Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links.New for 2019, the Player series replaces the older Standard series and is the next big thing in Fender’s guitar lineup. The Fender Player Stratocaster redefines what’s possible from a mid-range guitar. With its updated hardware, modern design, and vintage inspiration, you don’t have to make any compromises! Choose from SSS, HSS, or HSH pickup configurations and get the versatility to play anything from jazz to heavy metal. The new two-point tremolo lets you play with more feeling and expression. A selection of 7 traditional and modern finishes means you can easily find a Strat that fits your style. With its mid-range pricing, the Fender Player Strat won’t break the bank either! This is the perfect guitar for beginner and intermediate guitarists.
Table of Contents
Features of the Fender Player Stratocaster
- Alder body with gloss finish
- Choice of SSS, HSS, or HSH pickup configurations
- “Modern C”-shaped neck profile
- 9.5″-radius fingerboard
- 2-point tremolo bridge with bent-steel saddles
- 22 frets
Even from afar, you can tell that this is a Fender Stratocaster. The Player Stratocaster comes in multiple finishes from red to yellow to black and more! On a few finishes, you can choose from a Maple or a Pau Ferro fretboard (for a slight premium). What’s the difference? Maple is lighter in appearance and somewhat brighter in sound, while Pau Ferro is a bit darker in both appearance and tone. Check out this video comparison between a Pau Ferro fretboard and a Maple fretboard to get a better idea of how they can affect your tone. If you still can’t tell the difference, then don’t worry! Just pick the one that you think looks better, or save some money and go with tried-and-true Maple!
You may occasionally come across a Strat with some finishing mistakes or poor wood grain. If you’re shipped a guitar with these blemishes, you can always exchange for one that’s spotless. Thanks to Fender’s quality control, blemished guitars aren’t super common, so this should be a rare occurrence.
Regardless of the finish you choose, each Player Strat will have similar hardware: a white pickguard, white pickups, and a chrome bridge and jack.
Feel and Quality
The guitars in the Fender Player series replace the Standard Stratocaster series, commonly known as ‘Mexican Strats’ or ‘Made in Mexico (MIM)’ Strats. This is because they were made in Fender’s factory in Mexico. The Player series is still made in Mexico, but it has been upgraded with newer pickups, bridge, and some more details that we’ll touch on below. While you won’t confuse a Player Stratocaster with a legendary Custom Shop, they are still much higher quality than the Chinese-made Squier series. Better bodies, necks, and hardware are all extremely noticeable upgrades and well-worth the price difference.
The body of the Fender Player Stratocaster is made of alder. Alder is a lightweight wood that imparts sustain and sharp attack to your tone. It’s a fairly balanced wood that accentuates the mid-range, which is great for all styles of music. You’ll enjoy the clarity that alder gives your solos. It makes every note you play stand out so that your music is precise and articulate.
The scale length (distance between nut and bridge) of this guitar is 25.5″ – very common for Strat-type guitars. No matter if you’ve played more expensive American-made Strats or cheaper Squier Strats, the Player Stratocaster will still feel very familiar.
The neck of the Player Strat is a modern ‘C’ shape. It’s very comfortable to hold no matter what size your hands are. The back of the neck is satin-finished so it’s smooth, slick, and easy to play. Compared to a glossy neck, a satin neck makes you much less prone to ‘snags’ when sliding up and down the neck. This means you’ll have no problem accessing any of the 22 medium jumbo frets. That’s right: 22 frets! The Player series has an extra fret compared the old Standard Strat for even more range.
This is a real-deal Fender Strat, so obviously the neck is bolted-on. This gives the guitar the ‘twang’ that Strats are famous for! The radius of the neck is a modern 9.5″, which makes it quite easy to play both chords and solos. This radius is found on nearly two-thirds of all Fender guitars, so you’ll feel right at home if you ever decide to pick up and play a Telecaster or Jaguar.
Fender has been busy upgrading their pickups for the Player Stratocaster and it really shows! Compared to the Standard Stratocaster series that it replaces, the Player Strat’s pickups are much better. You have three choices of pickup configurations:
- SSS: single-coil pickups in the bridge, middle, and neck – great for blues, jazz, and classic rock
- HSS: A humbucker in the bridge and two single-coils in the middle/neck- an extremely versatile configuration great for all types of music
- HSH: A humbucker in the bridge and neck, with a single-coil in the middle – great for rock and high-gain music
The humbuckers have been newly designed with Alnico 2 magnets for extra warmth and clarity. The single-coils have been upgraded with Alnico 5 magnets for extra bite, while still retaining that legendary Fender sparkle. These are the same type of magnets used on early Stratocasters from the 1950s, so you still get classic tones, but with a more modern flavor.
Stratocasters are well-known for their high-quality tremolo bridges. Unlike the cheaper Squier Strat and the Standard Strat that it replaces, the Player Stratocaster comes with the same 2-point tremolo bridge used on the American series of guitars! These bridges are steel, not the softer zinc, so they’re super durable and extremely stable. The saddles are also bent-steel rather than cast metal, so they’re extremely smooth and create less string friction. Less friction means your guitar stays in tune better! While the Fender tremolo doesn’t have the range of a Floyd Rose, it’s an indispensable tool for adding more emotion to your playing.
The tuners on this guitar are pretty good die-cast machines. While these aren’t locking tuners, they will keep your guitar tuned up well. As long as you keep the synthetic bone nut and string trees well-lubricated, the Player Stratocaster won’t have any trouble staying in tune. Thanks to the upgraded tremolo bridge, tuning shouldn’t be an issue!
Knobs and Switches
Just like on most other Stratocasters, there is a single master volume knob and two tone knobs. However, unlike the older Standard Stratocasters, the Fender Player series has a bridge tone control! That means one tone knob controls the bridge pickup and another controls both the middle/neck positions. With the older Standard Strats, there were no tonal controls for the bridge pickup! Now, with the forward-thinking Player Series, you can get even more versatile sounds from your bridge and middle/neck pickups!
Also on the Fender Player Stratocaster is a 5-way pickup switch that’s extremely common on Strat-type guitars. It’s a very flexible switch, allowing you to choose just the bridge pickup, just the neck pickup, or a few combinations of the bridge/middle/neck pickups.
Strings and Accessories
Out-of-the-box, the Fender Player Stratocaster comes installed with a set of light 9-42 gauge strings. If you want to change to a higher gauge string set, take the guitar into your local guitar shop! Tremolo bridges are tricky, so it’s worth getting it set up right if you want to use a higher gauge. If you’re not sure why you’d need higher gauge strings, check out our String guide!
Sadly, this guitar doesn’t come with any accessories or a case. If you’re looking for a good case, you can buy an official Fender Deluxe case that will fit your guitar perfectly and prolong its life.
The Player Stratocaster can comfortably play any type of music. If you’re a hard rock or metal player, then the HSS or HSH configurations will get you thick humbucker tones for strong rhythms and solos. If you’re more of a blues or classic rocker, then the SSS configuration will get you anything from the Beatles to Jimi Hendrix-type sounds. As you can tell, versatility is the name of the game thanks to the tremolo bridge and multiple pickup configuration options. The classic-inspired tones of the newly designed pickups fit perfectly in both modern and vintage music. Check out this video demo to hear the full range of the Fender Player Strat:
The Fender Player’s predecessor, the Standard Stratocaster is highly praised. The Player Stratocaster continues to carry that mantle! On Reddit, the guitar is well-liked and admired. Good setup and action, easy playability, and overall value are recurring themes in all reviews. However, while the guitar isn’t perfect, it provides great bang-for-your-buck. Some posters have come across minor quality control issues like finishing blemishes, but overall, these reports are in the minority.
One thing to note from the Amazon reviews is that the neck has a slightly uncomfortable edge. If you have small hands, this is something to be wary of. This isn’t really fixable unless you modify the guitar itself, so be aware of this shortcoming. To get a more rounded off neck, you need to upgrade to the more expensive American-made Fenders. Not ideal, but that’s a fact of life with these mid-range guitars.
It’s not easy to improve on one the most beloved and well-regarded guitars in history, but somehow, Fender has done it! The Fender Player Stratocaster is a great improvement on the Standard Stratocaster and manages to be an even better guitar than its predecessor. If you want a real Fender Strat without spending thousands, you can’t go wrong with the Player series.