really crucial. I did a bit of amp-fiddling on the fly with this, and by boosting the bass and dimming the treble, got some barky beef into the bridge bite. Gigging, I would click on a pedal to beef it up somewhat. But play the bridge setting softly, and you approximate an acoustic played near its bridge. Nice for folky and country rhythm playing.

    I really love that the bridge itself may be, if anything, over-sensitive, so that I could just palm-Bigsby things to get some moody warble, and didn't need the whammy bar on there.

    And, maybe for the first time, I really appreciated, rather than chased after, the Strat's lap-eluding shape. The guitar is so thin and slippery compared to a Tele, of course. But I used that as a kind of playing tool, sliding it around to get certain bending and digging-in angles.

    I've been playing pretty big necks for the last few months, so the almost-dainty 7.25" radius on the "soft-V" of this thing took a bit of getting used to. But after an hour or so, I was really flying around on it. It's terrific for sliding solos, quick chording anywhere, and harmonics. The Strat is so feminine and feline a thing to me that this slinky neck feels very essential. It's a guitar to be danced, where the Tele is one to be wrestled. (While the so-ugly Jazzmaster is the guitar that knows and does all.)

    Then I realized that I started falling asleep while playing a big G chord over and over, and my brain was music'd out, for the time being. Time being just a few hours until get up for work again.

    Thanks, Leo! The Tele is purity, the Jazzmaster is the ultimate in versatility (and its own thang), but the Strat is a damn fine substitute for actually being in love!
     
    Last edited: Dec 7, 2018
  2. ScribbleSomething

    ScribbleSomething Tele-Meister Platinum Supporter

    488
    Mar 12, 2016
    San Antonio
    Good review.

    I feel the same way about mine. Even though I’m not is a strat mood right now. It’s a great guitar.
     
    RoscoeElegante likes this.
  3. '64 Tele

    '64 Tele Tele-Holic

    690
    Mar 8, 2013
    NW Arkansas
    I agree, the Classic Series 50's (non-lacquer) is one fine guitar. It's my number one.
     

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  4. MickM

    MickM Friend of Leo's Ad Free Member

    Wow! Very eloquent review. I just got a strat (gold,50's something with lacquer) about 4 months ago. Traded my last one for a Tele back in '89 and could fight the urge no more. Took more than a couple hours to get used to the layout and those silly knobs but oh man, some very sweet sounds indeed. I'll just say that you said everything I think about mine. No, not a tele replacement but definitely does its own thing well.
     
    RoscoeElegante likes this.
  5. BorderRadio

    BorderRadio Poster Extraordinaire Silver Supporter

    Apr 2, 2014
    Phoenix, AZ
    I agree with dingd9, I’m ‘grrrrrrrr’ about you calling the Jazzmaster ugly, again. Take it back or I’m telling mom!
     
  6. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2015
    TooFarFromCanada
    If it helps, I think the Jazzmaster is just an astonishing guitar. Uniquely versatile, yet with a sound range all its own. I even like its often-scanted rhythm circuit as much as its regular one. Fantastic trem system, too. The one I have--the J Mascis Squire--even though a relatively low-end type, is a gem.

    But, sorry, it IS ugly! Like a '61 Dodge Polara compared to the '57 Chrysler that is the Strat, and the '61 Ford pickup that is the Tele. Like Salvador Dali over-boiled a Strat.....
     
    t guitar floyd and BorderRadio like this.
  7. WelshBluesMan

    WelshBluesMan Tele-Meister

    122
    Apr 2, 2018
    Wales, UK.
    They're great guitars. I owned a fiesta red one for a few months that I bought off my dad... Eventually he missed it and ended up buying it back.

    Personally I wasn't keen on the vintage frets and radius, and I found the pickups a little bit weak for the style I play. But overall it was a very beautiful and great sounding guitar.
     
    RoscoeElegante and Mike SS like this.
  8. Chicago Slim

    Chicago Slim Tele-Afflicted

    Age:
    65
    Oct 19, 2005
    Bowling Green, KY
    I love my Classic 50 Strat, but I did modify it. I moved the tone controls to the middle and bridge pickups. I use the wide open neck for clean, bright, twangy and jangly sounds, that retain a full bottom end. I liked it enough that I put my favorite Fender neck, on the guitar. It's a 22 fret, 9.5" radius, with MJ frets. It now see's more use than my American guitars. I still like the vintage neck. I just found that it works better with heavier strings, on my Strat that is de-tuned to Eb.

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]
     
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  9. lineboat

    lineboat Friend of Leo's

    Aug 6, 2012
    The Classic Series 50’s Strat have to be my favorite. The neck is amazing! The factory pickups aren’t really for me, but they’re not bad. My #1 is a black one, single ply black pickguard, all Gilmour’d up. Great guitars!
     
    RoscoeElegante likes this.
  10. Platefire

    Platefire Friend of Leo's

    Age:
    71
    Nov 3, 2003
    North Louisiana around Many
    I've got a 1997 50's Reissue CIJ that is my #1 out of 6 strats. Has a few mods--Sperzel Locking tuners, Buzz Feiton nut re-location, Dyna-Guide String tree and Texas Special Pickup set.

    I like all the mods but sometimes I kind of regret I pulled those stock classic wired Fender pickups, sold them, and installed the Texas Specials. The Texas Specials are great but sometime a little hotter/thicker than I like in my strat sounds. It's a fine ax though! Platefire
    Bob's Stratocaster 002.jpg
     
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  11. RoscoeElegante

    RoscoeElegante Friend of Leo's

    Feb 19, 2015
    TooFarFromCanada
    Yeah, I'm sticking with the stock pickups in this, though I can see why people would mod them out. I have an S-type with tappable plenty-hot rails in them (the unjustly obscure Tradition SP-100), so that's my roaring Strat if I want that. But these Classic Series '50s stock pickups have that glass-bell classic sound that I also love.

    I do tend to like D and U necks, so this soft-V, especially with the 7.25 radius, is quite different. But once you warm up on it, you can just FLY, especially for chording, triads, etc.

    It's so fascinating and satisfying, how different guitars, or just different necks, or pickups, or controls, etc., on the same type of guitar, can bring out such different playing, tones, and songs. I'm working out--feels more like channeling, actually--a song in a key I never played in before, that I doubt I would have blundered into on any other type of guitar and any other type of neck. Now I know what a C6/11 chord is!
     
    t guitar floyd likes this.
  12. t guitar floyd

    t guitar floyd Tele-Holic

    Age:
    71
    787
    Feb 4, 2016
    sw US
    Thanks, Roscoe! This is a very good review and reminds me of why I love my 50s Classic, too. :)
     
    RoscoeElegante likes this.
  13. gaddis

    gaddis Tele-Afflicted

    Aug 22, 2004
    New York
    The 50’s Classic Series is a great Strat for sure. I’ve had mine for a year or so and alternate between it and my AVRI ‘62. I don’t like to mod my guitars, but I broke down and installed the jumper that allows the middle pickup’s tone control to also work on the bridge pickup. Makes it much more usable for me, as my ears don’t favor a lot of treble. I ended up doing the same to my ‘62, after 20 years of playing it stock.
     
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