I can understand why many guitarists want a Stratocaster guitar.
Not only did this 1950s Fender creation revolutionize the way we create music using a six-string musical instrument.
It has also become synonymous with electric guitar.
Ask anyone how they picture an electric ax, and nine of ten people will describe the classic Strat shape and sound.
More than half a century later, the Stratocasters still demand loyalty from their users, with some legendary artists parting ways with their iconic Strats for millions of dollars at auctions.
If you would like to have a Strat, too, this article is perfect for you.
I reviewed ten of the best Fender Stratocaster guitars on the market to give you a glimpse of how they play, their features, and their potential downsides.
Of the ten Strats in this article, the Fender Player Stratocaster earned my nod as the best overall.
It has the classic look and tone of a Strat but at a friendlier price for beginners and intermediate players.
You might also want to check the other nine Strats I reviewed because they are the best in their respective categories.
Let us start.
The Best Fender Stratocaster Guitars
- Fender Player Stratocaster – Best Overall Fender Stratocaster
- Fender American Original ‘60s Stratocaster – Best Premium Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster – Best Budget Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Vintera Road Worn ‘50s Stratocaster – Best Value Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Player Plus Stratocaster Electric Guitar – Best Gig-ready Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster – Best Fender Stratocaster for Blues Rock
- Fender American Professional II Stratocaster – Best Fender Stratocaster for Modern Rockers
- Fender American Ultra Stratocaster – Best High-performance Fender Stratocaster
- Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster – Best Fender Stratocaster for Rock Legends
- Fender American Performer Stratocaster – Best Fender Stratocaster for Pop Artists
The Fender Player Stratocaster has everything aspiring rock stars need in an iconic electric axe, including a classic silhouette, a legendary tone, and modern appointments at a reasonable price.
Not only is this Strat an excellent choice for beginner guitarists and intermediate players.
Seasoned guitar players can also benefit from the Player’s iconic 1950s look and tone.
This Strat has a C-shaped maple neck with a 9.5-inch radius. 1.65-inch nut width and 22 medium-jumbo frets on a maple fretboard for exceptional playability.
The body features alder tonewood, giving the Player Strat outstanding sustain, resonance, and brightness.
Its synchronized tremolo and Fender standard-cast tuners add to the guitar’s crisp and bright tone, perfect for sharp attacks, lead playing, and bending.
It has three Alnico V single-coil pickups to recreate Strat’s vintage tone, enabling guitarists to play rock, blues, jazz, funk, country, and other music genres.
The Fender Player Stratocaster proves that good sound does not always come with a hefty price tag.
- Classic 1950s Strat look
- Vintage tone and vibe with contemporary appointments
- Fast-playing neck
- Good tonal versatility
- Great value
- No gig bag
If you need a guitar that delivers a one-of-a-kind Strat-playing experience, get ready for the Fender American Original ‘60s Stratocaster.
This Strat has the classic look of a 1965 Stratocaster but with more modern vintage-inspired elements.
I understand why Fender chose to replace the 1960s’ components with more contemporary ones.
However, everything is good because the modern implements recreate the sound of a vintage Strat to the tee.
It has an alder body covered with nitrocellulose lacquer, bringing out the tonewood’s natural resonance and tonal characteristics while giving the Strat its mirror-like aesthetics.
There are three Pure Vintage ’65 single-coil pickups, 5-way switching, Kluson-style tuners, rosewood fretboard, and a tremolo bridge.
The sound is clear, crisp, bright, and twangy, just the way the gods of 1960s rock want in a guitar.
Its build quality is spot-on, giving anyone a guitar they can play for many decades.
- Vintage-inspired appointments with great tone
- Classic look, incredible sound
- Good resonance and endless sustain
- Fast and comfortable neck
- Exceptional build quality
- Some people find the string action higher than they like
Squier is a Fender subsidiary the latter acquired in 1965, becoming Fender’s arm for producing budget-friendly guitars (similar to the Gibson-Epiphone relationship).
The Fender Squier Affinity Series Stratocaster has everything a beginner guitarist needs to start playing a Strat without its hefty price tag.
It produces clear, warm, and bright tones and good sustain because of the guitar’s poplar body and Indian laurel fretboard on a bolt-on maple neck.
Interestingly, the Squier Affinity Strat has an HSS pickup configuration typical of the American Ultra HSS Stratocaster.
The addition of a humbucker improves this guitar’s high-frequency, high-gain performance.
It has an admirable build quality and a comfortable neck following the classic Fender C shape.
Guitarists do not need to spend a fortune on an electric axe that looks, feels, and sounds like a classic Strat.
- Great for beginners
- Good for high-gain, high-output tweaks
- Comfortable and fast-playing neck
- Bright, clear, and warm tones
- Good build quality
- Sounds a little bit different from a classic Strat
The Fender Vintera Road Worn ‘50s Stratocaster is for guitarists who want a piece of history.
With its elegant relic’d finish, classic Strat look, exceptional craftsmanship, and 1950s-inspired contemporary appointments, this Stratocaster is worth having in anyone’s collection.
It features Hot Strat vintage-style ‘50s single-coil pickups, vintage-style 6-saddle synchronized tremolo, and vintage-style tuners for a tone distinctively 1950s – the Stratocaster’s golden era.
While the elements have a vintage look, their performance and quality are perfect for 21st-century rock stars.
It has the classic Strat voice – bell-like, glassy, exceptional clarity, and bright – few electric guitars can match.
The alder solid-body gives the guitar its iconic tone, clarity, and resonance, while the neck and string action combine to produce exceptional sustain.
Unsurprisingly, this Strat offers the best value for a guitarist’s money.
- Balanced and bright tone with classic Strat voice
- 1950s vintage look
- Classic-inspired modern appointments
- Rock-solid hardware and electronics
- Exceptional craftsmanship
- Some people might prefer a C-shaped neck
If you think the Fender Player Stratocaster is a phenomenal electric axe for everyone, you must check out the Fender Player Plus Strat.
You can think of it as the Fender Player but with seriously improved aesthetics and single-coil pickups, making it the favorite of guitarists who wants to go straight to the gig from the office.
This Strat has three Player Plus single-coil pickups that deliver a hard-hitting, noiseless tone with incredible clarity and exceptional sustain.
The pickup trio pumps out rich, punchy, spanky, and twangy tones reminiscent of 1960s Strat voice, enabling performers to transport their audience to rock and roll’s golden era.
The tremolo is as expressive as the classic Strat, while the neck and rolled fingerboard edges lend outstanding playability.
You can play this Strat for hours and never complain.
- Good articulation, sustain, and tonal clarity
- Classic 1960s quacky, spanky, and twangy tone
- Expressive tremolo
- Elegant styling and finish
- Comfortable playing
- Electronics require a bit of mastery
Although CBS-era Strats lost their appeal, post-CBS Stratocasters reclaimed their throne in the guitar kingdom.
Legendary artists began collaborating with Fender again, including blues-rock legend Stevie Ray Vaughan.
The Fender Stevie Ray Vaughan Stratocaster is the outcome of such a stellar collaboration, producing a guitar ready to mix it out with the big boys of blues, rock, and jazz.
This Strat comes with a trio of Texas Special single-coils and a 5-way switch that empowers guitarists to play red-hot blistering leads, classic Strat spank, and every voice in between.
The American vintage tuners, synchronized tremolo, and Pau Ferro rosewood fretboard
lend elegance to the SRV’s already-impressive aesthetics.
It has 21 tall and narrow frets, a 12-inch neck radius, and a 1.65-inch nut width for blistering attacks and comfortable playing.
This Strat already comes with a hardshell case, protecting it from the elements and ensuring you have a performance-ready guitar for the 22nd-century.
- Perfect for blues, rock, and jazz
- Premium-quality appointments
- Blistering Strat sound
- Fast-playing neck
- Timeless craftsmanship
- Design might not suit others
You do not have to be a fan of Batman (pun intended) to love the Fender American Professional II Stratocaster in stunning Dark Knight design.
It has the iconic Strat look, feel, vibe, and tone that modern rockers will love.
Like many post-CBS-era Fender Stratocasters, this American Stratocaster features a 5-way switch that empowers guitarists to play different tones with different V-Mod II pickup combinations.
It comes with a re-engineered tremolo bridge for extra sustain and expressive voice, just what a rock artist needs to attack chords and play blistering leads.
The deep C maple neck with a rosewood fretboard feels comfortable on the hands, ensuring extended playtimes.
It also has a contoured heel, perfect for blitzing at the upper registers.
This guitar captivates the audience with its awesome design and impresses audiophiles with its classic tone.
It also costs less than other electric guitars, making the Fender American Professional II Strat an exceptional buy.
- Multiple pickup combinations for tonal versatility
- Expressive voice and extra sustain
- Comfortable and playable neck
- Eye-catching design and finish
- Great value
- Beginners might have issues with the controls
The Fender American Ultra Stratocaster is the ultimate Strat for the rock star who demands high-performance musical instruments for unparalleled guitar playing.
This ultra-modern Strat features three Ultra Noiseless Strat pickups that pump out the iconic Strat tone without the annoying hum.
Complementing the Ultra Strat’s impressive pickups is the S-1 switch, ensuring effortless tonal control and versatility.
Fender ditched the traditional C-shaped neck for a more comfortable D-shape, complete with an Ultra Satin finish to help guitarists glide their hands and fingers like butter on the fretboard.
Sealed locking tuners, a synchronized tremolo, a bone nut, and rounded fretboard edges complete the Fender American Ultra Stratocaster’s notable features.
Although this Strat has ultra-modern appointments, it remains loyal to a classic Stratocaster’s voice and silhouette.
Guitarists who need a different sound can still use this guitar’s controls to meet exacting tonal demands.
- Premium-quality electronics and hardware
- Exceptional tonal versatility
- Extra-comfortable playing
- Classic Strat silhouette with an elegant finish
- Extraordinary build quality
- New in the market
The Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster is not the Blackie Strat the rock legend used in his heyday, but it has everything you need to feel and play like a rock star.
Everything about this Strat is vintage-inspired, from the 22 frets to the tuners, 5-way switch, and tremolo system.
Like many high-end Strats, the Eric Clapton comes with Vintage Noiseless single-coil pickups mated to the 5-way switch.
What makes this Strat different is the midrange boost that mimics the warmth and depth of a humbucker pickup, giving it exceptional tonal versatility.
True to Eric Clapton’s Strat preferences, this guitar also comes with a soft-V maple neck, complete with a smooth satin polyurethane finish and a 1.65-inch nut width.
This Stratocaster is perfect for aspiring rock artists, giving them the right tool that sounds great on stage as it does in the studio.
- Classic Stratocaster voice
- Vintage-inspired modern components
- Fast-playing neck
- Bright and crisp tone
- Midrange boost
- Quite expensive
Pop artists, blues players, and rock stars demand a guitar that delivers exceptional performance in studio settings and onstage.
The Fender American Performer Stratocaster fits the bill like a glove.
It features Fender’s revolutionary Greasebucket tone system that allows guitarists to cut treble without affecting gain or sacrificing the classic Strat tone.
You still get a bright, crisp, and clear tone, while empowering you to pump up the gain and electrify the crowd without the annoying buzz.
This Strat can churn out chunky grinds and glassy cleans at a flip of a switch and a twist of the knob.
There is no questioning its craftsmanship or build quality, either.
It has an alder body, a modern-C maple neck, 22 jumbo frets, maple fretboard, vintage-inspired synchronized tremolo, classic Fender tuners, and three Yosemite Strat single-coil pickups.
A Strat cannot get any better than this.
- Bright, clear, and crisp tone
- Greasebucket master tone
- Vintage-inspired contemporary appointments
- High-gain without affecting tone
- Stellar craftsmanship
- Not for beginners
Why Choose Fender Stratocasters?
We know Fender Stratocasters are a favorite of rock legends.
However, do you know why they choose a Fender Strat or whether you should, too?
The Electric Guitar
Ask anyone to draw a mental image of an electric guitar, and there is a good chance nine out of ten of them will sketch the classic Stratocaster silhouette.
That is how iconic this guitar is, and we have yet to talk about its legendary rock tone.
Pre-Stratocaster electric guitars were nothing more than acoustic guitars with electronic components.
Sure, the Telecaster has a different shape from the others, but it was too lame, too basic.
Enter Leo Fender and his team of seasoned guitar players, Freddie Tavares, Rex Gallion, and Bill Carson, and the world saw the birth of the Stratocaster in 1954.
However, it took the Strat several years to gain the respect of high-profile guitar players, including Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.
What made the Strat THE electric guitar are its groundbreaking shape and tonal versatility other electric guitars of the era could not deliver.
Fender Stratocasters redefined electric guitars by improving the musical instrument’s aesthetics, playing comfort, and unique voice, including a three-pickup system, a mainstay in today’s electric guitars.
It also introduced the tremolo bar or vibrato system (many call it the whammy bar), allowing players to add vibrato and alter pitch and opening the doors to new modes of expression and electric guitar playing.
Like many legends, the Strat has an enduring design, making it THE best electric guitar of all time.
Most Fender Stratocasters have a maple neck and fretboard, giving it a brighter, crisper, and snappier tone.
Its 25.5-inch scale length also adds to its thin and bright sound because of greater string tension.
If you factor in the Fender Strat’s single-coil pickup system, you get a thin and bright electric guitar tone with exceptional clarity.
You can add some distortion to the sound to give the Strat a classic rock tone, perfect for playing leads and sweet-sounding rhythms.
Unfortunately, missing the distortion sweet spot can produce a harsh sound.
Hence, Fender Stratocasters are not particularly suited for punk or metal unless players replace one of the pickups with a humbucker.
Fender Stratocasters have a thin, sparkly, bright, well-defined sound, perfect for rock, country, blues, jazz, pop, reggae, and funk music.
The Strat’s iconic rock tone makes it the favorite of legends, including Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, George Harrison, David Gilmore, John Mayer, Jeff Beck, Eric Johnson, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and more.
Comfort and Playability
One thing separating a Strat from a Les Paul is the double-cutaway design.
The Les Paul only has a lower cutaway, making it challenging for some players to wrap their thumb on the higher frets’ bass strings.
On the other hand, Fender Stratocasters have an upper cutaway to give the electric guitar its iconic asymmetrical horns.
Fender Stratocasters have a slim neck, perfect for guitarists with small hands.
They also have a C-shaped neck for easier and more comfortable barre chords fretting and horizontal leads playing.
The neck also features a 25.5-inch scale length, allowing Fender to put more space between frets – the perfect solution for guitarists who love playing solos and leads.
Fender Stratocasters also have a slimmer body than other electric guitars, such as the Gibson Les Paul.
They also have well-placed contours for a more pleasant and comfortable embrace and curved body corners for less forearm resting pressure.
Fender Stratocasters also weigh less than other electric guitar brands, allowing guitarists to play for hours.
Fender produces its American-made Stratocasters in Corona, California, while its Mexican branch is in Ensenada, Baja California.
Some Fender Stratocasters also come from Japan, with labels ‘Made in Japan’ (1982 to 1996 models by FujiGen Gakki) and ‘Crafted in Japan’ (post-1996 models by Dyna Gakki and Tokai Gakki).
Craftsmanship is excellent in all manufacturing facilities.
They only differ in the labor and production costs, particularly in the guitar components.
For example, most American-made Strats have ash tonewood, while Strats made outside the US have alder.
Ash provides an exceptional balance between warmth and brightness while imparting presence and articulation.
On the other hand, alder tonewood produces a balanced, resonant, and bright tone, emphasizing the upper midrange.
Alder also imparts a sharp attack and outstanding sustain.
Overall, you can rely on the expert craftsmanship of a Fender Stratocaster.
What is the most playable Stratocaster?
Fender Stratocasters are surprisingly playable because of their comfortable necks, narrow nut width, and low string action.
However, in my opinion, the Fender American Original ‘60s Stratocaster is the most playable Strat because of its 1.65-inch nut width, rosewood fingerboard, 9-5-inch neck radius, and thick C neck shape.
What is the best Stratocaster in 2021?
I consider the Fender Player Stratocaster the best Strat for 2021 because of its legendary design, exceptional tonal versatility, and all the classic Strat features at a price that never puts it to shame.
It has contemporary appointments in a classic body shape the world has come to love, plus excellent pickup position control for unparalleled performance.
What is the most sought-after Fender Stratocaster?
If you are looking for the most sought-after Fender Stratocaster, it would be best to stick to vintage models from 1954 to 1964.
A 1954 Strat in pristine condition can set you back for as much as $225,000, although the average selling price is $100,000.
A 1957 Strat is perfect for its sunburst look and thin maple necks, while a 1964 Strat showcased more color customizations without undermining its rich and full tone.
Unfortunately, CBS took control of Fender’s management in 1965, reducing its value to guitar lovers.
Still, some post-1965 Strats have a substantial value, mainly because of the rock legends who used them.
For example, David Gilmour’s legendary Black Strat holds the record for the most expensive guitar ever sold, costing the Indianapolis Colts owner Jim Irsay some $3.9 million in June 2019.
When a group of investors bought Fender from CBS in 1985, the Strat reclaimed its glory, prompting the company to produce reissues of its classic 1954 to 1964 models.
The Fender Player Stratocaster beats the other nine Strats in this list of the best Fender Stratocaster guitars.
It has the classic Strat silhouette and the legendary rock tone the world has come to love about this electric axe.
It is also more affordable than other Strats without sacrificing build quality, tonal versatility, and playability.
You can get the Fender Player Stratocaster from Sweetwater, Amazon, and other online music stores.
Get this Strat and start rocking your world.