As you may already know
Fender American Vintage ’57 Stratocaster Review — Table of contents
First, a bit of history. Fender started manufacturing the Stratocaster in October 1954. Before that, from March to September, the Stratocaster was hand-built and its specs were changing all the time. The production model of October and beyond featured an ash body with 2-color sunburst finish and a single-piece maple neck. More information on the original 1954 Stratocaster can be found in my article about the history of the Fender Stratocaster.
In 1955, the manufacturing process was much more refined and, although the guitars looked the same as the 1954 models, they were much better built and lighter as well. 1956 was the year of some big changes for the Strat: body wood changed from ash to alder, the string tree changed from round to the “butterfly” shape and the neck got a new soft-V back shape (pre-1956 necks had a large D-shape back).
Then came 1957. The ‘57 sunburst model is considered a classic by most guitar players. Major changes from the 1956 model include a stronger V-shaped neck back and the use of ABS instead of polystyrene for the plastic parts.
1957 Fender Stratocaster: original vs. reissue
The Fender American Vintage ‘57 Stratocaster reissue features the same specs as the original model:
- Alder, 2-color sunburst body with Nitrocellulose Lacquer finish.
- Single-piece maple neck (walnut stripe on the back), with a maple 7.25” radius fretboard, V-shaped back and vintage truss rod nut.
- 21 vintage-style frets and black dot marks on the fretboard.
- 3 single-coil American Vintage ‘57 pickups, controlled by a 3-way switch.
- Chrome hardware, with vintage tuners and synchronized tremolo.
- Vintage side-pocketed tweed case.
There are some visual differences, though. First, if we inspect the saddles on the bridge, we’ll see they are labeled “FENDER FENDER”, while the original 1957 ones were labeled “FENDER PAT. PEND.”. See below the reissue saddles.
Another difference is in the tuners. The original Kluson tuners used from 1956 to 1964 had “Kluson Deluxe” engraved on them, parallel to the lines.
If we flip the headstock and take a look at the other side, there are a couple differences as well. The Fender logo used between 1954 and 1960 had a pointier “E”. The font used in “With Synchronized Tremolo” is also slightly different.
And it also features a synthetic bone nut, instead of the real deal.
Apart from these small differences (which a non-Strat expert would never notice), the guitar looks very close to the original ‘57 model. Even the body contour is the same, which is much more comfortable than the current Fender American Standard Stratocaster models, by the way.
Fender American Vintage ’57 Stratocaster tone
Sound-wise, its pickups don’t exactly match the original ones, but it is close, and they sound excellent, very 50-ish. The video below shows some tone samples.
In case you are interested in the original recordings, here are some iTunes links:
- Jimi Hendrix’s Little Wing
- Dire Straits’ Sultans of Swing
- Eric Johnson’s S.R.V.
- Eric Johnson’s Cliffs of Dover
Overall, I am very happy with this guitar — it plays much better than any Fender American Standard Stratocaster or American Deluxe Stratocaster I have played so far. In fact, the only Stratocasters I played that are better than this one are the Fender Eric Johnson Stratocaster, and a couple of Fender Custom Shop Stratocasters.
I still need one more Strat tone for my music (the Fender American Vintage ‘62 Stratocaster), but that will have to wait for now. I’m going to enjoy this one for a long time, it seems.
You might be interested in the following recordings I did using this guitar:
- Eric Johnson’s S.R.V.
- Joe Satriani’s Tears in the Rain
- Megadeth’s Tornado of Souls (rhythm guitar)
- Metallica’s Fade to Black (lead guitar)