Model Fender Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster
Intro A very considerable step up from Fender’s lower-end Classic ’60s Strat, the Classic Players ’60s Stratocaster pushes Mexican-made quality into a whole new arena.
The guitar, while being assembled in Mexico, was designed by none other than Master Builder Greg Fessler of Fender’s famous Custom Shop, and it shows––the instrument sports a number of top-shelf components that belie its rather meager street price of around $800.
Those features include better electronics (a pair of Custom Shop ’69 singlecoil pickups,) noticeably better hardware (a two-point vintage bridge that’s apparently available for the first time outside of the Custom Shop,) fatter frets, and a thoroughly modern (read: flat!) 12″ fretboard radius.
Right off the rack you can tell this thing’s going to sing… and it does.
- Alder body
- Maple “C” Shaped neck (gloss poly finish)
- Rosewood fretboard with 12” radius (305 mm) and 21 Medium Jumbo frets
- Three CS ‘69 single-ooil Strat pickups w/grey bobbins
- Master volume and two tone controls, 5-way pickup switching
- CS vintage style 2-point synchronized tremolo (w/stamped solid steel saddles & milled solid steel block)
- Fender/Ping vintage style tuners
- 3-ply mint green pickguard, “aged” knobs and switch tip, and a deluxe gig bag
The polyester finish comes in Sonic Blue, and 3-Color Sunburst (this one will cost you an additional $50.00.)
What I Liked What a difference a bit of hardware can make…
While I enjoyed the time I spent with Fender’s lower-cost Classic ’60 Stratocaster, the new Classic Player model is in a class all its own––at least as far as Mexi-Strats go.
Aesthetics-wise, they got the vintage style just right on these beauties, from the rather bleached-out looking “mint green” pickguard, down to the tuners, and finishes. Heck, the whole guitar pretty much oozes that early-’60s vibe, though a retro-brown hard case with plush interior would really seal the deal (you can expect to shell out another $180 for that.)
As far as feel is concerned, the Classic Player ’60s Strat boasts a C-shaped maple neck that I found to be mighty comfortable, though perhaps a tad on the chunky side for those with smaller hands. In fact, neck preference is so personal that I hesitate to make any kind of recommendations here, but suffice it to say that if you’ve got a penchant for a vintage ’60s-style neck, the Classic Player will probably leave you satisfied.
Those who prefer the ’50s “V” shape will want to take a look at this guitar’s sibling, the Classic Player ’50s Stratocaster––while I’m not a huge fan of maple fretboards (probably my 20-years playing Gibsons,) it’s a very sweet guitar for this price range, and not one to be overlooked.
Moving on, one of the true stand-out features of the Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster is its super-flat 12″ fretboard radius, paired with a set of medium jumbo (MJ) frets. Now, this could go either way for the true vintage die-hard, as this modernized combination seriously alters the way the guitar feels… not necessarily in a bad way (particularly if you’re migrating over from something like a Les Paul,) but most definitely in a way that feels more contemporary than old-school.
That said, the flatter fretboard radius makes for sweet, effortless bending with very little danger of fretting out––even with the action dialed down to the point of absurdity. Adding to the magic, those MJ frets make for more comfortable playing than you’ll ever achieve with a set of skinny vintage wires… in fact, they feel just like a fret should––barely noticeable.
Another other big leap forward from the cheaper Mexi-models is Fender’s Custom Shop 2-point synchronized tremolo bridge––this thing’s got stamped solid steel saddles, a milled solid steel block, and perhaps most importantly, it holds its tune like nobody’s business. Even after I tortured the guitar with a full arsenal of tremolo acrobatics it still managed to stay playably in-tune. A nice change from the Classic ’60s model.
Rounding out the serious upgrades on this instrument are Fender’s Custom Shop ’69 singlecoil pickups. It would be a bit on the absurd side for me to try to describe them to you in words, but I will say that these things pack a truly “vintage” early-’60s sound––think classic Hendrix, ala Are You Experienced? and you’ll get a pretty good idea of what you can expect from these babies… provided you’ve got the chops to back ’em up! ;)
I honestly can’t say enough about these pickups, though if you’ve been spoiled by modern noiseless singlecoils, or perhaps even humbuckers, you can expect to be a bit annoyed by the “classic” hum. Still, the truly singular tone of these pups helps set this guitar far apart from other Strats in its price range. (NOTE: Acme Guitar Works has some nice sound samples of the CS ’69s in action.)
What I Didn’t Like Amazingly, I have only one real issue with the Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster, and it’s not much of a deal breaker if you’re strictly looking to stick within the sub-$1,000 price range.
When it comes right down to it I’m just never going to be a big fan of Fender’s modern Polyester finish––yep, these things are damned near bullet-proof now, so if you prefer a guitar that’s going to hold its shine until the second coming, well, you’ll probably love this finish…
However, if you’re like a lot of people, and you find yourself longing for the personally worn-in look and feel of a well-loved (and played!) instrument, a Polyester finish is the last thing you want coating your beloved guitar. This is where the more expensive models, particularly many of the American Custom Shop guitars, really earn their extra cost––Fender’s “thin skin” nitrocellulose finish is a beauty to behold, not to mention the fact that it ages like a fine wine, but you’ll pay about twice as much for it as well.
Final Word Well, I guess it’s pretty obvious that I really liked the Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster, and while it may not satisfy My Quest For The Perfect Strat (that Poly finish is a bit of a drag, and I actually prefer the tight curve of a vintage fretboard radius,) its still a mighty contender for your money, and highly recommended to those in the market for a top-quality Strat in the $800 price range.
If you don’t mind a thick Polyester finish, and the modern feel of a flatter fretboard, the Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster provides a heck of a lot of bang for the buck. Two thumbs up.