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Taking a Closer Look at the Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

Brad Jeter

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Released in November of 2019 – Jazz Guitar Today asked contributor Brad Jeter to give this guitar from Fender’s American Ultra Collection the ‘once over’

Several decades ago, a handful of boutique builders started offering their versions of what a Stratocaster could be with modifications designed to bring a classic design up to date with a newer generation of players. Thus the rise of the “super” Strats. And, indeed, it was not a flash in the pan fad; these instruments have become the performance standards by which all modern Stratocaster style guitars are judged.

The Fender Ultra Strat has what they describe as an “Ultra modern ‘D’ neck with a 10”-14” compound radius. It has a consistent feel up and down the neck due to a relatively even thickness as you ascend the neck. The neck is finished in a thin, satin polyurethane which makes movement enjoyable and fast. The sculpted heel has been around for ages amongst the boutique builders and makes access above high-A more comfortable.

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The frets are medium-jumbo (22) with a height that will keep your fingertips off the fretboard. Fender’s fretwork is quite nice and they are smooth and facilitate effortless bending. The nut is bone and well seated on the neck. The nut slots could have been polished to a higher degree especially with the floating bridge.

Locking tuners are a must for floating bridges and the Fender branded tuners perform smoothly and accurately. One note, the guitar might have benefited from a higher performance string tree for the high B and E strings rather than the modified 1950s style. Any area along the string path on a floating bridge is a potential tuning gremlin.

The“Ultra noiseless Vintage” single-coilpickups are not completely silent; they could let a little high-frequency “hash” come through if it is a particularly noisy environment. However, this is a minor concern and will probably never be an issue for anyone.

The voicing of the pickups are on the modern side of the curve. They have a pronounced midrange scoop and are fast and clean sounding–somewhat glassy into a clean amp. From my point of view, these are not vintage-style pickups in any sense. The S-1 switch adds the neck pickup to the bridge and middle pickups respectively. This is a nice tonal option at your fingertips that adds some warmth, especially to the bridge pickup.

The middle tone control is shared by the middle and neck pickups and the lower tone control is for the bridge. Why this configuration hasn’t been standard on Strats from day one is beyond me. I feel it is essential for the bridge pickup.

Overall, the set-up of the instrument was good to go directly from the factory. Of course, if you are comfortable with performing adjustments, the Ultra Strat can easily be tailored to your own preferences.

In conclusion, the American Ultra Stratocaster is a good value for someone looking for a modern style “super” Strat for under $2000. If you have had your eyes on some of those boutique offerings but can’t justify the price, the Fender American Ultra Stratocaster should definitely be a major consideration.

For more information on the Fender American Ultra Stratocaster

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