Without a doubt, the Fender Stratocaster is the world’s prettiest, sexiest, and most popular electric axe. Rock legends and masters of the riff use a Strat to deliver electrifying performances that get the crowd on their feet, sending a sonic boom across the stadium.
It would be impossible to imagine Eric Clapton, Rory Gallagher, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Blackmore, and Jeff Beck on stage without straddling a Strat.
Fender introduced several improvements and modifications to its Stratocaster line through the years. Two of the most intriguing models the company ever produced are the Stratocaster HSS and Stratocaster SSS. Which is better?
Fender Stratocaster SSS
True to its original design, the Fender Stratocaster SSS is every rock artist’s favorite musical instrument for wowing the crowd. It has three single-coil pickups that give the guitar its classic twangy, steely, and high-pitched tone the music-loving world loves.
Fender Stratocaster HSS
The Fender Stratocaster HSS is a Strat variant that heavy metal artists and rock legends use to deliver more electrifying guitar riffs. The guitar features a humbucker pickup system, mated to two single-coil pickups that give it a more dynamic, rich, deep, and smooth sound.
The most obvious difference between the Fender Stratocaster HSS and Stratocaster SSS is their pickup configuration. After all, this is what the HSS or SSS stands for.
The original Strat features three single-coil pickups, one on the bridge and two on the guitar body. These pickups produce a bright sound, giving the Strat its characteristic twangy tone that country performers, rock legends, and folk musicians love. It has a distinct steely, high-pitched acoustic signature that lends well to funk, blues, alt-rock, classic rock, shoegaze, country, and jangle-pop music.
The Strat SSS has three of these single-coil pickups, producing the characteristic sound everyone loves about the electric guitar. Unfortunately, it also tends to pick up acoustic interferences and noise that can potentially undermine the guitar’s overall tonal quality.
The Strat HSS addresses this concern by replacing the bridge single-coil pickup with a humbucker. That is why Fender labeled it “HSS” to denote its humbucker (H), single-coil (S), and single-coil (S) pickup arrangement.
Fender added the humbucker to the bridge to cancel interferences and noise. Even when a guitarist dials the guitar at its high-gain settings, the noise will still be barely noticeable.
The HSS’s unique pickup arrangement and design give it a smoother, louder, and deeper sound than the Strat SSS. One can produce muddy and dark tones, empowering guitarists to perform heavy riffing. The dynamic tones are also more even.
The Stratocaster HSS is perfect for nailing heavy metal riffs and executing hard rock solos. However, blues, jazz, and blues-rock musicians also favor the HSS over the SSS because of its dynamic tones. Whenever a guitarist needs mellower or smoother tones with a weaker attack without the pronounced mids, the Strat HSS more than delivers.
Since the HSS and SSS are essentially the same guitars with a different pickup design and arrangement, they have similar body composition. Both electric guitars come with an Alder tonewood that gives the instrument a snappy bite. However, because of the humbucker addition to the HSS, one can expect the sound quality to be more profound.
The Strat HSS and SSS also have the classic ear or upper horn of the 1950s Stratocaster. It is a trademark that instantly differentiates the axe from other Fender models.
The sleek styling of the Stratocaster is evident in both the HSS and SSS models. The soft curves lend to extended playing times, allowing newbie guitarists to master the basics without feeling uncomfortable or edgy. Performing ear-splitting and hair-raising riffs is also easy because of the exceptional playing characteristics of both guitars.
The Stratocaster HSS and Stratocaster SSS are phenomenal electric guitars, delivering a sound quality very few other brands can provide.
However, the HSS’s addition of a humbucker gives it a more dynamic tonal quality, empowering heavy metal artists and rock musicians the ability to perform more electrifying guitar riffs. It produces a deeper, smoother, and louder sound without errant noise to ruin the piece.
On the other hand, the Strat SSS is perfect for those who want the classic sounds of a Fender electric guitar with enough oomph to wow the crowd.
Also Read: Best Electric Guitar for Beginners