09 November 2012

Guitars: Fender American Deluxe HSS Stratocaster


Note: this entry was originally posted during September 2009, in my old version of this blog, in Spanish. I am revisiting here such an entry and updating it with the tests and changes that I did to this guitar until today.

As happened to many other guitarists, the magical image of Jimi Hendrix creating incredible sounds with the help of that white Stratocaster, while pushing hard his Marshalls, is something that is still alive in my mind.
So, yes, like many other guitarists, I wanted to dead a Stratocaster and a Marshall.

Well, I wasn't able to buy my dreamed guitar until it was very late, when I had to play alone at home. In 1991 I bought my very first guitar of a well known maker: a Fender American Standard Stratocaster.
I was previously owning two cheap guitars: a copy of a Gibson Marauder of a Japanese maker and, some kind of Floyd Rose guitar of some other unknown maker.
I loved my new brand Stratocaster, for sure. I loved even her smell.
Some years later, I went to my first Marshall but, it was a wrong decision, since I've got one Valvetone one, instead of the real deal.

After playing that Strato for years, I started to be uncomfortable with some things. By example, the lack of tuning stability, the weak sound of the pickups, the noise of single coils, etc.
Before knowing absolutely nothing of what I actually know, I tried several things on the guitar: as noiseless pickups (that I hated), single-coil sized humbuckers (that I hated) and many other things.
Then, during 2009 I saw Fender offering some Deluxe models and, after carefully reading their description, I thought this Strato could be the kind of Strato that will make my playing more comfortable.

I sold my old American Standard and bought a new brand American Deluxe HSS Stratocaster.


The guitar comes inside a guitar-shaped hard case. Since the case fits to the shape of the guitar, there is less room to store your stuff inside, compared with the rectangular case of my old Standard.
In any case, the case seems harder than the old one and, the locks seem of a better quality (I've brook one after one month in the Standard).
Comes with all the goodies, including a Fender Instrument Cable and a nice leather guitar strap.

Compared to the look of my old Standard, this one seemed to me less sexy but, honestly, none of the Deluxe models had an attractive look to my taste. So, I went for the less ugly one but, still ugly.
Despite of the thick paint that covers the body, all the rest seemed really stunning.

The finishing quality of the neck is incredible good. While in the standard the dots of the fretboard were painted, in the Deluxe the dots are all mother-pearl inlays. The neck profile was a bit thinner and wider than in the Standard and, the radius bigger also. The look of the rosewood fretboard was also gorgeous and, the maple of the neck had a very gorgeous look.

The typical nut is being replaced here with a LRS nut. A nut that provides less friction to the strings, since each one is surrounded by a couple of little bearing balls. This increases the sustain of the strings but, it also adds some metallic high end to the sound.

The headstock mounts staggered locking tuning keys that make unnecessary the use of string trees to modify the angle of the strings 1 to 4. That's helps also to the sustain. Also, since the string is being locked inside the post, you can cut the remaining part of the string and therefore wrap less turns.

Frets are perfectly leveled and don't disturb you when walking the fretboard. The Standard had frets not perfectly sanded that made a bit more difficult to walk the fretboard.

The junction body-neck has some cut that helps to better reach the lower frets. Still not so comfortable as the junction that you can find in some super-stratos, like Ibanez' ones but, way better than the typical Strato junction.

The bridge, apparently looks like the vintage one but, it's a real floating bridge, which blade rests on two little posts (similarly as a Floyd Rose). The material and finishing seems to be a bit better than the typical standard tremolo. The tremolo bar is of pop-up type so, you just push it to insert it in the bridge's hole, instead of having to screw it. Also, the bar is thicker and with a better look. The Standard is thinner and bends when you handle it and, that white tap falls down very often. No tap in the Deluxe's tremolo bar.
The sensibility of this tremolo bar is very similar to the sensibility of a good Floyd Rose.
The bridge, with 5 springs retaining it, stays very stable and, it's very easy to do anything without having to use a great force to play it and, at the same time, is not so easy to accidentally bend the strings if your palm rests over it.
The combined action of the locking  keys and this type of bridge, give to the guitar a great tuning stability and, it comes back to perfect tuning even after hard dive bombing, what is some kind incredible in a Strato.

Pickups are a pair of SCN (Samarian Cobalt Noiseless) and the atom-1 humbucker by Fender.
Neither the SCN neck and middle, neither the humbucker liked me. The humbucker was surprisingly noisy. All them seemed to lack some attitude and, none gave that typical Strato sound.
I would say that, when I bought that guitar, I had just that one so, her should cover all the ground and, even didn't loving those pickups, they did the job. Not a sound that a purist would appreciate but, they were useful to cover everything, from cleans to high gain.

The guitar comes with a push/push S-1 switch, under the volume pot, that allows to get alternate combinations, different of the typical 5 ones that any regular 5-way switch provides. Honestly, just one or two of the alternate one was of interest to me (at least with that set of pickups). In my opinion, the alternate combos available in the Deluxe SSS are more interesting.

The silly thing about that guitar is that it costed just 200 Eur more than the Standard model and, the difference was HUGE, in any single detail. I never understood it but, when I recommended it to a friend, those guitars had increased their price in more than 600 Eur more than when I bought her.
Not sure if I would go for this guitar at that new price, nowadays.
Maybe, I had luck this time!.

Playing it

Compared to the Standard, the Deluxe was comfortable from the very first day and, it's today my number 1.
The nice sensitivity of the floating tremolo, the smoothness of the neck... everything makes me to love this axe to dead (except for the ugly paint of the body).

The fretboard isn't so fast as in the PRS 513 or in a Red Special or in a JEM7VWH but, good enough.
It gives me very few tuning stability issues. Not so stable as the PRS 513 but, even better than in my LP-clone.
The guitar is well balanced and stands stable when you hung her.

Modding it

As soon as I've stocked some other types of guitars, including one with Floyd Rose, the idea of having a guitar for everything disappeared and, the idea of have an Strato that sounded like a Strato started.
My first try was with a set of Bareknuckle pickups: Mother's Milk, an awesome set of pickups with lots of details but, probably a bit trebly for this axe.
After a year of using them, I went for a set of Seymour Duncan Antiquity II Surf and, I think this was a good election but, maybe a set of staggered Sultans of BKP can do the trick, as well. anyway, I am not planning to swap those pickups again.

I've decided to have a separate tone control for the bridge pickup since, this is the one that usually needs some roll off of the high end. I've also shielded the electronics cavity, swapped pots and caps (actually, a couple of .0047 PIO caps).
Some day, I would do some other wiring design to provide it with more options but, I am playing it practically all the sessions so... I have to wait until my interest turns over other axe. LOL.

I went for 0.10" strings, because I feel that the LRS nut adds some metallic character to the sound, some sparkle and excessive high end that can sound a bit thin. The bigger gauge adds body and helps me to achieve more stable chords (were you don't accidentally bend one or the other string with some finger pushing hard). This made necessary to setup again the guitar but, did worth it.


The videos I had about this guitar mounting the original HSS pickguard were removed, since they lacked sound quality. This guitar is present in most of my videos but, I think I am not demoing it specifically but, using it to demo another thing.

Maybe this one represents its current status and, can be heard clean and with several pedal effects:


  1. Thank you for sharing this post in English. I love reading your experience. My first guitar build was putting a cheap Peavey imitation Strat (originally called a Predator) back together. I covered the body with Wolverine comic book pages. A few years later I started to look at what I wanted to modify and upgrade. I started with hardware and my inspiration was the Fender SSS Deluxe Strat. This was the same time you bought it. I got staggered tuning machines, a LSR roller nut, and a 2 post Wilkinson bridge. I also reshaped the neck so it was flatter. These four changes made it a wonderful guitar to play.
    I almost switched out the cheap pickups for the SCN, but decided not to since I still am not very good and had already exceeded my budget.
    Anyway, thank for sharing your experience. It is great to see what you liked and didn't like.

    1. Dude, you are very kind.
      Dumies like myself, when having some tool on hands can just result hurted so, my admiration goes to people like yourself. You are able to make your own things, I have to buy things.
      Keep up the good work!.


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