Finance

This $350 Fender guitar might just be the best value in the entire music market

Say hello to the Classic Vibe ’70s Stratocaster HSS, in walnut with an Indian laurel fretboard.

Squier Strat

Matthew DeBord/BI

The appealing idea behind the Classic Vibe Squier line is that some players want period-emulating guitars at a price that’s substantially lower than what one would pay for either a vintage instrument or a Fender custom order.

The CVs are made in Indonesia, and the components, while generally excellent, aren’t quite as stout or refined as what you’d find on Mexico-made guitars or the axes that come from Fender’s Fullerton, CA factory. They are, however, wonderful beater instruments that you could happily flog at any grungy bar where you band is playing, free from the worry that someone might steal your baby or that the a $3,000 guitar with Fender script on the headstock could be knocked over and damaged.

I used my Marshall 50-watt, solid-state, two-channel amp to test the CV Strat, and the results were generally quite pleasing. The output from the bridge humbucker wasn’t quite as gritty or roaring as what I get from my own Strat, but the middle and all-important neck pickups had a smoother tone than what I can wring from my 30-year-old single-coils. I also ran the CV Strat through an Orange head and cabinet, as well as Vox modeling amp, and again, I was able to craft some tasty sounds. I have a small Fender practice amp, as well, but the CV Strat didn’t like it as much. I took that as a positive sign. This guitar wants a real Fender unit — perhaps a Blues Junior. That’s a fantastic, $600 amp (new) that paired with the Squier would give you a smashing rig for less than $1,000.

What really made CV Squiers stand out for me is their wonderful playing feel. Feel is a personal thing, but if a guitar doesn’t have it — well, it matters little if the price tag is in the thousands. It used to be that budget guitars felt cheap, but that’s no longer the case. My opinion is that CV Squiers feel superior to some of Fender’s Mexico-made guitars, although the build-quality on the so-called “MIM” instruments is noticeably better.

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