The Fender Stratocaster is an iconic guitar, and one of the fist solid body guitars that the world had ever seen. But Today, we take a look at some companies that make the best Fender Strat alternatives, and you might be surprised at how awesome they are!
The Best Fender Strat Alternatives: Why Is The Fender Strat So Popular?
The original Fender Stratocaster was made way back in the 1950’s and it changed the music world forever. It was one of the first solid body electric guitars, which was a totally new concept at the time! Once Fender released the Stratocaster, many companies started to copy it, albeit…never exactly. The companies that DID copy fender exactly ended up in court, fighting a lawsuit.
In fact, the Fender Stratocaster is probably the most copied guitar style of all time. In a lot of cases, they are tricked-out versions of the classic instrument. Ibanez really made a name for themselves doing this. This doesn’t mean that Ibanez “ripped off” Fender or anything. But Ibanez modified the Strat shape and added a floating bridge to accommodate Metal guitarists.
And over the years, Fender even noticed that not all of their fan base is Country/Pop fans! This lead to Fender making some really great guitars that are more aimed at heavier music. These sleek designs have a flatter fretboard, better tremolo systems, and humbucking pickups. All of these features really appeal to the Shredder guitarists, and anyone playing Hard Rock/Heavy Metal. The Fender Custom Shop offers tons of really good options as well, if you have that kind of budget.
But some people just want something totally different, that offers more, yet remains the same in function and spirit.
Fender aficionados will tell you that nothing beats a real Fender. I tend to disagree a little bit, and I think there are some great guitars that will fit the “Best Fender Strat Alternative”. Some might actually be better than a Fender! This of course is going to be up to you as an individual, and your specific play style.
* We will not be looking at any companies owned by Fender. Such as Charvel or Jackson, even though they would be a contender for the best Fender Strat alternative. These are technically Fender guitars, so we will only look at companies not under that umbrella*
So let’s take a look at the 3 guitars that I think would be the best Fender Strat alternative for someone looking for that ever-so popular sound, but a new unique design!
#3 PRS Silver Sky
When the PRS Silver Sky first came out, it was not viewed as a best Fender Strat alternative at all, some people said it was an outright copy! Some time passed the guitar community let the dust settle, and after some inspection… we see that the Silver Sky is definitely it’s own thing.
The PRS Silver Sky is John Mayer’s signature guitar. John and Paul Reed Smith spent over two years developing the Silver Sky. John spent over a decade as an official Fender Artist, and had several signature Stratocaster models made by Fender over the years. But things changed once John had a PRS made for him when he went on tour playing with The Grateful Dead. He was so impressed by the quality of the PRS, that it sparked a relationship between PRS and John.
What we get, is not just a potential best Fender Strat alternative, but a different beast all together! The features may seem simple, but as Paul Reed Smith often says… a guitar is the sum of all parts and features!
- Maple or Rosewood Fretboard
- Alder Body
- Maple Neck
- Bird Inlays
- Locking Vintage Style Tuners
- Solid Steel Trem System
- Bone Nut
- 635JM Pickup System
- 5-Way Switch
- 7.25 Vintage Radius
The PRS Silver Sky combines the elements of two of John’s favorite guitars: A ’63 Fender, and a ’64. This is apparent in the neck shape and carve. The neck is supposed to feel familiar and worn in, while retaining the “newness” of a brand new guitar. I think they achieved this, as the neck carve is a little chunky, but it’s a joy to play! The lower horn carve also allows you to hit every fret, without hinderance.
The Vintage Radius 7.5 fretboard is a point of contention with a lot of guitarists. This is a pretty rounded shape for a fretboard, and on vintage Fender Strat guitars, this cause problems when playing the higher frets. The notes often “choke out” when doing big bends, because the neck is not flat enough. PRS solved this problem by using some master fretwork wizardry on the higher frets. There is no choking out, and it plays really smooth!
The 635JM Pickups are the real star of the show here. You still get all of the same switching options that you have on a Fender Strat. These pickups are a lot less noisy than your regular single coil pickups. The bridge pickup also takes out a ton of high frequencies that create that “ice pick” sound that a Fender often has. This ensures that all of the positions have a usable tone, without having to adjust your entire EQ on your amp rig or Virtual Amp.
The Silver Sky would be my #1 choice for the best Fender Strat alternative if it did not come with such a hefty price tag. This of course, is up to your budget and preference. In actuality, the PRS Silver Sky isn’t really more expensive than a high end Fender. But this is completely up to you, to decide if it’s worth it!
<CHECK LATEST PRICES ON THE PRS SILVER SKY
#2 Chapman ML1 Hybrid Series
The Chapman ML1 series has been around for quite some time, over a decade in fact. It was meant to be an “affordable” of their version of the best Fender Strat alternative. But in the true essence of the guitar, it s meant to be a “swiss army guitar” that can adapt to a ton of different tonal genres and options.
The Chapman brand name comes from Rob Chapman, a YouTube personality that is famous for doing gear demos. After spending so much time playing and reviewing other brands of guitars, he discovered it would be best if he just made his own brand of guitars, with the features that he and his team wanted to see. Chapman also asked for the public’s opinions on designs, to see what the customer would want in a guitar.
The original ML1 was a limited run over a decade ago, and it sold out rather quick. These were only sold by Anderton’s Music, and the Chapman brand remained that way for quite a while. The company eventually scored a distribution deal with international retailers, and the rest is history.
The features are all pretty modern, yet this is a guitar that could be used for Blues just as easily as Shred. This makes it one of the best Fender Strat alternatives for me, personally.
- Roasted Maple Neck
- 22 Jumbo Frets
- Graph Tech TUSQ Nut
- Mahogany Body/ Flame Veneer
- Reveal Binding
- 2 Point Tremolo
- Venus Witch Single Coils/ Sonorous Humbucker
- 5 Way Switch
The Chapman ML1 Hybrid has the best of both worlds with modern, and vintage features. The roasted maple neck is a great trend that we have seen pop up in the past few years. While this is certainly aesthetically pleasing, it also makes for a more solid and stable neck. This means less adjusting the neck due to temperature changes and routine maintenance.
When looking at the modern side of this guitar, you get a high output humbucker in the bridge that can chug with the best of them. But you also get the classic single coils in the bridge and middle position, to get pristine clean sounds. Jumbo frets are also a more modern feature that you cannot usually find on a Fender Strat.
When it comes to the more classic features, you have a very Fender-esque two point trem system. These are definitely not meant for divebombing or hardcore flutters. But for simple bends, this is a great trem. You also get a 9.5 radius and 25.5 scale length just like a regular fender Stratocaster. This is why I count it as the best Fender Strat alternative. At it’s core, it IS a Strat.
Chapman guitars is a budget brand, and the price reflects this. But don’t let the affordable price fool you. The ML1 is one of the better, if not the best Fender Strat alternative for those on a budget. These guitars are also designed to be “modded” if you wish. You can replace the pickups easily, the tuners, or any other part on the guitar. Almost every part is “universal size” for import guitars. This way, you can customize your Chapman ML1 however you want! And since you can customize it, this may be the best Fender Strat Alternative for YOU.
The Best Fender Strat Alternative: An Honorable Mention…
Before we hit the number 1 Best Fender Strat Alternative, I wanted to bring up one that almost made the list. It was slightly beat out by the Chapman ML1 when it comes to versatility and playability, but I had to list it here, because it is not only the most budget friendly model, but also one of the best…period!
The Yamaha Pacifica Series has long been one of the best guitars for people on a budget, or beginners. It has a long legacy, and I have never been to a recording studio that didn’t have one lying around. These are easy to play, and even the most affordable models sound great! I have seen quite a few professional players use a Yamaha on stages all over America.
With the more affordable models, you get a pretty bare-bones guitar. But where it lacks in features, it makes up for in playability. The neck is perfect for a beginner, and there are tons of different tonal options. No matter what genre you play, the Yamaha Pacifica can tackle it with ease. The base model has not changed at all in 20 years, and for some people, remains the best Fender Strat alternative for a beginner.
Should you be a veteran guitarist, Yamaha also makes The Pacifica Series in a higher tier model that has name brand hardware and pickups. These high spec models also come with Flame Maple tops, and lots of other features. We talk about them in length here in this article, and you get a lot of guitar for the money.
The Yamaha Pacifica has long been the best Fender Strat alternative when it comes to budget guitars, and should not be overlooked! Don’t let it’s humble price fool you.
Now, on to the #1 pick!
#1 Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional
I already know what you’re thinking. I am biased since I am a Schecter Artist. But I assure you that this is not the case! This is honestly the best Fender Strat alternative that I have played in recent years, it just happens to be made by my favorite company.
It is also easy to look at the Nick Johnston Signature and say ” OMG That IS A Strat!”. But Nick is a shredder at heart, and he knows exactly what he wants in a guitar. During the process of designing the perfect guitar for Nick, he even worried about the similarities himself:
“When we first started, I was concerned with making it too much like a Strat, but that’s what I always played and there was not a ton of stuff I really had any interest in changing.
But then you realize there are so many variables. We got rid of one of the knobs, so it’s just one tone and one volume. We moved the input jack to the base of the guitar and took more of a modern approach to the construction methods. If you take the pickguard off and look at the guts, it’s beautiful! “
The similarities honestly stop at the aesthetics of the guitar, as the features are things you would never find on a fender Strat. The NJ Signature has a ton of really cool features that you won’t find on any Fender:
- Ebony Fretboard
- Graph Tech TUSQ Nut
- Roasted Maple Neck
- Alder Body
- Locking Tuners
- 2 Point Tremolo
- HSS/SSS Pickup Options
- 14” Radius
- 22 X Jumbo Frets
The Schecter NJ Traditional is yet another guitar that blends the modern features with some vintage specs. But the focus here is definitely the modern design. I am a big fan of the flat radius and X Jumbo frets, as this makes it feel like the neck of a shredder’s guitar, but it’s bolted on to a very traditional shape. This gives you lots of options, while being the best Fender Strat alternative, in my opinion.
When you disregard the obviously shred inspired neck, and get to the body, you see that this is actually pretty much a hot-rodded Strat. One knob is removed from the Fender design, and offset so it’s out of the way when you are playing. The 5-way switch works just like a fender, and you have two different model options: One with the humbucker, and one without. Which one you choose will be up to your play style, but personally, I like having a humbucker if I need it.
The TUSQ Nut and easy to set up trem system works like butter. This actually works better than high priced American Fender models if you ask me, and this is technically a “budget” guitar! I find that I have no problems at all with the tuning when doing flutters or slight dives.
The other slight changes, like the input jack being on the bottom, and the spoke wheel truss rod seals the deal for me as being the best Fender Start alternative on the market right now. The main line of the series are import guitars, and that’s the ones I have experience with. But Schecter also offers a USA Custom Shop version, that is out of this world!
The Best Fender Strat Alternatives: Wrapping Up
Don’t take this all the wrong way. If you have a Fender and you love it, then there’s nothing wrong with that! Fender is a legacy company for a reason, and they have sold millions of guitars over the years. However, small details and features may be the “make or break” point for some people. For myself, the knob placement on a Fender Strat is atrocious, and my hand always hits it while strumming.
Little details like this, can make playing guitar harder, and here at Electrikjam, we are always looking out for an easier way! I played many Fenders in my life, and I always loved the sound, but the small details just did not work for me. At the end of the day, it’s about the individual player and their preferences.
What is the best Fender Strat Alternative?
There are tons to pick from, but personally I think the Nick Johnston Signature by Schecter is one of the best. The PRS Silver Sky is also a great option if budget is not a concern.
Is the best Fender Strat Alternative Expensive?
The Schecter Nick Johnston Signature model is a very affordable guitar, as well as something like the Chapman ML1. But if you want custom shop quality, the PRS Silver Sky is a great choice.
Why would I want the best Fender Strat alternative?
The Fender Strat is an iconic guitar with a long legacy, but the features and design may not be for you, as a player. Other brands may be more comfortable, or easier to play for you.
Are the best Fender Strat Alternatives versatile?
Just like the Fender Strat itself, these best Fender Strat Alternative guitars as very versatile and can be used for all kinds of music. Particularly the Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional model, as it has a neck built for shredding.