Fender Mexican Strat vs. American Stratocaster Guitar Review
Fender Stratocaster MIM vs MIA
The Fender Stratocaster is a special guitar. Whether you play the American Profession version or the Mexican-made Player Strat, you know you’ve got a guitar that lives up to the Fender name.
Of course the Fender American Stratocaster is a legendary instrument, sought after by many players from the moment they learn to fret a note. The list of players who have relied on the Strat for their sound reads like a who’s-who of guitar history. From Jimi Hendrix, to Yngwie Malmsteen, to Stevie Ray Vaughan, to Eric Clapton — musicians in every genre and style have squeezed incredible sounds out of the Stratocaster.
Unfortunately, while the asking price is well worth it, the cost of new American Strat may be too steep for some players. So Fender gives us the Player Stratocaster, a made-in-Mexico version of this iconic guitar.
The Player Stratocaster takes the place of the Standard Strat, which was sometimes referred to as the MIM (Made in Mexico) Stratocaster. The Player Series, too, is made in Mexico. It’s a great instrument, and comes in at less than half the price of a USA Strat.
The only problem is that this puts many players in a mental bind. Should you drop the cash on an American Stratocaster, or go with the less expensive MIM Strat? What’s the difference anyway?
I've been playing a Standard MIM HSS Strat for years. I also own and have owned MIA Strats. This article will take a look at some of the reasons a guitarist might choose one over the other. Hopefully by the time we are done, you’ll have a clearer idea of which guitar is better for you, your budget, and your needs.
5 Reasons to Choose the Mexican Stratocaster
For some players, the cost-effective Player Series Stratocaster is simply a better choice. Not every player needs or wants the hassle of worrying about and caring for an expensive guitar. Other players simply may not have progressed enough in their playing to justify spending more money on a guitar.
Here are five reasons you might choose a Mexican Strat over the American version.
- Cost. Obviously this is the main reason driving most people who choose a Mexican Strat. Player Series MIM Stratocasters cost far less than an American Professional Strat. For many players, a MIM Stratocaster is a stepping stone to the real deal. The quality isn’t quite as high, but a Mexican Strat is a solid instrument that will last a long time if you treat it right.
- Performance. Is a Mexican Strat as good as an American one? Nope. It doesn’t sound as good or play as well. However, for the price, it’s an exceptional instrument, and much better than most other guitars in its price range. In fact, the new Player Series is even closer than the old Standards when it comes to what you'd expect from an American Strat. Mexican Fenders definitely have that Strat vibe, both in looks and sound. If you’re worried people might think less of you because you aren’t playing an American Strat, don't. Most people can’t tell the difference unless they know specifically what to look and listen for.
- Expendability. Do you really want to take your expensive American Strat to that crummy club you’re playing at on Friday night? The Player Stratocaster is a great choice for a lot of working musicians who worry about their good guitars getting lost or stolen at gigs. They record with their American Fender but bring the MIM out to the bar.
- Modding. Stratocasters are great for modding, and some players have built some really awesome guitars over the years. There are all kinds of aftermarket parts available so you can create a custom instrument right down to the control knobs. But many players aren’t so crazy about tearing apart their American Fender. A MIM Strat provides a solid foundation for swapping out pickups, electronics, and hardware without wrecking your sweet American Strat.
- Simplicity. Like the golfer who owns all the expensive, cutting-edge clubs and still shanks the ball into the woods every time, many guitarists worry more about their gear than their skills. If you want to pick up a solid guitar and get down to business, the MIM Strat is a great choice, especially if you are a new or intermediate player. Add in a good, inexpensive amp and you can replace your whole rig if need be for less than the cost of an American Strat.
So, what does this mean to you? It means, if you are looking for an affordable, no-nonsense instrument for playing in a band, recording in the studio or finally taking this guitar thing seriously the is the way to go. You don't have to spend a lot of money, and you still end up with a legendary guitar that sounds amazing. Fender Player Series Stratocaster
MIM Strat Features
Made in Fender's facilities in Mexico, the Player Stat is available in a SSS or HSS pickup configuration, and a choice of a one-piece maple neck or maple neck with pao ferro fingerboard.
Other features include a modern “C” shape neck, standard pickups with 5-way selector, 2-point tremolo (which is an upgrade from the 6-screw vintage bridge on the Standard), and chrome hardware.
The Fender Player Strat is a great way for players on a budget to grab a real Stratocaster for an affordable price. But it is also a favorite of veteran guitar players who recognize it as one of the best values out there.
Hear the Player Strat
5 Reasons to Go With the American Strat
The Fender Player Stratocaster is a great guitar, especially for the money. But the is the real deal. For many players, nothing short of the best Fender has to offer will do. The price tag may be higher, but Fender’s American instruments are among the best guitars in the world. Nobody is ever disappointed with a made-in-the-USA Strat. American Professional Stratocaster
Here are 5 reasons to consider the American Professional Stratocaster.
- Tone. Honestly, the tone could be reasons one, two, three, four, and five. Mexican-made Strats sound great, and some sound spectacular — but when you choose an American Fender you have a much better chance of finding that Holy Grail of tone you know you’ve always been searching for. American instruments are constructed to higher standards, using better quality control, and better materials. You find that one gem and you may never buy another guitar again. Every note on the neck of a great American Fender just oozes with mojo, at every pickup setting.
- Value. An American Strat will increase, or at least hold, value over time, whereas a MIM probably will not. You may not care about resale, but imagine passing your beloved instrument down to your son or daughter someday. An American Fender is an heirloom that can stay in your family for generations, and it will only sound better with age. Plus, there are few things more beautiful than an aged, well-loved Strat.
- Performance. Yeah, this is listed under the MIM positive points as well, but it means something different here. With a MIM Strat you get a great guitar for the money. With an American Strat, you get a great guitar, period. If you’re a professional musician, this might be a big difference to you, especially in a recording situation. You want to get the best sound you can, and an American Strat will deliver that over and over again.
- Buy American. This means a lot to some American guitarists. They feel good knowing the instruments they use were not built in some other country to save on labor costs, and they’re proud to support an American company that still builds their best stuff in America. To be fair to Fender, their factories in Mexico are quite high-quality compared to the shops some guitar manufacturers have working for them. Still, many guitarists will only play American gear, made in America, by American workers.
- The Fender Legacy. Make no mistake: a MIM Stratocaster is a real Strat through and through. However, generally, when people talk about Fender Stratocasters, they're talking about the American model. This is the bloodline that streams from Hendrix, Vaughan, Beck, Gilmour, Blackmore, Malmsteen, and countless others.
For many guitarists, being part of that Fender legacy is a big deal. Yes, it’s about tone, quality, performance, reliability, and value, but all of that is wrapped up in the Fender name. And Fender puts their best foot forward with their American-made instruments. It’s a tradition that’s gone on for over half a century, and not likely to stop any time soon.
The American Professional Stratocaster is available in either the SSS or HSS pickup configuration with the choice of a one-piece maple neck or maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. Most have alder bodies.
A modern “Deep C” shape neck, Tim Shaw-designed V-Mod single-coil pickups
with a 5-way selector and treble bleed circuit, 2-point synchronized tremolo and chrome hardware round out the list of appointments.
Building an American Strat
The Fender American Performer Stratocaster
So, maybe you’ve read all of this and you’re still on the fence about whether to go for the Mexican-made Player Strat or drop the cash on an American-made guitar. Fender feels you, and luckily they offer a very solid compromise.
The is an American-made guitar with more affordable components. It’s one of the best values out there, and a great way to land an American Strat for well under a grand. Fender American Performer Stratocaster
If you’ve been around a little while, you might remember the Fender Highway One Stratocasters. These things came out over a decade ago and have gradually vanished. They were eventually replaced by the American Special Series. Now, they’ve been upgraded and rebranded as the American Performer Series, but it’s the same idea. You get a great American Fender without shelling out the big bucks.
At the same time, feel free to whip out the wrenches and soldering iron, and mod away. The American Performer is a great guitar for upgrading. However, it comes with better components than the old Highway Ones, so you may not feel the need.
Features include Yosemite single-coil Stratocaster pickups for the SSS version, and two Yosemite single-coils plus a DoubleTap Humbucker for the HSS. The American Performer also comes in some great finishes like Satin Lake Placid Blue and Honeyburst.
If you’re looking for a guitar that walks the line between the performance of an American Strat and the affordability of the Mexican version, the American Performer may be just what you need.
Fender American Performer Stratocaster
Fender Stratocaster FAQ and Summary
Got more questions? Here are more answers:
Is an American Strat better than a Mexican Strat?
On paper, an American Stratocaster is a better guitar. However, there are many stories of guitar players who walked into a guitar shop, compared MIA and MIM Fenders and left with the Mexican-made guitar. MIM Fenders are very good instruments and among the best intermediate electric guitars out there. Only you can decide which guitar is better for you.
What is the difference between a Mexican Strat and an American Strat?
It comes down to the components used to build the guitar. American Fenders use higher-quality woods, electronics, and hardware. They are premium instruments made in the United States by skilled luthiers and workers. That doesn’t mean MIM Fenders are bad or made with low-quality components. It just means the MIA version is slightly better.
How much does a Fender Stratocaster cost?
As of this writing, a Player Series Stratocasters cost around $700, the American Performer Strat comes in around $1,150, and the American Professional Stratocasters costs about $1,450. Prices can change so check with Fender’s website for the most up-to-date info on their gear. There are also some affordable Stratocaster alternatives you might consider.
Is an American Stratocaster worth the money?
At roughly half the cost of the American Professional Strat, it may be tough to pass up on the MIM Player Series. For most players, Player Series Stratocasters are more than good enough to do the job. However, some guitar players may find the differences worth the extra cost, particularly professional musicians, or veteran guitarists who are serious Strat enthusiasts.
How can I make my Mexican Stratocaster better?
The simplest way to improve the performance of your MIM Strat is to get a professional setup. You can swap out some parts if you want too. One of the great things about Stratocasters is that they are relatively easy to upgrade. In order of biggest impact to least, you may wish to consider upgrading:
- Internal Electronics
Which Strat to Choose?
Choosing between a Stratocaster made in Mexico and a USA-made Fender Strat is a tough decision. Every guitar player has a different budget and skill level.
Hey, that’s why Fender makes different models of Stratocaster to cater to every style and ability, from Squier lineup for the beginner who is picking up a guitar for the first time to the seasoned veteran.
Fender Stratocasters are among the most incredible instruments available and have stood the test of time going all the way back to the 1950s. They’re simple guitars that give a player everything he needs and very little of what he doesn’t.
And, of course, they sound fantastic. The Fender Stratocaster has shaped the rock world for decades.
So which to choose: the Fender American Professional, or the Mexican-made Player Series? Or should you split the difference and go with the American Performer Stratocaster?
Of course, you’ll have to make that decision yourself. Remember, this article is all based on my experience and opinion. You have your own experience to draw from but, hopefully, you found this article helpful in your quest.
MIM or MIA?
Which Strat are you going to choose?
Learn More About the Fender Stratocaster
- Top 10 Reasons to Play a Stratocaster
The Fender Stratocaster is one of the most iconic guitars in music history. If you don’t play one, here are 10 reasons you should.
- Best Stratocasters for Beginners
Get advice on choosing the best Fender or Squier by Fender Stratocaster electric guitar for beginners for your budget and style.
- Squier Vintage Modified vs Classic Vibe Stratocaster
Compare the Squier Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Stratocasters and decide which is better for your budget and style.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Can you have a Stratocaster with a humbucker at both the neck and bridge and, if so, how would it sound?
The classic Stratocaster pickup configuration is three single-coil pickups (SSS), and there are many Strats that incorporate a humbucker at the bridge (HSS). However, there are also stock Strats with a pair of humbuckers, one at the bridge and one at the neck (HH) and even those with a single-coil pickup between the two humbuckers (HSH).
You'll find variations of these models at every price point, from Squier and Mexican-made Stratocasters all the way up to expensive American-made Stats.
The humbuckers give the Strat a thicker, warmer, heavier sound, and they are higher-output than standard single coils. A bridge-position humbucker means better crunch for genres like metal and hard rock. The neck position of a humbucker gives a Strat rounder, warmer sounds for jazz and rock soloing.
The interesting thing is, even with these pickup changes, to me a Strat still sounds like a Strat. In other words, an HH Stratocaster isn't going to sound anything like a Les Paul or even something like a Jackson or Ibanez. That Fender vibe always seems to come through.Helpful 32
Do you think that what guitar players should focus on more is practicing rather than having made in America gear?
Yes, I believe players should worry more about practice than gear. Mexican-made Stratocasters and other Player Series Fender guitars are very good, and certainly, have what it takes to do the job for most players.
I think it is accurate to say that if you get a MIM Stratocaster you like and dedicate yourself to practicing the guitar, you’ll be just fine. You may never need to think about an American Fender, or any other guitar for that matter.
However, I would also say there are many valid reasons people love American Fenders. They’re beautiful instruments, they sound and play fantastic, and in many ways, they are subjectively better than MIM Fenders. Some would say they are objectively better in certain ways, and I can’t disagree with that either.
The point of my article isn’t to say one is good and one is bad. The point is that guitar players shouldn’t feel like they have to own a certain guitar to get anywhere, and unfortunately, that is often the impression they get. They feel like they must buy an American Strat, because nobody will take them seriously if they play a MIM.
I say hogwash. Buy what you like and can reasonably afford and then go practice.
If you want to buy an American Fender, go for it. They are amazing instruments, and you won’t regret it.
If it means you buy a Mexican Fender, don’t feel bad about it for an instant. They sound fantastic, and they do everything you need to do.
Heck, buy a Squier if you want to – they are good guitars for the money too. Then go practice. If anyone makes fun of your Squier, they’ll shut up when they hear you play.Helpful 31