The Fender Stratocaster ranks among the most recognizable designs for electric guitars. Legendary guitarists like Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Yngwie Malmsteen are all associated with the strat. Such is the popularity of this guitar, it doesn’t take long to encounter one of the many imitations on the market.
A Short Squier History
In 1965, Fender bought the Squier brand, then seventeen years later it began to use this brand to manufacture affordable Telecaster and Stratocaster guitars. Squier subsequently came to be known as a low cost substitute for a ‘real’ Fender Stratocaster. Squier Strats come in a range of models and each model has different features. Let’s take a closer look at the Squier Bullet and the Squier Affinity to definitively answer the question are Squier Strats any good?
As the cheapest model offered by the Fender and Squier brands, the Squier Bullet is intended for novice guitarists. Often, it is sold in a beginner’s kit for a budget price. This guitar is a nice option for parents who want to buy their children their first guitar.
Conventional wisdom states that you should purchase the highest quality guitar within your budget. Nonetheless, the Squier Bullet is a recommended option for parents who don’t know whether their children will lose interest in guitar playing. Purchasing this instrument and a practice amplifier is a lower financial risk, compared to purchasing a costly guitar that might be discarded a few months down the line.
The Squier Bullet has ceramic pickups and a basswood body. These features lower the manufacturing costs and keep the purchase price affordable. The tremolo on this instrument is a decorative feature essentially. Budget guitars, such as the Squier Bullet, do not have stable tuning — so even moderate use of the tremolo is typically sufficient to wreck the guitar’s tuning. Novice players should not need to use the tremolo, so this will not affect someone just getting started. If you want to learn the guitar but have limited funds, the Squier Bullet could be a good choice. Notwithstanding, if you have played before, you might opt to pay more for the Squier Affinity.
Although it is billed as a low cost guitar, the Squier Affinity still showcases the unmistakable sleek appearance of a Stratocaster. It has the identical dual cutaway shape you would see on an instrument with a five figure price tag. It sports an alder body with several color options, such as Olympic White and Montego Black. Each of these has a high gloss finish, along with a platinum sparkle single ply pickguard. Further up the guitar a traditional approach is taken, with a rosewood fretboard and C shaped maple neck. The fretboard has dot inlays and twenty-one medium jumbo frets. The big sixties style headstock sits above this, displaying the Squier name. It is an attractive, comfortable and playable model, and – for less than $200 — that’s more than enough.
The neck and middle positions on the Squier Affinity are fitted with a normal single coil pickup. Nonetheless, the bridge departs from convention and provides a humbucker. In comparison to a single coil, this is excellent for metal and rock styles. The controls are straightforward, with a volume controller and five way pickup switch, along with tone controls for the neck and middle single coils.
The rest of the hardware is quite standard, as is to be expected on a budget guitar. However, it still works perfectly well. There is a vintage six saddle tremolo bridge with a supplementary whammy bar, and the headstock sports a selection of chrome buttons and tuning machines made from sealed chrome.
Of course, at the end of the day, the sound is what is important. And the sound will not knock your socks off with the tone, due to the basic pickups. Having said that, this guitar lends itself well to many musical styles, thanks to its five way switching system. The humbucker produces beefy distorted tones and the single coils are crisp and clear. This is exactly what you want if you are in a rock band or metal band.
The sound of Squier Strats can be improved via a number of methods. The best method is to use upgraded pickups, because they affect the tone more than anything else. The amount you paid for your instrument will determine the quality of its pickups. Swapping cheaper pickups for pickups of superior quality will enhance your tone considerably.
Overall, for such a low price point, the Squier Strat is an impressive piece of equipment. It suits guitarists who want to play aggressively, while at the same time offering a timeless style and comfortable experience. In particular, for jamming and practice sessions, this guitar comes with the highest recommendation.