We took a quick prospective look at the Fender Standard Stratocaster Plus Top when it was announced at NAMM earlier this year, but now we’ve seen a few of them, we thought it was about time we spent some quality time with them and found out how the feel and how they sound…
Stratocaster Plus Top-Drawer!
I know we mentioned this in our previous post, but the stock images from Fender really don’t do the Stratocaster Plus Top justice. They really do look very pretty and, so far, the flame veneer of all of the guitars we’ve seen looks much nicer than the stock photos.
Both the aged cherry burst (maple ‘board) and tobacco sunburst (rosewood ‘board) finishes are attractively done, with the tobacco sunburst finish not being as dark as a regular Fender 3-colour sunburst, and the aged cherry burst not being too ‘thickly finished’ and bright. They still look like shiny, new guitars, but chances are you won’t find any problems with the polyester finish.
The rosewood fingerboard is maybe not the darkest wood that you will find, but the grain is tight and the strings don’t catch or dig in when you perform bends. As you would expect, the maple ‘boards are as tight and snappy as you’ll find on any Fender, with the fret finishing and the more sympathetic treatment of the neck -finished in a satin urethane- making this a nice instrument to move your hands about.
Bite and quack from the Stratocaster Plus Top
While they might look pretty and feel good in your hands, if they don’t sound right, then it doesn’t really matter, does it? No problems here. We used both maple and rosewood board versions of the SSS instrument, so we can have another review when we get an HSS version, huzzah!
Plugged into the Fender Excelsior Pawn Shop amp, and with no reverb or distortion to hide behind, this is a quacky, snappy-sounding guitar. Being more abrasive with your pick attack gives you a lot of bite.
Plugging into a Fender Blues Junior, we spent a happy time ‘objectively researching’ (absolutely not just having fun and playing about) with various combinations of pickups, control knob positions and with the amp controls. As befits my own tastes, I was happiest with a nice bluesy crunch, which cleaned up a bit with the guitar’s volume control. My Strat favourite is still the neck and middle pickups together, with a bit of boost on the amp’s bass knob and the treble dialled back a little.
One criticism of this guitar, and this is 1- my personal taste and 2- applies to other Standard Stratocasters, is that the bridge pickup on its own is perhaps a bit too bright and needs some treble taken off either at the amp of with an eq pedal. So, it’s not a deal breaker, and it may not even be a problem for you. Put this in a band situation though, and that bridge pup should really cut through the mix!
Summing up the Plus Top Strat
It’s difficult to try and predict reactions to a Strat like this. Some people will love the flame-top finish, others may think that flame-tops are for Les Pauls, and that Fenders should be a bit more ‘blue-collar’ than that. Once you get past the finish though, there is nothing here that isn’t in keeping with the feel and sound of a Standard Strat. All the tones you want can still be found inside, it’s just a question of how pretty you want to look doing it…
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