Some years ago, all Stratocasters were made by Fender in California, USA. However, like all manufacturers, Fender has outsourced production of their more affordable versions to overseas facilities, leaving only their flagship models as “Made in the USA” guitars. One such model is the Fender American Professional Stratocaster.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review we got the opportunity to spend some time with the American Professional, which sits above the entry level (for US made models) American Performer in the line up.
The American Professional is an aspirational guitar for many, so it was our goal to find out whether it’s really worth saving for, or whether you’d be better off with a more affordable model. Read on to find out what we thought.
Who Is This For?
As you can probably guess from the model’s name, the American Professional is really aimed at pro level players, although it makes a great choice for amateurs with the money for a high end guitar, too.
It’s made to the highest standards, using the best woods and components, making it a piece that will not only perform brilliantly, but will also serve as an investment, as American made models rarely lose much, if any value to depreciation if properly looked after.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Our test model came in a simple Black finish. Despite being a little plain, this is one of the most iconic Stratocaster looks, and it looked especially good paired with the classic mint green pickguard. There’s a big selection of other colors to choose from, too, if you’d prefer something a little showier than black. In fact, there are a total of 9 available in the lineup.
Each color gets the option of either a rosewood or maple fretboard, too. Our test guitar came with the maple option, which we really love on black Strats anyway.
Fender made a commitment to stop using ash for their guitars due to population issues, so even high end US made models like this get alder bodies. It had a typical alder feel with a medium weight, and sharp responsiveness.
As with (almost) all Stratocasters, it had a maple neck with the usual snappy response we’re used to from Stratocasters, but in this case, it has been breathed on by the Fender Custom Shop. It has a Deep C profile, which was honestly one of the nicest necks we’ve ever had the chance to play on any guitar, period. The fretboard edges were, of course, rolled, and the frets themselves were perfectly dressed, with an immaculate polish on the crowns.
It had an upgraded trem system in comparison with the entry level American Performer, with a 2 point bridge, rather than the vintage style 6 point.
The pickups were designed by Tim Shaw, exclusively for the American Professional. It came equipped with V-Mod II pickups, and a push pull knob that activates the neck pickup when you’re playing in positions 1, 2, or 3, unlocking tons new sonic variety that would be otherwise impossible with standard wiring.
This model was a little heavier than other Strats we’ve picked up in recent reviews, but this is often down to the natural variation in density that comes with solid, natural woods. Regardless, it was comfortable to hold and play, with the comfort further aided by the wonderful neck. We found that it had incredible ergonomics, and made all style of play feel almost effortless. It had a super natural satin finish, too, which went a long way to improving the feel.
As with most modern Strats, it had a 9.5” radius, which seems to be the perfect middle ground, allowing comfortable rhythm playing and easy lead work on the same guitar.
The pickups were truly as good as we’d been told they were. Tim Shaw, who is Fender’s resident pickup expert, is one of the modern masters of pickup design, and he did a phenomenal job with these V-Mod II pups. They held on to their clarity in all positions, and delivered the timeless Strat tones without any problems whatsoever. We found them to have almost endless chime when played clean, and when pushed into overdrive they snarled and growled hard.
The neck was incredibly rich sounding, and gave us the glassiest cleans. The bridge was sharp and responsive, and in the middle we got some fantastic rhythm tones with great articulation. The intermediate 2 and 4 positions hit us with some fantastic out of phase quack, and with the push pull tone knob gave us some unique options like bridge and neck together, and all 3 active.
We found it to be hugely dynamic, which is exactly what pro level players tend to look for, especially if it’s going to be their only, or at least their primary guitar.
The hardware was well curated, with high quality steel used throughout. The trem system worked perfectly, and while we aren’t big trem users in general, we really put this system through its paces, and were happy to see that it caused absolutely no issues with tuning stability.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Fender American Professional Stratocaster is a big investment, and as fantastic as it is, this does warrant investigation of some alternative options before diving into a decision. We’ve picked a couple of excellent options below to compare against the American Performer.
The Fender American Performer Strat is one rung down from the American Professional, and offers some different features that you may actually find more appealing. It comes from the factory with hard hitting Yosemite single coil pickups, for big bluesy tone. It also happens to come with greasebucket circuitry, which in a nutshell prevents muddiness when rolling back on the tone knobs – it’s one of the most popular features on this US made model, and a big reason why so many are drawn to it.
Just like the American Professional, the G&L Fullerton Deluxe S-500 is also made in California, USA, and was also conceived directly from Leo Fender himself. It has a classic SSS pickup layout, with high end electronics, and a toggle switch that activates all on, or neck and bridge together pickup configurations, just like you get with the push pull on the Fender.
Final Thoughts on the Fender American Professional Stratocaster
We genuinely loved playing the American Professional Stratocaster. It really captures the essence of what most players imagine a Strat is about, with clear, crisp tones, incredible playability, and immaculate attention to detail. It’s a fantastic choice for professional musicians looking for a Strat, and also for amateur players looking for a special guitar to add to their collections.