In the 1970s, Fender, wanting to better compete with Gibson’s expanding range of models, decided that they needed a semi hollow electric guitar in their lineup. They came out with the Starcaster, and this lasted from 1976 to 1982. Besides a limited run of Modern Player editions, the only versions that have been in any kind of continuous production have been the Squier Affinity Series Starcaster and the Squier Classic Vibe.
The initial run of Starcasters just didn’t resonate with the guitar buying public, but now that they’re back in Squier form, there’s a golden opportunity to get your hands on a wallet friendly semi hollow that you won’t see a lot of other players using.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review we’ve taken an extended look at the Affinity Starcaster, our Best Budget winner in our roundup of the best semi hollow guitars. If you’re curious to learn more about this wonderful guitar, you’re definitely going to want to keep reading.
Squier Affinity Series Starcaster: Who Is This For?
The Squier Affinity Series Starcaster is mainly aimed at beginner and improving guitarists. It’s one of the most affordable semi hollow models from any mainstream manufacturer and the design is definitely geared towards newer players.
Unusually for a semi hollow, the Starcaster has an offset design, which we think is a much more forgiving body shape for newer players. Like most guitars in this category, the body is quite large, but the ergonomics make it much more comfortable to hold and play – something novices will definitely appreciate.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Our test model had an Olympic white finish – this is a color that’s been in the Fender/Squier stable for a while, but we think it looked exceptionally good on the Starcaster. If white isn’t your thing, it’s also available in 3 Color Sunburst, Black, and Candy Apple Red.
The body was all constructed from laminated maple, and featured a maple center block. It had a really nice black binding on both the top and bottom, which really popped against the while, making it look a lot more expensive than it really was. The only fault we could find with the build quality on the body was the fact that the F Holes weren’t bound and were roughly finished. This didn’t affect performance at all, but we still think it’s worth pointing out.
Unlike most semi hollow guitars, the neck was bolt on. It seemed unusual at first, but this was actually correct to the original Fender Starcaster specs. It was made from maple, and the fretboard was also maple.
As for hardware, it was fitted with the standard sealed gear tuners found on almost every Squier Affinity model. They performed well, and while not quite to the standard of something like a Grover Rotomatic, they still made light work of fine tuning, and delivered good stability.
It had a pair of Squier Standard humbucking pickups, which had a surprisingly hot output. There was a single tone and a single volume knob – unlike the Classic Vibe version which features individual tone and volume controls for each pickup.
The Starcaster’s playability was excellent overall. It was lighter in weight than comparable models from Epiphone, tipping the scale at around 7.5lb, which made it easy to hold for extended periods.
The out of the box setup was good. The bridge was well adjusted, resulting in proper intonation up and down the neck, and a fairly neutral action on the low side of medium. We really liked the slim C profile neck, too – it had a nice satin finish, making it feel slick and fast playing.
It had the typical 25.5” Fender scale, which made it play quite differently to an ES style guitar. If you’re used to longer scales, then this is definitely a guitar for you to consider. The narrow tall frets were well finished, and made fretting notes fairly effortless, which is another great feature for beginners.
We checked it out acoustically first, and found that it was super resonant. We really felt every strum through the whole body, and it was definitely noticeable in the amplified tones.
For a budget guitar, we found ourselves particularly impressed with the range of tones we got. It did thick, clean jazz tones in the neck position, which, with the volume rolled back, were incredibly full considering the use of hot ceramic pickups.
In the bridge position with the gain cranked, we got some super throaty rock tones. Even with heavy distortion, we found that it was still articulate with good note separation, which avoided the type of muddiness often found in budget pickups.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Squier Affinity Series Starcaster is a unique looking guitar, and we think that it sounds and performs way beyond its price point. Having said that, there are still some fantastic alternatives on the market coming in around the same price point. If you’d like to take a look at some other options, we’ve highlighted a couple of our favorites below.
The Donner DJP-1000 is one of the budget brand’s latest models, and it’s clear they meant business with it. It’s an ES-335 clone that is taking aim right at Epiphone’s iteration of the classic model. It delivers the full spectrum of semi hollow tones, and the build quality is frankly incredible considering the price. It’s a model that demonstrates just how far Donner has come as a brand in a short time, and it’s definitely worth a look if you’re after something with a more Gibson like aesthetic.
The Ibanez Artcore AM53 is another excellent low cost semi hollow. It has the typical double cut form factor, complete with traditional looking F holes. It’s quite a plain looking model, but because it has a sapele construction rather than the typical maple you’d find in this style of guitar, it has a warmer, richer tone with less top end, making it great for rock and blues. It’s a well made model that, like the Starcaster, deviates from the Gibson style for a more unique look.
Final Thoughts on the Squier Affinity Series Starcaster
There’s a lot to like about the Squier Affinity Series Starcaster. It offers great tones, and the styling really is fantastic. It looks so different to pretty much all the other semi hollows on the market, and because it has something of a niche following, it really stands out.
It’s a great platform for learning thanks to its easy playability and great ergonomics, and of course the fact that it has decent acoustic performance, too. This makes it possible to practice quietly without an amp if you like.
In all, we think it represents tremendous value, and is definitely worth your investment if you’re a newer player looking for a well made semi hollow electric guitar.