Over the last few years, Fender has gone back to the drawing board and re-imagined many of their most popular guitars, adding player requested specs to produce a factory-modded instrument, while still holding true to the original design of the guitar and features well received across the board of each respective series or style of guitar.
What is the American Performer series? This line of guitars replaces the American Special series, a guitar most visually distinguished for its ‘70s style peg heads and lettering. The American Performer also introduces the classic Fender Jazzmaster and Mustang to the series, along with a PJ style Precision bass. For review we got our hands on an American Performer Stratocaster. Key features of this guitar include a C-shape satin finish neck, Jumbo frets, and large ’70s style headstock – which all were features of the American Special Stratocaster. New to the American Performer design are Fender Yosemite pickups, which are a new design incorporating a mix of Alnico 2 and Alnico 4 magnets and incorporate a shellac coating to curb negative feedback. The American Performer series Stratocaster introduces four new colors: Arctic White, Satin Lake Placid Blue, Penny, and Honey Burst.
In order to keep these guitars and basses in the sub-$1,500 price point, a Fender gig bag instead of a case is included, and the guitar features a polyurethane body finish and non-gloss neck finish.
The new Yosemite pickup is a slightly cleaner pickup in comparison to the Texas Specials as featured on the American Special Strat of yesteryear. One of the American Performer’s slickest features is in its pickups and wiring. The bridge position tone pot sleekly houses a push-pull wiring schematic that adds the neck pickup to positions one and two on the guitar’s 5-way selector. This means the user can have Tele-style mid positions at easy reach along with quirky, quacky tones of having all three pickups on at one time.
Another fantastic new Fender design introduced with the American Performer series are new ClassicGear tuners. These 18:1 ratio tuners are a modern interpretation of Fender’s vintage-style top load tuning machines of the 1950s and ‘60s. Many players prefer the vintage-style tuner for a more classic look and a quick string change. (Pre-cut each string 2+1/2 post lengths!). The problem with installing these style tuners on modern Fender and similarly built instruments is the shaft of the tuner is too small for the modern rout. As opposed to two screws holding each tuner in, the ClassicGear tuners are stabilized with a hex bushing on the front of the tuner, much like modern Schaller and Sperzel types. These tuners are also available from Fender as an accessory purchase retrofit for most modern Fender instruments.
This Stratocaster was tons of fun to play, with an instantly familiar feel and modern playability enhanced by its 22 Jumbo frets. One thing to keep in mind, just because this series is at a lesser price point than the American Professional and higher series of guitars does not mean it is any less of a quality instrument, and in fact packs features possibly preferred over those of a guitar that cost a few hundred dollars more. Through the new American Performer series as well as the American Pros, Originals – even the MIM Player series – there is a Stratocaster series offering awesome, professional features for every guitar player.