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Top Stratocaster Alternatives You Should Know About
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The Fender Stratocaster is one of the top guitars on the market, and other companies regularly create variations based on the Strat design for good reason. What if you want an S-style guitar and want to branch out to something a little different? You are in luck – there are many alternatives you should consider.
Top Stratocaster alternatives include the Yamaha Pacifica, PRS Silver Sky, Charvel Pro-Mod Series, Schecter Nick Johnston, Ibanez AZ Prestige, Jackson Soloist, Schecter Van Nuys, G&L S-500 and Fullerton Deluxe Legacy, Ibanez RG, Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass, Sire Larry Carlton, Godin Session HT, and others.
There are many Strat alternatives, and we’ve narrowed them down to our top picks. You’ll find various options in this list appealing to different budget levels and playing styles. Keep reading to find your new favorite guitar.
Why Buy a Strat Alternative?
Fender Strats are fantastic guitars. If that’s what you want, there is no need to look further. But if you want a few more options for styling, hardware, pickups, specs, and electronics, one of these alternatives may work for you.
We compare guitars with three single-coil pickups or a humbucker and two single-coil (HSS) configurations for this list. That is closest to the original Strat design and excludes some options with a humbucker for the neck pickup.
Our other consideration is that any Strat alternative should have a tremolo bridge. Save the dual humbuckers and fixed bridge for your LP-style (or even T-style) guitar.
We do make a couple of exceptions to those rules. What can we say? Rules are made to be broken.
The Yamaha Pacifica is one of the original Strat alternatives. The model line ranges in cost from similar-priced Squier models to the Fender Player Series Strat. The top-of-the-line Pacifica 612 series is currently $100 less than the Player Series Strat.
The Pacifica 612 features Seymour Duncan pickups, Grover locking tuners, and a Wilkinson bridge. The locking tuners and high-quality bridge make it an excellent value when compared to the Player Series Strat.
The Pacifica also sports a more modern 13.75” radius fretboard and Graph Tech TUSQ nut. The Pacifica is always one of our overall best picks when considering a Strat alternative.
PRS Silver Sky
The Silver Sky is PRS’s take on a classic. A design collaboration between Paul Reed Smith and John Mayer, the PRS Silver Sky features vintage styling, such as a 7.25” fretboard radius and quintessential neck shape.
The Silver Sky’s bridge and tremolo upgrade the original design with an unthreaded tremolo arm secured with a set screw. Anyone who has struggled with the traditional threaded tremolo arm knows an unthreaded design is preferred.
The six knife-edge attachment screws improve tuning stability. The tremolo sits flush against the guitar body, improving the pickups’ signal-to-noise ratio.
The Silver Sky’s pickups are designed to be reminiscent of ‘60s-era electric guitars, with a full and balanced tone that avoids the “ice pick” tendencies of some single-coils.
Sporting locking tuners, the Silver Sky’s headstock is an inverse of the traditional PRS headstock. It’s designed this way for John Mayer’s playing style and to keep a consistent string length behind the nut.
The Silver Sky also features a rounded neck joint, a scoop on the lower horn for easy access to the upper frets, and an open tremolo cavity. The pricing is in line with the American Ultra Series, and the SE option is closer in price to the Player Series.
The Charvel Pro-Mod series guitars are designed for players who need a modern and aggressive guitar, suitable for rock and heavier styles of music. The DK24 employs a smaller, lighter body with deep cutouts for full neck access. Technical players will feel at home with a 12”-16” compound radius.
The San Dimas model features similar appointments to the DK24, but swaps the tremolo for a fixed bridge and the Full Shred pickup for a JB humbucker.
Like most modern Strat alternatives, the Pro-Mod series of guitars feature locking tuners and name-brand hardware and electronics. Both the DK24 and San Dimas models have Seymour Duncan pickups and Graph Tech nuts. The DK24 includes a Gotoh bridge and tuners.
Charvel guitars are one of the original hot-rodded Strat builders. In fact, Fender owns the company, and the guitars are made in the same U.S. and Mexico-based factories as Strats. Strat players will feel right at home with a Charvel.
Those looking for a Strat-style guitar with modern features don’t need to look any further. These are similar in price to the Fender Player Plus models.
Schecter Nick Johnston
The Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional HSS guitar is a fly-under-the-radar Strat alternative. Many musicians know Schecter’s guitars, which are a very high-quality product and an excellent value. But Schecter may be more well-known for its metal-leaning guitars.
Schecter designed Nick Johnston’s signature guitar with his technical playing style in mind. The guitar features a thin neck profile, a 14” radius ebony fretboard, and extra jumbo frets. Locking tuners, a Graph Tech nut, and vintage-style tremolo contribute to tuning stability.
The Schecter Diamond pickups, HSS configuration, and push-pull tone pot offer a range of tones to the discerning player. The alder body is the standard S-style body design, offered in a range of solid-color finishes. The brass circle fret markers are a stylish alternative to the standard fretboard marker inlays.
The Traditional HSS version is made in Indonesia and is comparable in pricing to the Player Series. The USA Signature model is similar in pricing to the premium American-made Strats. The nitro finish option ups the cost to LPs from the big G.
Ibanez AZ2204 Prestige
The Ibanez AZ Prestige, specifically the AZ2204 model line, is a versatile and modern Strat alternative. These guitars feature an ergonomic Gotoh bridge with a snap-in tremolo arm. The AZ2204N has a non-recessed bridge for improved resonance and dynamics.
The AZ2204N and AZ2204NW feature Seymour Duncan Fortuna moderate output pickups for excellent and crisp, clean tones. The AZ2204 and AZ2204B have Seymour Duncan Hyperion pickups. Both pickups are flexible and sound great when clean or driven.
All AZ2204 guitar models have a unique switching option for a total of nine pickup combinations. This arrangement, combined with the Seymour Duncan pickups, provides a high level of sonic versatility.
Check out the Seymour Duncan website for an interesting discussion about the Hyperion pickups and how the AZ switching works.
The AZ2204 guitars are well-appointed with other premium features, including an oil-impregnated bone nut, a roasted neck sealed with an oil finish, a rounded fretboard edge, Gotoh locking tuners, and stainless steel frets.
If you have the budget, the AZ2204 Prestige is one of the best guitars on the market. Its versatility and premium features make it an excellent Strat alternative. The cost is similar to the American Ultra Strat and the various artist signature models.
The Jackson Soloist is a Strat-style alternative with a shred-metal aesthetic. If you appreciate guitars from the metal heydays of the 80s, you will feel right at home with the Jackson Soloist.
The Soloist has four series lines: the X Series, the Pro Series, the MJ Series, and the new American Series. The guitars in the Soloist Series feature the same body design and neck-through construction.
The X Series model has a poplar body, while the body of the new American Series model is made from alder. The maple neck-through-body construction is reinforced with graphite, which provides more stability.
The neck joint is seamless and ergonomically curved, with easy access to the high frets. The fretboard employs a compound radius–perfect for technical playing. And most guitars have a Floyd Rose locking tremolo.
The X Series includes Duncan Designed pickups, while the American series has classic pickup models by Seymour Duncan – a JB humbucker at the bridge and Flat Strat for the neck and middle pickups.
The American Series has some premium features, including locking strap buttons, Gotoh locking tuners, Luminlay side fret markers, and an ebony fretboard with rolled edges.
If your taste trends toward superstrats, the Jackson Soloist might be right for you. The X Series is closest in pricing to the Player Series, while the American Series is comparable to the high-end American-made Strats.
Schecter Traditional Van Nuys
The Traditional Van Nuys is another fantastic S-style guitar from Schecter. The Van Nuys is for those that want a modern guitar with technical features and a classy natural wood finish. If the 80s shredder aesthetic is not your thing, but you want a superstrat, the Van Nuys might be just the right pick.
The Van Nuys features a resonant swamp ash body, roasted maple neck and fingerboard, Graph Tech nut, locking tuners, and a vintage tremolo. The Van Nuys is outfitted with two single-coil pickups and a humbucker from Schecter. These pickups provide plenty of tone, from clean to crunch.
The extra-jumbo frets, slim C-shape neck profile, and 14” radius make the Van Nuys equally comfortable for technical legato leads, chunky chords, and rhythm guitar. The coil-split combinations available with the 5-way switch add extra tonal options.
The Schecter Van Nuys is one to consider, especially in comparison to the Player Series. The price is comparable, and the Schecter has a few modern features that guitarists will appreciate.
G&L Tribute S-500
The G&L Tribute S-500 might look a little familiar as Leo Fender started this company to continue his vision of what an electric guitar should be. He made some player-friendly design improvements to the original.
The bridge pivots on two fulcrum points instead of the traditional six-screw attachment. This provides improved stability and a smooth response. The unique MFD pickups employ a ceramic magnet and allow individual adjustment of the pole pieces.
The nato body, maple neck, and rosewood fretboard provide a beautiful tonewood combination. The Irish Ale finish highlights the natural grain of the wood. A 12” radius fretboard provides a more optimized platform for leads and fast playing.
The price of the Tribute S-500 is under the cost of the Player Series. Step up to the Fullerton Deluxe Legacy or the CLF Research series if you want an upgrade.
The Ibanez RG is one of the original superstrats. The traditional pickup arrangement of the RG is a humbucker at the neck and the bridge, with a single coil for the middle pickup. The styling of the RG is a little more aggressive and at home in the rock and metal genres.
The Ibanez RG is perfect for fast, technical playing with a locking tremolo, a thin Wizard neck, and a flat fingerboard radius.
The RG model line is extensive and includes entry-level guitars through Japanese-made professional instruments. The RG Standard Series is reasonably priced and a good entry point to the model line.
The tonewoods vary depending on the RG model and can include woods such as ebony, wenge, poplar, walnut, mahogany, and maple.
The pickups also vary from model to model and range from Ibanez Quantum pickups to DiMarzio pickups.
All RGs have the same body style, which is extremely ergonomic and comfortable to play sitting or standing. With 24 frets, a 15.75” radius, and a thin Wizard neck, the RG is ready to shred.
The pricing range is what you might expect for a model line with both entry-level and professional guitars and is comparable to the Strat lineup.
Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass RS
The Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass RS is a classic S-style design with either three single-coil pickups or two single-coils and a humbucker at the bridge. The alder body is paired with a roasted maple neck for resonance and stability.
And as you might expect on a modern Strat alternative, the Cutlass is equipped with premium features, including Schaller locking tuners, a compensated nut, and a modern bridge and tailpiece design.
The headstock features a unique 4-by-2 tuning machine arrangement that allows for a straight pull on the strings and a similar length behind the nut. This is better for intonation and tuning stability.
Stainless steel frets provide a comfortable playing experience and a longer fret lifespan. Truss rod adjustments are made easily with the spoke nut wheel at the base of the neck. The onboard circuit eliminates hum while retaining the sound of the single-coil pickups.
The Music Man Cutlass RS appeals to professional musicians who may be evaluating an American-made Strat. The modern features may tip the scale toward the Music Man Cutlass RS. For a lower-cost alternative, check out Sterling by Music Man.
Sire Lary Carlton S7 Vintage
The Sire Larry Carlton S7 Vintage is a traditional S-style guitar. With a lightweight alder body, roasted maple neck and fingerboard, it’s packed with premium features.
The Sire single-coil pickups provide a classic tone and can cover every genre, from jazz to rock. The medium jumbo frets and traditional 9.5” fretboard radius will appeal to the classic Strat players. And the fingerboard edges are rolled for enhanced playability.
Other notable features include a bone nut and abalone dot inlays. The three-tone sunburst finish looks fantastic, and the price is hard to believe. These guitars are hard to beat if you’re looking for a classic, S-style guitar.
Godin Session HT
The Godin Session HT is a versatile, stage or studio-ready S-style guitar. The Session HT is lighter than other guitars on our list, weighing between 6 and 7 pounds. The body is made of silver maple, a lighter, resonant wood.
The maple neck and Indian laurel fretboard with a 12” radius provide a stable and responsive playing experience. The neck joint is curved for easy access to the upper frets, and a fixed bridge and Graph Tech nut contribute to tuning stability.
The two Godin single-coil pickups and humbucker provide the player with a range of tones, from clean to gritty. The push-pull coil split and 5-way selector switch offer a few more sonic options.
Our favorite feature of the Godin Session HT is the styling. The semi-gloss natural wood finish of the Bourbon Burst model looks fantastic. The unconventional pickguard shape helps the guitar stand out from a crowd of Strat alternatives.
The Session HT is priced slightly higher than the Player Series, but is still competitive amongst the Strat model lineup.
Best Strat Alternatives, Which One Is Right For You?
The Fender Stratocaster is a legendary guitar used by countless professional musicians. For those that want different features and price points, one of the Strat alternatives on our list will fit the bill.
The Yamaha Pacifica is a great all-around alternate choice. The Sire Lary Carlton S7 Vintage and G&L Tribute S-500 provide that classic S-style without breaking the bank.
The Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass RS, Godin Session HT, and Ibanez AZ2204 offer modern features only found on Strat alternatives.
And the Jackson Soloist, Charvel Pro-Mod, Ibanez RG, and Schecter Van Nuys will bring out the shredder in you.
These are all great alternatives to the Strat with their own unique features. No matter what your budget or style of music is, there is a Stratocaster alternative that is perfect for you.