The Big Shootout: Our Favorite Strat Copies

The Stratocaster, or “Strat” for short, is amongst the most iconic electric guitars in history, as well as the best-selling. It was originally designed and produced by Fender and released in 1954. Its design has been widely replicated, and there are tons of Strat copies around, and you might. be surprised to learn that the best Strat copies aren’t all made by Fender or even Squier.

Although it is renowned for its three single-coil pickups that provide great tonal versatility, the Strat is very dynamic, and some popular models include humbuckers, as well as other variations in design, tonewoods, hardware, and more. 

In addition to Fender, plenty of brands produce Strat type guitars. With so many options out there, how do you make sense of it all? In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’re going to help you decide which one is right for you. Keep reading to learn more.

Read more about our review process.

Editor's Choice
PRS SE Silver Sky

PRS SE Silver Sky

Features: Rosewood fretboard, 635JM John Mayer neck carve, 3 x 635JM Single coil pickups 

Benefits: Fantastic playability, Incredible noise resistance, Classic vintage Strat tones

Best Value
G&L Tribute Legacy

G&L Tribute Legacy

Features: Passive Treble and Bass system, Dual-Fulcrum vibrato, Alnico single coil pickups

Benefits: Excellent tuning stability, Comfortable and lightweight, Full range of Strat tones

Best Budget
Kramer Focus VT-211S

Kramer Focus VT-211S

Features: HSS pickups, Mahogany body, Slim neck

Benefits: Fast playability, Versatile tonal range, Great color and finish options

Our Top 3

The G&L Tribute Legacy Electric Guitar is our top choice. With three Cort Strat single-coil pickups with vintage-inspired Alnico V magnets, you get the brightness and spanky tone of instruments from the ’50s but in a modern context. 

The Kramer Focus VT-211S is our best budget choice. It comes with two custom Kramer Alnico V SC-1 single-coil pickups and provides tone and playability that are great for beginners. 

Finally, the PRS SE Silver Sky is our Editor’s Choice. This guitar was designed in conjunction with John Mayer and delivers real Strat tone with the legendary PRS playability. This is a great choice for dedicated musicians that want the best of the Strat with a range of modern appointments.

Individual Reviews

Top Pick
G&L Tribute Legacy

G&L Tribute Legacy

Classic tone with vintage-voiced pickups.

G&L was founded by none other than Leo Fender. Along with his partners George Fullerton, and Dale Hyatt this company developed a solid reputation and is a top choice when it comes to Fender-style instruments.

The G&L Tribute Legacy Electric Guitar features a voice that is produced by three Cort Strat single-coil pickups, built with vintage-inspired Alnico V magnets. The idea was to keep the brightness and spanky tone of single-coils from the ’50s, for a classic voiced instrument that can be used today.

The first thing we liked about this guitar was the comfortable Medium “C” neck. It filled our hand nicely, and never felt too thick. We also enjoyed playing on the 12″ radius and the expected 25.5″ scale length for that familiar Fender feeling. Everything from power chords to fast runs felt good, and the maple neck responded well to our touch.

As for tone, we got authentic Strat tone all throughout, with biting highs on the single coil bridge pickup, all the way to rounder tone on positions four and five. 

This guitar played nicely with both dry signals, and when run through a pedal board. It gave us ’50s-style chime and quack, and being a Strat type guitar, it has a sound that can easily be used in modern rock and blues styles, too.  

Because it was made out of poplar, this guitar is quite affordable and lightweight, which are two important attributes for many players.

Verdict: The G&L Tribute Legacy is a great version of a Strat-type guitar, with three single coils and true Fender playability. Fitted with a Leo Fender-designed G&L Dual-Fulcrum Vibrato bridge, you get nice features for the price. In short, if you are a beginner or just looking for an economical Strat, this guitar is a fantastic choice. 

Budget Choice
Kramer Focus VT-211S

Kramer Focus VT-211S

Versatile HSS configuration that is truly affordable.

Kramer is a respected brand that also offers budget instruments that deliver good tone and playability for the price. Ideal for beginners the VT-211S provides everything you need to get started.

The Kramer Focus VT-211S comes in a visually appealing Pewter Grey color and offers the beginner good sound and nice playability to start learning the basics of the instrument. 

To get a feel for the tones, we started with the middle position pickup and then moved on to the neck positions. When playing clean, these single coil pickups delivered unmistakeable Strat spank and a versatile sound that is great for a variety of styles. 

With some added distortion provided through our pedal board, we got a warm, almost thick tone that was a bit darker on the neck pickup. Because this had an HSS configuration, we saved the heavier distortion for the bridge position. Down in bridge it had a custom Kramer Alnico V humbucker that gave us a powerful growl, great for those interested in heavier types of rock music. 

Despite coming with a humbucker in the bridge, the rest of the design was classic Strat, and featured the typical 5 way selector switch in the familiar position for moving between pickups.

It is important to point out that this guitar is made with a mahogany body, as opposed to poplar. Mahogany produces a richer tone, and does not restrain sustain like poplar, which is far cheaper. This was definitely a nice surprise considering the Kramer is amongst the most affordable Strat type guitars on the market.

We played a series of licks, scales and riffs on this Kramer, and enjoyed the feel of the slim-profile maple neck, which was very responsive for a guitar with this price tag. We also liked its 12-inch radius Maple fingerboard, rounding out this wonderful and versatile guitar for beginners.  

Verdict: The Kramer Focus VT-211S comes in an HSS configuration and is an excellent choice for folks that are just starting out. It offers the beginner good tone and nice playability at a fantastic price.

Editor's Choice
PRS SE Silver Sky

PRS SE Silver Sky

A strat copy developed by Paul Reed Smith and John Mayer.

After a public split with Fender, John Mayer went to PRS and took over two years to develop the Silversky. Once it hit the market, it became a massive success, to the point that stores could not stock up fast enough. In typical PRS fashion, the Silverky now has its SE edition, made overseas and more affordable.

On its release, the PRS SE Silver Sky was one of the most hotly anticipated guitars in recent memory. Many consider it to be an improved version of the Stratocaster, as it takes away some of the harsher single coil tones found on similarly priced Fender models, and enhances playability. As you may imagine, this generated a lot of negative reactions among traditionalists, but the SE Silver Sky has become one of PRS’ best-selling instruments.

The first thing we loved about this instrument was its fantastic playability. This guitar features an 8.5-inch radius that gives it a vintage feel but also adds a touch of modern playability for greater comfort. With a maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, and 25.5″ scale length, this guitar is very easy to play in just about any style. 

This guitar comes with what is one of its most impressive features: a trio of 635JM single coil pickups. We tried all three in clean, and with different levels of distortion. We got a tone that was reminiscent of those early-’60s Fender Strats but without the exaggerated highs that some vintage instruments also suffer from. 

With aggressive distortion dialed in, we got a powerful and well-defined growl, with fantastic note separation. Another great sonic advantage of these pickups is that they have a higher signal-to-noise ratio than vintage models, and even noise canceling in positions two and four.

With a reliable 2-point steel tremolo system, this PRS SE provided us with better stability than other Strat copies at this price.

Verdict: The PRS SE Silver Sky is an enhanced version of the Stratocaster, with modern playability and a twangy but rounder single coil tone. This guitar is a fantastic choice for those that want a great Strat copy with superior tone and playability. Ultimately, we thought it was a great guitar that focused on providing better comfort and feel than you’d find on entry level Fender models. 

Also Consider
Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS 

Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS 

Straightforward Strat design with unique details for the modern player.

The Cutlass series of guitars have quickly become a popular option for Strat type guitars. They combine nice appointments, tone and playability while keeping costs relatively low. The CT30SSS is one of their more affordable instruments but delivers on quality.

The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS featured a poplar body and a classic S/S/S pickup configuration with Sterling’s house-made pickups on a 5-way blade switch design. 

We really loved the hard asymmetrical maple neck which gave us excellent articulation and paired nicely with the responsive laurel fingerboard. With a 12-inch fingerboard radius, a 1.65-inch thickness at the nut, and a 25.5-inch scale length, we felt very comfortable playing with this Cutlass. 

Plugged into our Roland JC-120 amp, we got nice single coil tones on all positions. Our favorites were position four for clean rhythm work and position two for highly distorted tones via our EHX Big Muff Pi. The bridge pickup also gave us a nice twang with that typical Strat forwardness and bite. 

Other noteworthy features of this Cutlass include die-cast tuners and fulcrum tremolo. Although we did like this guitar, we felt that poplar is not the best choice for body wood as it doesn’t offer quite as much sustain as woods like mahogny. Overall, a nice guitar on the lower end of the fantastic Cutlass series of instruments. 

Verdict: The Sterling By Music Man Cutlass CT30SSS features a poplar body and versatile SSS pickup configuration on a traditional 5-way blade switch Strat design. With a maple neck and laurel fingerboard, this guitar delivers nice playability with a familiar Fender feel.

Also Consider
Jackson X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDXM

Jackson X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDXM

A stylish Strat copy on a versatile HSS configuration.

Jackson teamed up with Iron Maiden's legendary guitarist to produce this signature model. The Adrian Smith SDXM offers the playability and tone of a top-notch guitar player with versatility added.

The Jackson X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDXM features a HSS configuration, offering the best of single coils and humbucker tone for added versatility. 

The Adrian Smith SDXM felt fantastic in our hands. This guitar featureed a 12″-16″ compound-radius fingerboard, as well as a responsive maple neck that gave us great playability. The great thing about a compound radius is that it offers a better grip at the nut, as well as a flatter feel higher up the neck for greater speed. 

Everything from bends to fast runs felt great, and although this is mainly a guitar for rock, we felt it had a bit of blues sensibility on the neck. Everything from power chords to blues licks felt nice on this responsive maple fretboard. 

Plugged into our Marshall combo amp, we loved the bitey single-coil sounds from the neck and middle pickups, both made by Jackson. The middle pickup also gave us a nice overdriven tone that can be used in a variety of contexts, and for clean rhythms, we liked how position five sounded. 

Moving on, the high-output Jackson humbucker on the bridge delivered killer distorted tones, with punch and a nice sustain throughout. With the help of our Big Muff Pi pedal, we got a great sound for rock riffing and power chords. For leads, we preferred the bridge pickup, as it gave us a forward tone with nice sustain. 

And for those of you that like to do dive bombs, this Jackson comes outfitted with a Top Mount Floyd Rose Special vibrato, which felt stable during our tests. In short, a nice guitar co-designed with a bonafide rock guitar hero.

Verdict: The Jackson X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDX comes in an HSS configuration and features a Floyd Rose bridge, for a true rock guitar. With great sound and playability, this guitar is a good choice for players that gravitate towards heavier rock but with a blues sensibility.

Also Consider
Donner DST 400

Donner DST 400

Humbucker and single coil tones on an affordable strat copy.

Donner is quickly building a reputation as one of the go-to brands for affordable and quality instruments made overseas. The DST 400 comes in an HSS configuration and delivers good tone and playability for the price, and is a good choice for beginners.

The Donner DST 400 is made with alder for the body with a clear lacquer finish that gave it an elegant vibe. We plugged into our Fender Twin Reverb amp for our tests and started with the neck pickup on clean. 

Here we got classic Strat sound with that darker and rounder tone that you’d expect at this position. Although not the first choice for this application, this position can be used for playing some jazz, particularly with the tone knob rolled back a bit. 

Position four gave us that nice balance between bite and roundness that is the bread and butter of funk rhythm playing, and that can also be used in other applications in clean. Moving on to the middle pickup, we added a bit of saturation via our Tube Screamer and got a forward tone with a nice twang to it, great for a blues solo or similar.  

For the bridge pickup, we added more aggressive distortion to test out this humbucker. We got an aggressive tone with a forward bite that would sit nicely in a rock context, whether you’re playing power chords or soaring leads. That said, we wished that it offered a bit more sustain, particularly for soloing. 

On this plus side, this Donner guitar also featured a push-pull tone knob on the second tone control for coil splitting, in order to get single coil tones at the bridge. Although we liked the sound, we preferred the higher output nature of the humbucker in this position for this guitar. 

Playability was also good on this instrument, with a maple neck and 22 frets, a good option for folks starting out. In short, a nice guitar for the price, with flexibility and a good tone for the beginner. 

Verdict: The Donner DST 400 comes with an alder body and features a versatile HSS configuration and coil splitting as well. This guitar is a good choice for folks that want an affordable strat copy, particularly those who are just starting out on the instrument.

Also Consider
Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica

One of the best-selling guitars from Yamaha.

Their Pacifica series of guitars features a nice variety of models that vary in price and characteristics. The PACCO12 is their popular Strat-type guitar and comes with a versatile pickup configuration to tackle several styles and genres.

The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica comes with an Agathis body and this particular model features an appealing Metallic Blue color. Yamaha outfitted this guitar with a ceramic humbucker at the bridge, and two Yamaha ceramic single-coil pickups for the middle and neck. In other words, you get a versatile HSS configuration.

For our tests, we used our Roland JC-120 and our pedalboard. We started with the bridge pickup and got a nice tone via our Tube Screamers perfect for rock and blues, as well as any other context that requires overdrive or heavy distortion. With a nice punch that can work for various styles, this bridge pickup was our favorite. 

Moving on to the single coils at the middle and neck positions, we started by testing them on clean. The sound at position four was our favorite, with that balance of twang and warmth that works well for rhythm parts in various situations. In true Strat fashion, the neck pickup gave us a bit of a darker tone, good for practicing chord voicings and other techniques on clean. For distorted sounds, this guitar does a decent job at the neck and middle position, although sustain was not optimal.  

Regarding playability, this Pacifica guitar features a C-shaped maple neck on a rosewood fingerboard. We liked how the fretboard felt at all times, and with a radius of 13.75″ and a scale length of 25.5″, playing this Pacifica was a comfortable experience.

In short, an affordable guitar that delivers versatility and good features for the price, making it a good choice for beginners. 

Verdict: The Yamaha PAC012 Pacifica comes with a versatile HSS pickup configuration that gives the user the best of humbuckers and single coils applied in a Strat. With a good tone and nice playability, this guitar is a good instrument for the price.

How To Choose The Best Guitar For You

The basic design and features of the Strat have remained relatively consistent, and although plenty of variations abound, the Strat is regarded as one of the best guitar designs ever.

Simply stated, it is the most influential guitar in history and keeps on being sold massively not only by Fender but by a vast variety of companies that offer everything from traditional replicas to highly customized strat copies that go into the thousands of dollars. 

Guitar legends like Jimi Hendrix, David Gilmour, and Stevie Ray Vaughan, have employed the Strat extensively in their work, each with their own distinctive instrument and sound. Below we share a few things to consider before deciding on the ideal Strat for you. 

Single coils and Humbuckers

The first thing to understand is whether you want a Strat with only single coils or one that also incorporates humbuckers.

Single coil pickups employ a single coil of wire wrapped around magnetic pole pieces and produce a bright, clear, and crisp sound. Although they offer excellent note definition and a prominent midrange, single coils are prone to picking up hum and noise from electrical interference.

Humbucker pickups, on the other hand, employ two coils of wire wound in opposite directions and connected in series or parallel. This design cancels out the noise and hum that single coils are susceptible to, resulting in a quieter and smoother sound. Humbuckers have a warmer, thicker, and more powerful tone than single coils, with a strong low-end and a more rounded midrange.

Overall, the choice between single coil and humbucker pickups depends on the style of music you play and your personal preference. Single coils are ideal for genres like blues, country, and pop, while humbuckers are better suited for rock, heavy metal, and jazz.


After which type of pickups you use, tonewoods is the most important consideration when buying your Strat, or any other guitar for that matter.  Your choice of tonewood can have a significant impact on the instrument’s tone and overall sound. As always the best is to try a few different options and start developing your own criteria. 


Alder is a popular choice for Strat bodies due to its balanced and bright tone. It has a lightweight and medium density, which provides a good amount of sustain and resonance.


On the other hand, Ash is also popular but it comes with a pronounced mid-range and bright top end. It has a medium to heavy weight and a pronounced grain pattern, which gives it a distinctive look.


One of the most beloved choices is Mahogany, a dense and heavy tonewood used primarily for the guitar’s neck and body. It has a warm and rich tone with a strong mid-range and low-end, making it ideal for blues and rock music.


Maple is a dense and hard tonewood that is arguably the most popular for guitar necks and fretboards. It has a bright and clear tone, with a fast attack and excellent sustain.


Rosewood is a popular choice for guitar fretboards due to its smooth and warm tone. It has a dark and rich color, with a distinctive grain pattern that makes it visually appealing.


Another common choice is poplar, as it is lightweight and cheaper. The tradeoff is that your sustain will likely suffer in the name of affordability. 

Ultimately, the choice of tonewood depends on your personal preference and the type of music you play. Each tonewood has its own unique characteristics, and the combination of different tonewoods can also affect the guitar’s overall sound.

Final Thoughts

Simply said, Strat copies are modeled after the iconic Fender Stratocaster, but produced by other manufacturers. While some copies aim to replicate the look and sound of the original Strat, others may take creative liberties and incorporate their own unique features. 

Strat copies guitars can vary in quality, ranging from budget-friendly options to high-end replicas that sometimes exceed the original in both sound and craftsmanship. Make sure you try out a few options before purchasing your Strat copy.

The G&L Tribute Legacy Electric Guitar is our top choice. With three Cort Strat single-coil pickups with vintage-inspired Alnico V magnets, you get the brightness and spanky tone of instruments from the ’50s but in a modern context. 

The Kramer Focus VT-211S is our budget choice. It comes with two custom Kramer Alnico V SC-1 single-coil pickups and provides tone and playability that are great for beginners. 

Finally, the PRS SE Silver Sky is our Editor’s Choice. This guitar was designed in conjunction with John Mayer and provides a single coil tone without the harsher sound. This is a great choice for dedicated musicians that want the best of the Strat with modern appointments.

  • Rodrigo Sanchez

    Rodrigo is an award-winning songwriter (Best Popular Song Of 2018 for Ibermúsicas), and has worked with the prestigious EMI Music Publishing Latin America. He has production credits on artists such as Descemer Bueno, and has also composed alongside Grammy and ASCAP award-winners such as Sebastián De Peyrecave and José Luis Morín. For over ten years, he's been an editor/writer for Recording Magazine, and spent a year as head of translation for Brazilian magazine Musica & Mercado.