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In-Depth & Hands-On

REVIEW: Fender Classic Player ’60s Stratocaster

Disclosure Policy | Mon, Apr 9, 2007 | 462 |

Fender Classic Player 60S StratModel 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.

26 Comments For This Post

  1. Mark Kardwell Says:

    Plus, polyester finishes are buggers to strip down if you feel like taking matters into your own hands.

  2. Mike V. Says:

    Nice review.
    Have you tried the Highway One?
    It has a nitro finish instead. Pretty nice guitar for the price.

  3. Rick Says:

    Great review, Cary. I wasn’t a maple neck guy myself until I started trying out the relics and real classics….as well as the EJ model (which is also available with a rosewood fingerboard).

    I also agree with you about the paint job, but for the money….this is a guitar you can gig with and not have to worry about flying beer bottles and other gigging hazards as much as you would a relic or true classic Fender.

  4. Dave Bennett Says:

    How do you think these compare with an original 60’s model. I owned a 68 strat many years ago and to be honest the worn in feel of it was just so good to play. The neck had none of the resistance you get on some of these ‘shiny’ new models, and to me that was the most important part. Being able to move up and down the neck without preamble. I would imagine that the sound is pretty good nowadays with pickup technology moving on, but having that light single coil sound from the early guitars , overdriven, is incredibly hard to duplicate.

  5. Cary Says:

    Good question, Dave — while the Classic Player ’60s Strat does a very decent job capturing the sound of an original, the “feel” doesn’t really come close. Sure, the neck shape is similar, but no, you don’t get that nicely worn down finish. This is where Fender’s Relic guitars come in, or something like the Nash Strats, since they are pre-worn-in as it were.

    A nice guitar all around, and certainly a great buy in this price range, but you’ll get a lot more of the feel of a true ’60s Strat if you go with the American Vintage ’62 (about $1500,) or one of the Relics.

  6. Stratoblogster Says:

    This would be the perfect guitar to relic yourself. Consider that if you found one of these models on the lighter weight side, with decent tone and body resonance, how much more alive it would be without it’s finish.

    I reviewed that very scenario (but didn’t tag it, so can’t find the link…). Anyway, the guy had a favorite Strat with a thick poly finish and wanted a natural finish, so he stripped it down (tough job alright). But he really ended up raving about the tone because he significantly un-dampened the body resonance. Said it really came alive.

    So if you can get past the idea of peeling a brand new Strat you just dropped a G for– or can convince your spouse why it’s a good idea, this would be a worthwhile tone chaser’s investment/project. Just consider it, “unfinished” when you buy it– and you simply need to “finish” the product, by removing the finish (LOL). Ya can’t get to the orange unless you peel it.

  7. JBK37 Says:

    Apparently the new Classic players 50’s and 60’s Strats have a ‘thin skin’ Polyester finish. Does anyone know if this is different to normal polyester finish? Is it likely to wear a little like to the nitro finish…

  8. Cary Says:

    Hmm… can I ask where you heard that? I only ask because Fender’s website still lists standard Poly finishes for both of the Classic Player Strats, and I’ve never heard of a thin-skin Poly before.

    You never know though — a thin skin Poly might be quite a bit nicer than a traditional Poly, though Poly is like plastic, so it’s hard to imagne it wearing very nicely. Might help with the tone though : )

  9. JBK37 Says:

    it was a quote in Guitarist magazine – March issue, by senior Masterbulider Chris Fleming. No extra comments on benefits were given…

    this is link to article

  10. Cary Says:

    Cool… thanks for the link. I’ll check it out :)

  11. Rick Says:

    I played one of these yesterday at the Guitar Center in Lake Forrest and was really impressed. It had a baby blue “thin-skin” finish…shinier than Nitro but definitely not as thick as Poly. I think with a bit of self-relic’ing on the neck, this would be one great “beater” guitar. I think the neck is as good as my 2002 American Deluxe (minus the 22nd fret, ivory markers, and locking tuners). It’s the right C shape and nut width for my hands….some kid’s mom gave me the thumbs up as I played it clean through a Blues Deluxe…. I think she was tired of the speed Metal her kids were playing through the Marshall stacks! Regardless, I was really feelin it with this guitar.

    Interestingly enough, it was “on special” for $799 (I though that was the normal price)…I could probably talk my GC buddy into giving it to me for 10% off (which barely covers the tax in CA). If they sold these for under $600, I’d be first in line for one….heck if this guitar were simply American made, it would be worth over a grand. I think it looks, plays, and sounds better than the 2007 American Standard, VG, and Highway One.

    I think prefer this model over the 50’s model….which is also very nice, and aligns more with the Eric Johnson Model. I think the body is slight more comfortable sitting down.

    I just got my Relic Tele, so I’m all set for new instruments for now…. but you never know when I’ll be tempted with an impulse buy.

  12. John Says:


    Does it come with an adjustable rod? I can’t see that on the pictures.


  13. Cary Says:

    Hi John,

    Yes, the Classic Player ’60s Strat does indeed have an adjustable truss rod, though Fender doesn’t list it in their official specs.

  14. Fer Says:

    Hey! Greetings from Spain, (excuse my english ;)
    I have one of this -sonic blue!- since last week and i’m very very happy, i think your review is great and very helpful. The neck feels g-r-e-a-t for me, and the 12 radius superb -especially if you love bending around a la hendrix-. I love fender present this with 0.10 too.
    And the pick-ups… yes, single coil, hum… but “real”. I love humbuckers but i am impressed with these, really work with my tube amp, clean: frusciante, crunch channel plus tubescreamer and wah: hendrix screaming! Great.
    And yes, this guitar is apart from other mim or highway one.
    So, thanks Cary,
    Good job!

  15. George Thedford Says:

    Just two questions.Are the tuning keys locking in any way,and is the switch wired to the neck and bridge pickups instead of neck/middle standard five position style?Several web sites have repeatedly listed these as features of both 50’s and 60’s models.Thank you.

  16. Martin UK Says:

    Overall a pretty fair review but there are a few issues to add.The 1st really rattles me because it has never been mentioned in any review i’ve seen on this guitar.Why on earth did Fender choose that ridiculous string spacing? OK it may be great for those who constantly send the “E” strings off the side of the neck, but for the average fingers the strings are too close together,particularly if like me you have a number of Strats, it just feels Alien and you are plagued with more difficult chord fingering and extra string noise on bends not noticable with std string spacing.So heres what to do to make a good guitar a great one! 1. Footslog the dealers and find the best sounding instrument ( and no, it’s NOT always lightest ones, remember those wise words from Hank i.e Not all vintage guitars are good, it had to be good in the first place!) guitars are like people, no two are the same, even mass produced ones.2.If like me you unhappy with the string spacing you can improvise by taking a small 3 corner file to fashion a tiny “V” near the edge of the saddles, after you’ve decided the preferred position of course.Now you have close to std spacing without going to the expense of a new vintage bridge.3.Replace those crap Ping kluson look-a-like tuners (which are so loose they virtually turn in the breeze! ) and fit some decent tight Gotoh/klusons easily available on the net.4. Find yourself a ‘ 62 RI Pickguard shield, this completely stops all those shielding probs that everyone’s complaining of on these guitars.That done you will have one of the best production guitars from Fender in the last 2 decades and for my money it cannot be beaten, I have a great collection of Strats, including a July ‘ 03 Knopfler sig, ‘ 06 Knopfler sig and a Custom shop
    ‘ 54 and many others, mostly in Nitro but this guitar can be ranked along side them ——- it’s that good.I will finish by saying my piece about the Poly v Nitro thing.I personally think it’s complete bollocks! I’m 58 yrs old and owned 100s of strats, it’s all down to the grain in the wood, that’s the body, neck and fingerboard, it would’nt matter if they were covered in blackboard paint and that’s why no two guitars sound the same, just listen to the Luthier on the “Strat Masters” DVD I actually think that the tone of my Sonic blue “poly” Classic Player is as good as my ‘ 06 Knopfler “Nitro” sig, just lacks the volume of the Texas Specials ——— arguably Fenders best ever Pickups.Merry Christmas to all.

  17. Cary Says:

    Thanks for your in-depth review Martin… we’ll have to agree to disagree on the Poly vs Nitro issue, but hey, that’s what freedom’s all about.

    Merry Christmas!

  18. StratoStrutter Says:

    Yeah man… got this beauty a while ago, sings like an angel and its easy on tha eyes ya know? (Sonic blue)

    nice review

  19. RON HANKS Says:

    Hi CARY, i have really enjoyed your column it has been very enlightening to say the least! I would like your opinion or anyone else who cares to comment, after much reading of various reviews on this guitar ”60’s classic player strat” i went ahead and bid on one on ebay and got a ”2006 sonic blue ” for $616.00 .My questions are;is this a reasonable price,is it true 06′ was the last year these pickups were wound by ABIGAIL as the description on ebay stated, and finally i tried out all kinds of STRATS at GUITAR CENTER[[boy did they have a lousy selection,and they really pushed the new 08′ AMERICAN STANDARD ] BUT THE ONLY NECK THAT I REALLY LIKED WAS THE ONE ON THE 07’? ”DELUXE PLAYER STRAT” is the ”classic player” neck close to this neck in feel?? ANY COMMENTS WOULD BE HIGHLY APPRECIATED, THANK YOU.

  20. Electrix69 Says:

    “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.”

    Sorry dude, but just I LOVE polyester finishes on Strats. What I do dislike (VERY much so) are the satin finishes on the back of the necks that are offered on many Stratocasters.



  21. fretfreak76 Says:

    Yes i agree on both topics but; i just can’t really afford the higher priced nitro-cel finished guitars!! I do have this very inexpensive gittar called the ”BADWATER” by AXL GUITARS, I HAVE THE WOODGRAIN BODY WITH A ROSEWOOD FRETBOARD,VERY NICE NECK AND PRETTY GOOD OVERALL INSTRUMENT FOR A WHOLE $140. BUT i do like the retro-style of the ”CLASSIC PLAYER 60’S STRAT!!

  22. Tim Says:

    I think this review is fine except it’s a bit biased against the ‘classic series 60’s model’. The classic series are not a cheaper , lower grade model. They are what they are….an attempt to reproduce the Stratocaster as Leo Fender originally designed them. The pickups aren’t cheaper they are like the originals. The wood and the fittings are not cheaper ..they are close to the originals. In Europe, they are the same price as the classic players. I’d be tempted by this Classic player 60’s only I’m not keen on the 12′ radius fretboard. Yes, it works but it’s not as comfortable as a curved fretboard. Yes, the older necks can cause a problem with choking but this can be overcome…after all Hendrix/Trower had no problems bending and neither does Brian May on his signature model guitar which also has a 7.25 radius neck….And as for nitro versus polyurethane….I’m not convinced that most guitarists could really tell the difference sound wise. I prefer the look of nitro…especially how it ages , how it yellows and the fine cracking that can appear),and I think it looks great reliced without a clear coat but I don’t think it’s a must for sound.

  23. Geo Says:

    The Classic Player 60’s Strat is a great guitar imo and I compared it to the usa deluxe and played both side by side. I rate the CP60 a better guitar all-round. The pups sound very Jimi-like…’Rory even. Colour is awesome…’sonic blue rules! :) Feels like a true 60’s strat and there’s none better whether it’s usa, mim or jap. The flatter neck radius is cool and comfy too (surprisingly)…’really nice to bend on and chording is no probs. The only thing that might put individuals off is the neck profile as it’s a fairly chunky ‘c’ and not to everyone’s taste. That said, it’s not just as big as the vintage ’62, but certainly bigger than a standard or deluxe strat. You can get used to it, but even if you bought this guitar and swapped the neck (ebay?), you’d still save a fortune compared to buying say a deluxe or CS model. Make no mistake, this is a class instrument and one of Fender’s finest to date. You can’t get better than this…’at any price. I simply love my new Classic Player 60’s Stratocaster…’it goes well with my CIJ ’57 RI! Fender just raised the bar! Well done guys.

  24. shimmilou Says:

    As far as a “Nitro” vs “Poly” finish is concerned, ALL guitars produced by Fender since 1963 have a “Poly” base coat beneath the finish, including the ones with a “Nitro” finish and custom shop guitars. So, in fact, even the “Nitro” finish guitars will not “breathe” any differently than a “Poly” finish because they are all “Poly” underneath. This undercoat is actually called “Fullerplast” and was developed by Fender after experimenting with a few different types of base coats.
    While it is true that the American made versions are typically better instruments, the fact that they have a “Poly” base coat to seal the wood, kind of makes the “Nitro” finish practically worthless except for looks. The “Thin Skin” guitars that Fender refers to have “thinner” base coats, which is still “Poly”, under the final finish.
    You may find this info hard to verify on the web, so the only way to convince anyone for sure may be to use a substance that will remove “Nitro” but not “Poly” and see for yourself. Maybe try it under the pick guard or trem cavity so it will be unnoticeable.
    Gee, Stevie Ray Vaughan, Eric Clapton, Eric Johnson, Robert Cray, Buddy Guy and many other high end strats are all “Poly” finishes, and I don’t remember them asking Fender for “Nitro” finishes. There are many other more important considerations when buying a guitar, the type of finish, considering the facts, should be at the bottom of the list…..unless you are talking pre-1963, then you have something….namely a true “Nitro” finish, which is one reason the pre-cbs instruments are so highly sought after. :)

  25. Pete Says:

    Hi Cary. I was hoping you might be able to offer me some advice. I bought one of these guitars about a week ago from an online retailer (largely on the strength of this review!) & i’m having some tuning issues. I do a lot of string bending, but after just a few mins of playing, the guitar goes way out of tune, particularly the b & g strings. They are going sharp, which i, & a few friends i have mentioned it to, find quite unusual. I don’t use the tremolo arm at all, it isn’t even screwed in, but i can cause the strings to vibrate by tapping on the back of the bridge, which sits about 2mm off the body. Is this normal?
    According to your review, the guitar you played stayed in tune quite well. What do you think could be the problem with mine? I haven’t changed the strings yet, but i have stretched them & re-tuned several times. I’ve played it for several hours now too.. Any ideas? I really don’t want to return it, as, apart from this one absolutely massive problem, i’m very happy with it. I’d really appreciate any advice.

    Kind regards

  26. shimmilou Says:

    Hi Pete,
    Some advice from Fender’s website:

    “Lubricating all of the contact points of a string’s travel may be one of the most important elements in ensuring tuning stability during tremolo use and in reducing string breakage”. This includes the string trees, nut and bridge saddles. Fenders website details every aspect of the guitar setup.

    Sometimes the Mexican Strats, even though new, still need to be properly setup before use, usually minor adjustments are all that are needed (I have even had to replace the nut due to irregular string spacing). Just make sure it’s setup properly and lubed and it should work very well.

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