The Squier Affinity Stratocaster has been one of the most popular beginner guitars on the planet for decades now. The Affinity series in particular has always had an appeal thanks to its slew of upgrades over the cheaper Bullet models, with just a modest increase in price.
Even within the Affinity range, there are a number of sub versions designed to appeal to different players. One of our favorites, and our Top Pick winner in our roundup of the best Squier guitars was the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS.
In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be taking a look at this fantastic entry level guitar to learn all about its form and features, as well as its playability and tones. If you’re in the market for an affordable electric guitar that doesn’t cut corners, you won’t want to miss this.
Who Is This For?
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS is squarely aimed at newer players. Though it’s not the cheapest Strat in the Squier lineup, or even in the Affinity series range, it’s still very much an entry level guitar.
It makes for a great first guitar for anybody looking to start out on a Strat with improved aesthetics, and thanks to its HSS pickup arrangement, it’s suitable for a much broader range of music than the typical SSS Strat.
Appearance / Features / Controls
The Affinity HSS Strat is one of the most visually striking models that Squier has ever produced. Our test model arrived in a frankly gorgeous Sienna Burst finish with a flamed maple veneer. It really was uncannily good looking, and definitely stands apart from the rest of the lineup in terms of aesthetics. If you prefer a more subtle look, a Black Burst with the same maple veneer is also available.
It had a poplar body, which is the standard wood through the vast majority of the Squier lineup, and a bolt on maple neck. The neck had a C shape profile, and was topped with a maple fretboard, too. Like most Strats it had a 25.5” scale, and 21 medium jumbo frets.
As for hardware, it had a modern 2 point trem system, which was something of a surprise (in a good way!). It also featured the more modern American style saddles rather than the stamped pot metal saddles normally fitted to Squier Strats. The tuning machines were standard Squier sealed gear units with keystone style buttons, again par for the course.
In a departure from a traditional Strat setup, it featured a humbucker in the bridge position and single coils in the middle and neck rather than the traditional 3 single coil layout. This really opens up a much broader range of tones than you’d typically find on a squier Strat.
We found that the Affinity Strat was a genuinely comfortable player. The light weight poplar body was easy to hold for prolonged periods, and because it’s a Strat, the ergonomics made it a pleasure to play while seated, too.
Right out of the box the playability was good, especially for an entry level guitar. The action was just a little higher than we usually like, but it was still comfortable, allowing for expressive play without any fret buzz, without any undue fatigue.
The neck was just about perfect for the beginner player. It had a barely there matte finish, and the C shape was extremely comfortable and forgiving. The fretwork was good, too, with no sharps, and no issues with leveling.
The pickups were all ceramic, so as expected, the tones were extremely hot. If you like the idea of paying with high gain, you’ll definitely love these pups.
In the neck position it delivered a wonderful, warm tone with surprising thickness. In position 2, between the neck and the middle, it served up the kind of Mayer-esque quack that blues players love about the Strat.
The middle position was probably the least exciting – it wasn’t muddy, but didn’t have the sizzle of the bridge pickup, nor the warmth of the neck position. Down in the bridge with the humbucker engaged we dragged some screaming lead tones out of this Strat. It handled high gain like a champ, and did a great job of killing the 60 cycle hum in the KGR beat laboratory (which is usually pretty prominent!).
We found the overall reliability to be far better than we’ve experienced on Affinity Strats in the past. For starters, the use of a 2 point trem system has made it so the whammy bar is actually useful. We were able to put it through a decent amount of use before encountering any tuning issues. When we weren’t abusing the trem, we found the tuning stability to be pretty solid. The nut, although plastic, was cut well, and the intonation was pretty accurate up and down the neck.
Other Guitars to Consider
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS is without a doubt, a great beginner’s guitar. It’s reliable, sounds good, affordable, and it looks great. Pretty much everything you actually need in a guitar. That being said, there are some great alternatives on the market – here’s a couple of our favorites to check out.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V
The Yamaha Pacifica PAC112V is a real sleeper when it comes to affordable S style guitars. It’s often overlooked in favor of brands like Squier (of course), but as we learned in our full review of this excellent guitar, it has a lot to offer in terms of build quality, tone, and playability. It boasts an alder body, a wood that is primarily in use on Fender branded Strats, and even comes with a rosewood fretboard. It feels very premium, and while it doesn’t have the same flashy finish as the Squier, it does offer high end fit and finish for the exact same price.
Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30HSS
Like both the Squier and the Yamaha, the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT30HSS features a HSS pickup layout and a comfortable double cutaway body. This is the entry level version of the Cutlass, but it still features a broad range of high end features, including a phenomenal neck, and even a truss rod adjustment wheel. This is a guitar that prioritizes playability over all else, making it a great choice for beginners, and even intermediate players looking for an affordable guitar.
Final Thoughts on the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS
Overall, we found that the Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS strikes a great balance of price and performance. It looks great, and above all else offers good reliability and playability – the cornerstones of what make a beginner guitar a good choice.
Was it perfect? Perhaps not, but the few flaws it does have are far outweighed by the positives. It can handle just about any genre of music, making it an incredibly versatile choice, and ultimately we’d gladly recommend it to anybody looking for a solid starter guitar in this price range.