Sure, we all drool over Fender Custom Shop axes, but those instruments are sometimes out of wallet’s reach. Coming to the rescue is Fender’s new American Vintage II series, which attempts several things at once: on the surface, it offers period-accurate re-creations of classic planks, down to tiny details, but more importantly, delivers them in a solid mid-price range. The AVII ’57 Stratocaster brings an honest ’50s vibe without inducing a sticker-shock coma.
Among the attributes that make the ’57 feel like the real deal is its V-shaped neck, that essential “Synchronized Tremolo,” and Pure Vintage ’57 single-coil pickups. Offered with a body cut from alder or ash, the maple neck sports the classic 25.5″ scale, 21 frets, and a 7.25″ radius. The single-ply pickguard is white, and there are aged-yellow pickup covers and knobs. A nitrocellulose finish completes the old-school presentation.
Off the bat, the neck makes a great first impression. While Strat neck carves fluctuate widely from skinny to fat to wide, the ’57 has that all important “deep” shape that evokes vintage Leo. The profile is comfortable and subtle (unlike, say, a Clapton Strat), and sits right in the pocket of your hand. The advantage of a fatter neck, many will say, is it transmits body resonance better, alluding to the adage “fat neck, fat tone.” This ’57 reissue has that in abundance.
For tone, you’ll have high expectations for Strat quack, and the ’57 does not disappoint. Running through the five positions, it has all the warm, cutting, and out-of-phase tones you expect, depending on your choice of amplifier or recording interface.
With the AVII ’57 Stratocaster, Fender has done a fine job packaging vintage specs into an American-made axe that won’t break the bank. For a Strat that has vibe out the wazoo, that’s a big deal.
This article originally appeared in VG’s February 2023 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.