I'm a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
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 Fender Player Series Stratocaster 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.
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 American Professional Stratocaster 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.
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 Fender American Performer Stratocaster 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.
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?
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
Question: Do you think that what guitar players should focus on more is practicing rather than having made in America gear?
Answer: 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.
Question: Can you have a Stratocaster with a humbucker at both the neck and bridge and, if so, how would it sound?
Answer: 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.
Raša on May 13, 2020:
I have Mexican Player series stratocaster HSS. I'm very happy.Fender Player series is the one the best Mexican guitar. This guitars have Proffesional musicians or hobi.
Michael James (author) on November 30, 2019:
@Tom - The American Performer is the new branding of the American Special Series, so the above comparisons apply. In my opinion, it comes down to pickups and finish.
Tom on November 29, 2019:
How does the player strat stack up compared to the American special?
Harrison Walsh on October 13, 2019:
I dissaggree I have my 2019 Mexican Strat and a 2004 American and my Mexican sounds better this article is a bunch of noncence
Michael James (author) on May 08, 2019:
@Eric - I read your question yesterday but I wanted to think about it a little bit before responding. I think it's a tricky issue.
First off, I don't think Fender intentionally misled you here. However, I do wish they would be more clear about where each guitar is made. Some brands list it right on the spec sheet on their website. Mexican-made Fenders are fairly well regarded, and I don't think it would hurt them any to simply list country of origin on their site.
The Page Dragon is a bit expensive for a MIM Fender. However, consider that a Player Series Tele goes for about half of the production model Dragon. But on the Dragon almost everything is upgraded. Ash body instead of alder, rosewood fingerboard instead of Pao ferro, nitro paint instead of poly. Different pickups and neck.
Is it worth it? If Fender would make me a custom guitar in their Mexican facility for $1300 with the exact specs I wanted, I'd go for that in a heartbeat. The difference here is these are Jimmy Page's custom specs, not mine or yours.
I think that's the bottom line of whether or not its worth it. Yes, you are paying for the Page name to some extent, but this guitar also has many upgrade compared to a stock MIM Player Tele. It really comes down to whether or not you like the same things Jimmy Page likes.
Ultimately, I'd say treat it like any other new guitar. Keep it if you love it. If not, return it.
Eric on May 07, 2019:
I recently pre-ordered the Jimmy Page Dragon production model. The video on almost everyones page for the production, was unclear if they were talking about the Custom or the cheaper version. As it was MIA Professional price, I assumed it was MIA. It wasn't until days later (a third party page), that Mexico was mentioned.
This is bloody expensive for a MIM. Is it an extraordinary build, or have mis-led?
Iag5ree7s mixo statsa aer abagain on April 04, 2019:
I despise the idea of a Mexican madefender
It should be called Mexiphone or domestic andhave different headstock\
Gibson does it right
Michael James (author) on March 18, 2019:
@Rich - My MIM Strat is a 2006 as well. It's a great guitar.
Rich Garza on March 17, 2019:
When I bought my Strat back in 2005 or 2006 I was after the American Standard. After playing it at Guitar Center I wasn't feeling the sound. I tried the MIM and loved the sound and feel instantly. Price was not an issue. This may have been a really good MIM vs a bad MIA, but it was my experience. I hesitantly bought the MIM over the MIA because I really wanted the American Standard. In the end I went for the one that sounded better. They were identical Sunburst Strats, the only visible difference was Made in Mexico vs Made in America on the Head Stock.
Dennis Hudson on March 05, 2019:
I have had both american and Mexacan starts and I like the Mexican maple neck and fret board better because of the price and playability. I also have a Mexican tele with a maple neck and fret board with twin hum buckers and the over sized head stock and play it as my every day go to guitar. I have a Gibson SG classic with an ebony fret board and P90 pick ups love it as well but there's something about that Fender sound that touches my soul.
John Gallloway on January 19, 2019:
Fender has lost touch with the musician. Fender cares more about the dollar. Soon Fender will do as Apple and make products in China...cheap slave labor so the CEO can live like Trump
Michael James (author) on September 07, 2018:
@Al - That's a good example of why I see both sides of this issue. Some MIM Fenders are better than MIA Fenders. Some MIM Fenders are a wreck straight from the factory. Some MIA Fenders are a wreck.
Overall I think Fender's quality control is very good, but bad guitars are always going to slip through. Sorry you had a bad experience, but I'd give them another shot, especially now that the new Player Series is out.
Al Arbuckle on September 07, 2018:
Nice article but I have to say my MIM Fender Stratocaster was a total mess. First, the bridge screw were so high that I kept snagging my fingers on them. Fender support sent the wrong screws , finally had to go an independent dealer.
The guitar would not stay in tune, found all of the hardware on the tuners loose.
The worst part was the four screws bolting the neck to the body were also loose. Each screw needed at least 2 full turns.
No longer a Fender customer.
Rodney on August 09, 2018:
Great article, thanks so much.
Michael James (author) on July 29, 2018:
@Kevan - I don't think you're wrong. But I also think generalizations are the only way to have these discussions. As you say, there is no way to play every MIA Fender or every MIM Fender. But after playing bunches of both I do think if you were to compare a large sample size of each you would find the MIAs consistently "better".
This doesn't mean MIM Fenders aren't outstanding guitars. (I said that several times.)
I also agree that there are MIM Fenders that are as good or better than MIM Fenders.
Kevan Tolley on July 28, 2018:
I disagree on many points. To say MIM's are not as good as MIA's is dishonest unless you have played every one. I will put my MIM deluxe strat up against most MIA standards. I don't want to get into a pissing contest but please refrain from generalizing. I have owned many crappy MIA's and superb MIM's. "Made in America" does not always mean quality.
Barry Morrison on June 25, 2018:
I own a MIM Fender FSR Telecaster that I use for live performance. It's an awesome guitar with excellent build quality. I intend to purchase a MIM Stratocaster for live performing as well. That guitar I will mod by replacing the pickups with Pure Vintage 65's. These MIM Fenders are great guitars! You'll notice I didn't add "for the money." Save your American models for recording. The MIM Fenders are great for playing live.
Pat from Centerville Georgia on June 12, 2018:
Hi, I just got a 2001 MIN yesterday. it is sunburst color I love it, Have been playing les paul custom & standard since the 80s. I didn't even want to pick up the les paul at practice tonight. Will use it at my show this Friday for half the show. I got a strat whammy bar today but it doesn't screw in correctly. It doesn't tighten up. I put a bibsby on my standard les paul & like that. Check out Sidewinder - Fish n Pig - Macon after june 15th on youtube to see the strat in action.
Gary Lee on March 08, 2018:
I love my Mexican Strat. Had it for 14 years and can not play a single note....I was born musically illiterate.
Sonny Dahl on February 22, 2018:
I have played stratocasters american made for 40 years now. I just recieved a SC HSS Floyd rose mexico made. It is a fantastic instrument. I have never owned a stratocaster with so much sustain. I Think it is the first time i don`t consider change pickups on my new SC. Instead i have ordered one more. To think you can get to 2 guitars with that quality, really fore the price of one. I really recommed these guitars.
Michael James (author) on January 22, 2018:
@Rolando - HSS and SSS simply refers to the pickup configuration. SSS means three single-coil pickups, as in the traditional Stratocaster design. HSS means a humbucker in the bridge position and two-single coils. Other combinations you might find in Strats and strat-like guitars are HH, HSH, or even just a single humbucker - H. Hope this makes sense!
Rolando on January 21, 2018:
Can you please explain de difference between HSS and SSS.
Michael James (author) on December 03, 2017:
@Fahd1984 - As far as quality I think the MIMs have an edge, but not by a large margin , and especially not considering the price. Remember the VM Series 50s and 60s Strats are intended to replicate vintage-era instruments. They have warmer Alnico pickups compared to the MIM Strats. I happen to really like Standard Strat pickups, but you may prefer a more vintage sound. I'd go out and check out each in person if you can. Good luck!
Fahd1984 on December 03, 2017:
How far off is the Squier Classic Vibe Strat from a MIM strat? Is there a big difference, small difference, no difference?
The CV looks good and sounds good but not sure which is better in terms of Tone, hardware, electrics, pickups and overall quality. Also, if the Quality Control isn't great with MIM, is it better with CV?
Michael James (author) on October 25, 2017:
@Eugene - Totally agree. While I think the average MIM Fender is a good guitar, if you dig a little you can find some exceptional Mexican-made instruments.
Eugene on October 24, 2017:
Two things: The quality control on American Strats is much higher than the Mexican, which doesn't mean you can't get a good Mexican made guitar. Also, I think the signature model Mexican made instuments have a much better quality control than the standard models.
J. Stein on October 01, 2017:
Own 2 Strats, both made in America. MIM are ok, but sound and overall quality are better Made in America. And I wanted to support American workers. To me, it was worth the extra cost to buy Made in USA. All my other guitars also made in USA ( Gibson electric, acoustics) and Martins. Only have one Taylor MIM. All bought for the same reasons. Same with my amps ( Fenders and Mesa Boogie)
Michael James (author) on September 13, 2017:
Hi Andy. MIM Strats typically say Made in Mexico on the headstock under or near the Fender logo. The serial number will also start with an M. Hope this helps.
Andy on September 13, 2017:
How do u know what stray u have I have a blue one baby blue maple neck
Michael James (author) on August 16, 2017:
Hi Frank! I'm a writer - I don't run a guitar shop. But, to answer your question, Fender does have a left-handed SSS American Professional Strat in their lineup for 2017. Check out their website for details.
DickvanderLee on July 21, 2017:
I think I might go for a classic lacquer Stratocaster. I've got a Tele Deluxe classic MiM Just because I used to own a cheap Japanese one when I first started playing the guitar (using an old tube radio for an amp). My bandmates say they love the sound of the tele.
ZekeZ on July 20, 2017:
Own a MIM Strat and a Telly, both are extremely well made with excellent tone. Prior to purchasing, played several MIA (both models) and did not think the MIAs were worth the additional cost. Take part of the difference and upgrade the pickups in the MIMs and you'll have a better sounding setup than either, as well as a couple of hundred extra bucks in your pocket.
William on June 17, 2017:
My MiM Super Sonic doesn't stay in tune for the length of an average song. My USA 82 Strat (57 reissue) stays in tune like a champ. I set them both up exactly the same way (floating bridge, three springs). Same strings, same maintenance...and yet one is dependable, the other is not. Given this experience, I'm not convinced MiM, while an okay guitar, can even stand on the same stage with a USA. Oh, and i've been playing since 1979, so no, not a newb. I love the Super Sonic...if I could only get through one song...
Michael James (author) on April 01, 2017:
@giga: Sounds awesome! In my opinion, that's what makes the MIM Stat one of the best deals out there. You can change parts and get exactly what you want for a fraction of the cost of the American version, and way, way less than a Custom Shop Strat. Enjoy your guitar!
giga on March 30, 2017:
Played a few MIAs at GC and my MIM blows them away. Swapped PUs and I wouldn't trade it for a MIA if I could.
Michael Barraza on March 12, 2017:
I found an 2013 American Made used for the same price as a new Mexico made. That was a no brainer. It's in great shape and sounds amazing. VERY PLEASED!!!
ST.VICTOR MONK on February 09, 2017:
STRAT MEX~Time Machine ~STRAT 70
Johhny Cottons on January 18, 2017:
awesome review !
Michael James (author) on December 15, 2016:
I like the way you think, Peter!
Peter on December 14, 2016:
Buy one of each then you don't have to worry about any differnces
Big G on December 09, 2016:
American Strats are okay, but I only notice a very subtle difference between those and the Mexican Strats. Pickups in both of those ceramic OR alnico are bland! Only thing my mia had on my mim was better bridge saddles. One thing to remember.......Fender always keeps ya guessing so you need to take in consideration the year of your guitar. I'll stick with my mim Strat. If I was hell bent on an American, I'd get an American Deluxe Strat! That's the equivalent of what you'd get if Fender hadn't developed those sub-models.
Frankie Jazzman on November 06, 2016:
I just bought a MIM HSS Fender Standard Strat and I can't wait to plug it in to my Peavey Delta Blues amp w/the one 15" speaker.
Tom on November 06, 2016:
I always thought that the American quality control is better than the Mexican. However, this year I bought an Elite Thinline Tele and was really disappointed about the quality:
-A screw hole of the pickguard was messed up and the screw was aslope
-The metal plate of the bridge pickup had a discoloration
-The treble poti didn't run smoothly
In addition, the Fender support was really bad. They answered my mail very slowly, then they missed to order the spare parts and then they discovered that the pickguard is not available as a spare part.
At least, they are now replacing the whole guitar.
However, this showed me that you don't get necessarily elite quality if you buy elite.
Kenny Z on November 05, 2016:
There was a black label MIM Strat called the Squier series. These were the ones that had American necks and bodies that were shipped to Ensenada after the fire destroyed the factory. They used Asian electronics & hardware, with ceramic mim pickups and a single ply pickgu
ard. It had a Squier Series decal on the ball of the headstock. These were made in '94-'95, I believe. Mine plays and sounds as good as my other MIM's.
Matt on October 27, 2016:
I own an American Elite, buy American stuff if you can.
Jesses Dad on October 07, 2016:
I've got two Strats and like them both. My MIM is the Artist Series Robert Cray model. Sweet axe, lower frets, smooth as silk, custom shop wound pickups. Very nice. Wasn't planning on picking up another but was shopping for a Blues Junior and an American Special HSS came with it for a real nice price. It's got the Texas Specials and Atomic Humbucker, as referenced above. Jumbo frets is the biggest difference, feelwise, both both guitars are a joy to play and both really rock the blues. I'm keeping them.
Drew on September 03, 2016:
Just picked up a 2016 mim vintage blonde deluxe strat. Noiseless pickups, locking tuners, two point bridge and a push button to combine pickups. I played a bunch of mia strats and did a lot of research. When it came down to it, the mim had all the features i wanted (listed above, as well as maple neck with satin finish) at half the cost of a mia strat. It does need some tweaking on the intonation, but overall i couldn't be more happy. I am just a 20 year hobbyist so take itfor what you will, but this mim is a sweet deal.
Stephen on August 26, 2016:
I have owned and played both American and MIM Strats in the past. For years I have gigged with American Strats and bought some MIM's to mod. I put Custom Shop 69's on an MIM. No matter what I changed, I could not get that mojo like when I play my Am Std. I have played since the 70's and owned Les Pauls and SGs as well. Sorry but nothing plays or sounds better than my black maple neck American Standard. That's been my experience. Different strokes... I guess. But like the man said, "Are you experienced?"
GruhSix on August 13, 2016:
Will contact , see if the seller can send a better pic privately. It is the second one I saw like this and passed on the last one. But at $250 asking , it's got my interest. What the seller tells me I have learned not to put to much faith in. Like the mint condition just professionally set up guitar I looked at,, it was neither.
Michael James (author) on August 13, 2016:
@GruhSix: If it does say Squier, I would assume it is a Squier. Perhaps you can get some clarity from the seller, since the writing sounds like it is hard to read in the pic.
GruhSix on August 10, 2016:
There is a MIM strat with the fender script on the head for sale. In the picture it looks like the Fender script that was on my 1998-99 MIM strat. But it looks like it says ( pictures a little blurry) squire in script all the way at the top of the head and might even have affinity in script under the squire. I had a squire that had affinity on the head at the top . Is this a squire or a fender stratocaster? Or is this what voodoo was talking about?
GruhSix on August 08, 2016:
Here's the monkey wrench in the works , 5 years ago I picked up a China made squire for $60 with a 15 watt champ amp. The neck was bowed with nearly an inch of space between the strings and the fretboard. It is so cheap it does not even have a skunk stripe. I cranked down on the truss rod fully expecting it to break, it didn't. I leveled the frets, gotta learn some time and for $60 nothing to lose. Dressed them put some new tuners on it so it would stay in tune more then one song . Well I can't believe how good it plays , it might be the best playing guitar of the bunch. I own a 1969 Gretsch ,72 Gibson 2009 sg std,a bunch of Ibanez S,SZ,RG
But the sound is terrible , thin with no depth but it plays great. Feels wonderful. Been playing for 45 years have owned a left handed MIM which I really liked but the whole backwards thing not so good. Had a squire but it had the narrow neck like my 1972 es335 which is why I don't play that . So do I put good pick up on this China special or just keep as a novelty. Will buy a MIM strat soon been watching them and $$ too.
Good review! Good Job thanks! Lots of good thoughts to ponder from everyone.
Michael James (author) on July 23, 2016:
@Rick: There are gems and duds all around, and I agree that you're more likely to find that gem in an MIA rather than MIM. But I can also say that I've had my MIM Strat for over a decade now and I've never had tuning issues. Nor do I have them with my MIA Strat. They're about the same when it comes to tuning stability. So, I see what you're saying, but I don't think MIMs are inherently worse.
Rick on July 22, 2016:
Everyone I have ever played with that had a Mexican or Asian made Fender head tuning stability and intonation problems. I have tried to set their guitars up but could not get them to stay in tune or Intonat properly. I myself but an older Japanese Strat to install my midi pickup on without having to butcher my original 72, and it had very poor tuning stability. Nothing I did could make these guitars play in tune from more than one song. What to wear when I hired a guitar player, I specified he had to have a vintage original, or Custom Shop guitar. As far as I am concerned everything else are just toys. Sorry to have to say this but that has been my experience.
Jody on July 02, 2016:
I have to agree with most of these guys.I walked into a music store a while ago with $2000 budget to spend on a guitar. Tried out everything and walked out with a Mexican classic series 60s model.it was hands down the best strat in the shop. I've been playing an Eric Johnson signature and have also had my fair share of mia.
I don't care where it's from.what sounds good,feels good is good!
Wyeth on June 25, 2016:
I have played and owned quite a few Strat's both MIA and MIM. I went with the MIM and modded it with FAT 50's and a Floyd Rose locking tremolo bridge and still came in way under the cost of a MIA and still had a guitar that is just as good, if not even better than any MIA Strat!
Michael James (author) on June 08, 2016:
Thanks Linda! I appreciate your kind words.
Linda Robinson on June 07, 2016:
What a truly remarkable in depth hub, fascinating and you covered so much detail. Guitar Gopher you nailed this one, just love music and this is a must read for all those who treasure the guitar and into music. :) You nailed it. My husbands plays guitar and drums. Linda
Andrew on May 12, 2016:
I'd like to disagree on the playability and sound of the MIM Strat..... I own a 2004 deluxe players model with graphite saddles medium jumbo frets on a 21fret C neck with vintage noiseless pickups and a 2 piece alder body. I'd put it against any American made model with equal specs and it will play and sound just as good. It is an outstanding fenderbto say the least.
Michael James (author) on May 09, 2016:
@Voodoo: Have you ever encountered such a thing personally? I know of a lot different Squier versions, MIJ, MIM and some even MIA, but never Squier branded guitars with Fender USA bodies and necks.
Voodoo on May 08, 2016:
But, what about those rare Squier series that were assembled in Mexico with overstock American Strat necks and bodies but say Fender Stratocaster (with the Squier Series on the ball of the headstock).
Looping on April 07, 2016:
- MIM Strat will hold its value same as MIA Strat, percentagewise.
- Bloodline that streams from Hendrix, Vaughan, Beck, Gilmour, Blackmore, Malmsteen, and countless others reflects to MIM Strat as well as to MIA Strats.
Also, todays MIM Strats are better than the MIA Strats been used by guitar legends in '60 and '70, technology has improved much from that time.
Skinner on April 01, 2016:
I have a 2010 Fender American Deluxe HSS with all the bells and whistles. It hangs on the wall my preferance is my newly aquired 2014 Fender MIM Standard SSS. Just feels and sounds nicer. ?
Michael James (author) on February 29, 2016:
Good points, Stratofascist. I think it depends on the years, model and personal preference.
Stratofascist on February 28, 2016:
The idea that MIM strats don't play as well needs to go away. They play just as well as any other Strat. The tone of the 60s pups is fanastic, too. And FWIW, Gilmour's just as likely to be playing his MIK 57RI as a US model.
Michael James (author) on February 26, 2016:
I don't think you wasted your money, Steve. Hang on to that MIA Strat! I do feel the same though: I tend to play my MIM more than I play my MIA.
steve g on February 25, 2016:
I own both,the MIA is a great guitar,but my 2006 50,s classic player MIM is absolutely fantastic!!also humbucker blacktop,MIM again beautiful player and sound!although I own several top end gibsons as well,i still seem to return to the mex strats.still not sure if I wasted money buying American.i justify this to myself as long term investment!!!!!
Michael James (author) on December 18, 2015:
Sounds awesome, Mark! Congrats on grabbing a great guitar. I think you experienced what a lot of players find out: That there are occasional duds in the MIA series as well as anywhere else. Always good to check out a guitar before you buy!
As I said, I personally like the MIM pickups, but if they don't grow on you you can always swap them out. Good luck with your new Strat. I think you made a good choice.
Mark1 on December 18, 2015:
Thank you for your reply. Having considered all the pros and cons I came back home with a new white MIM Strat. From the first sight I was pleasently surprised by its overall quality, from flawless finish to how the tone knobs react (it’s a big difference from my Squier VM) and even setup. Pickups are ok, maybe not compared to anything labelled „custom”, but they do their job.
Btw. Once again I tried an american special strat, which I actually don’t like because of jumbo frets, just to compare the tone (Texas Specials make a difference), and - believe or not - I was astonished by the sharp fret ends along the neck (this one was in Candy Apple Red from 2014). Really disappointing. MIM neck is made considerably better, just as it should be. Good job Ensenada!
Michael James (author) on December 12, 2015:
@ Jesse: Very true! Fender does a great job with their Standard Series instruments.
Michael James (author) on December 12, 2015:
Hi Marki1: If I were to choose between the MIM Strat and the Squier CV '50s, based on everything you said plus taking cost into consideration, I really think I'd go with the Squier CV. Personally, I prefer the C-shape neck on MIM neck over the Modern C, and I like the MIM pickups. However, if you are looking for vintage vibe I think you might be happier with the CV, plus it costs a whole lot less.
I do not think the "custom" vintage-style single coils on the CV are the same pickups as the vintage-style single coils with the staggered poles on the CS, but they're similar. To my ear, based on guitars I've owned, the Standard MIM pickups have a more modern edge, maybe a little hotter in an SRV kind of way. The vintage-style singles are a bit warmer and richer, a little more subtle.
All that said, I think the quality on the MIM is a bit higher across the board. If cost isn't an issue, and you don't mind modding down the road, the MIM Strat gives you a great chassis for experimenting with different pickups until you get the sound you want.
Hope this was sorta helpful. Good luck!
The Write Life from The United States on December 12, 2015:
Great article..Myself and my guitar teacher would do a "blindfold" test of and American And Mexican Strat..and we really could not tell them apart. Sound and tone more come from feel of how you play..not quality of wood.
Mark1 on December 11, 2015:
Many thanks for this hub. I was thinking about American Special for some time, but eventually decided to grab an inexpensive strat with maple fingerboard trying to choose between Fender MIM and Squier CV '50s. The main difference apart from the price and neck finish seems to come down to pickups: alnicos on CV and ceramics on MIM, am I right? Is it worth to think about it? Have you ever compared them? I'm into classic fender tones and don't want to mod the guitar, at least at the very beginning. The problem is I can't just go and try them both, so I have to rely on what I know about them and what others say. I know it's not easy to give an advice, but if you had to decide, would you go for MIM or CV?
Another thing that makes me wonder is the link between Fender Classic Series and Squier CV? CS Fenders are sure different when it comes to neck shape and radius or body finish, but if you look at '50s Sunburst or Fiesta Red... (the second one surprisingly discontinued by Squier). Both CS and CV pickups are called "vintage-style". Are these the same?
Jerry Gee on November 24, 2015:
Don't waste your money unless you have it that way New American strat 1098 vs a used or new mex strat is $200 to 600, and at the end of the day you will play the same riff. Tahe trick is to find one that plays like the strom coming........
M42 on July 25, 2015:
When it comes to Epiphone LP's vs. Gibson I'll take a high end Epi over a low end Gibson and still save a bundle and have a better guitar. With the MIM vs American strats the American made ones are reasonable in price to begin with. I can hear and feel the difference between the two models. for price alone the MIM offer a lot of bang for the buck and they do sound nice. But I can tell a difference with my eyes closed. The MIM just don't ring out like a true start and remind me more of a high end Squier. If American made starts cost like Gibson LP's then I would go for the lower cost MIM's. But they don't and for a little more money I can get a better guitar and one that will have resell value.
Ichi on June 23, 2015:
Went out to buy a new strat last weekend, and tested about 30 strats ranging from $650 to $2000. I ended up with a MIM Standard as it had the best sound and playability. Sustains forever, has great, full tone and I really like the versatility in the pickups. Probably one of those rare guitars where it all comes together. The ones that came close was a MIM Roadworn and a Classic series MIM . The Mexicans has stepped up the game. :)
Stratman100 on May 03, 2015:
I disagree entirely with the article where it says there is a difference in sound and feel of the MIM and MIA. I am a guitar tech and I have set up both and indeed I own a MIM. After setup the is no discernible difference between the two, certainly not worth double the pricve just to have the US brand label. Denis
NOWMON on April 11, 2015:
I have a 1999 MIM ,left handed Strat. and it plays as good as I PLAY IT.I also have a Lead2 1979 and it a honey.also I have a Ibanez 1972 les paul lawsuit that I like better than a Gibson... I didn`t pay any more than $300. for any of them,and they all play as good as I want too. I bet there`s a lot of blues played on cheap guitars that the player didn`t care because he was doin it to it...
Zurdo on April 06, 2015:
I can't speak for MIM Strats or new models Strats but I played a Japanese Strat in the early 90s. I ended up trading it in for a 93 American Standard. There definitely was a difference in playability and tone; the American being better. Some of that might be due the the different string spacing on the Japanese model and I'm also a Lefty and the Japanese Strat was upside down like Hendrix! But, the build quality, tonewood and electronics definitely made a difference.
I still have the Standard and it is almost like new still except some finish wear on the tummy cut. I did eventually upgrade it to Custom Shop pickups and the 2008 tremolo upgrade.
I wish I had kept the Japanese Strat as they are actually collectable now!
Michael James (author) on March 17, 2015:
Hi Frank. It's been my experience that quality guitars wear much better than less expensive guitars. Especially Strats The finish thins in just the right spots, the plastic yellows a bit and the hardware gets that nice patina over it. Some players even say the wood changes over time,adjusting to the right frequencies over hours upon hours of play, and the sound will actually improve as the guitar ages . MIM Strats are encased in that bulletproof polyester, so a lot of that isn't possible. If you keep it in good shape you'll see some changes with age, but generally it will still be the same guitar you took off the shelf years before.
Frank on March 16, 2015:
Why does the MIA only get better with age? Does the MIM not? I understand the value in being an American made instrument, but what specifically makes it better with age?
Jarod on March 16, 2015:
I have both. An American Deluxe and a MIM. As mentioned above. I bought the MIM to modify. Bottom line is that the American blows the MIM away both in feel and tone. Although the MIM plays good and tone is taken care of with hotter pick-ups there is no comparison. The American is superior by far. On one hand I'm very satisfied with the American, the downside is I won't buy another Mexican because I have been spoiled by my Am deluxe. Yes the Am deluxe cost 1300.00 more but it is worth every penny.
Michael James (author) on March 08, 2015:
Thanks for your thoughts, Shelby.
Shelby on March 07, 2015:
I have had four American Standards, I have a $2000 Sig Series(bought used so more cheesecake for me), and have had two Highway Ones, and have one MIM maple board sunburst. Only two of my Americans were sonically on par with the MIM: 2007 Daphne Blue Highway One, and an 06 Sienna Burst AmStd. The Rest of the Americans are gone. Their finish level was great, but they had zero mojo. That's the problem I usually find with AmStds. They are vanilla. A lot of MIMs suck too, so I guess it is down to what moves you. Ignore the decals on the headstock if you're a serious player. I will say, there is a far greater disparity between Epiphones and Gibsons than between MIM and Anerican strats.
Michael James (author) on January 10, 2015:
Well said ibanezman43! Thanks for adding your 2 cents!
ibanezman43 on January 09, 2015:
Hey guys and gals if any. You know what. The fact is as long as the guitar any guitar stays in tune well. Its worth playing. I have seen a few players play some three stringed banged up piece of you know what and make it sound absolutely awesome. The thing is Look at the guitar. notice how it feels in your hands. Play it through your rig. Most stores will let you try it out and bring it back if you don't like it.
I own a 1985 American Hot rod shop strat.
A 2008 Ibanez Prestige team j craft.
2014 MIM Fender HSS strat.
I put texas specials in the MIM Out standing MoJo sound.
But I played these through my rig at home a
before I paid a dime.
Food for thought
Michael James (author) on December 31, 2014:
LOL! Interesting points, fenderfan. I guess the mojo is the whole point with any guitar, whatever the heck mojo is. Take a handful of identical guitars straight out of the box and there are always a few that will sound better, for whatever reason. Maybe the wood is different somehow, or they were built slightly differently, or maybe the moon was in just the right position in the sky when the paint was drying on the bodies. Who knows?
Or, maybe as you say, its just in our minds. I do believe, whatever mojo is, that they mojo of the player is far more important than the mojo of the guitar!
And now I am truly sick of the term "mojo" and don't think I'll ever use it again! :-)
fenderfan on December 30, 2014:
this never ending "oozing with mojo" issue and mental black hole is always updating it seems, over the Fender years. yet the vintage has more inline with the MIM than the updated USA, which is funny in itself because the famous players turned everyone onto the "mojo".
I found that term "mojo" in the article as the whole point of the article.
MIM is 150miles from Coroona, a lot of the original machines from Fullerton went to Ensenada, while new machines went to Corona.
So the term "mojo" is probably just in our minds and not the wood.
Maybe the "mojo" is the only difference? lol
Michael James (author) on December 19, 2014:
Good point, Vasqi. Even with an MIA Strat a lot of players end up swapping out pickups, bridge, etc. So why not start with a less expensive guitar? I think there are some cases where the wood on an MIA Strat looks much nicer though the finish, but otherwise that makes a lot of sense.
Vasqi on December 18, 2014:
It's all hype.
Anyone can modify an MIM stratocaster to the specifications of an MIA stratocaster (for less than the price of an MIA) and no one will no the difference. Not to mention that, they will gain valuable insights about the instrument in the process. But perhaps the most compelling reason to upgrade an MIM in stead of investing in an MIA is that, the MIA stock lacks many attractive features that are employed by aftermarket guitar mods, so you'd have to upgrade your overpriced MIA anyway.
Michael James (author) on December 16, 2014:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experience, Rockin Ronnie!
Rockin Ronnie on December 15, 2014:
I have been playing in bands for 45+ years and I have owned and played many different guitars. In the 70's I was a huge Gibson guy until Gibson got so all high and mighty with prices and at the same time their customer service went to hell. I still own a 1972 SG Deluxe that I bought brand new but have never bought another Gibson. My MIM Fenders play as good as any American made ones, you just have to play a lot of them til you find the right one. This is with any guitar. Once you find that one, you will know and never be let down. Sure I mod them with new pups and electronics. My latest 1992 Mim Strat I also installed an LSR Roller Nut, American made bridge and tremolo and Vintage Noiseless Pups. With the pups comes 3 new pots. This guitar is a workhorse and I play it out exclusively. Probably the best playing, sounding guitar I have had in all the years I have been playing. Don't let anyone tell you the MIM's are not real guitars. They are great guitars! 90% of the music comes from your fingers.
Michael James (author) on October 24, 2014:
Sounds like a great guitar, Rafael. Congratulations. It's amazing how many people have had the same experience as you, and ended up with an MIM Strat instead of American. And that Fender logo on the headstock doesn't even cost extra! :-)
Rafael on October 23, 2014:
I´m a 15 long years player now. Although I never owned a Fender till now, I´ve played many guitars over this time, some USA strats, some MIM´s, etc. In the last couple of weeks I decided to buy the best Fender I could, even if I had to spend a whole lotta money in a American Standard. What a surprise I had when I plugged a American Standard and a Mexican Standard side by side? For almost a third less of the price, I chose the MIM one! Say what you want, but the MIM Strat is a great guitar. And with the Fender logo on the headstock... Mine is the blonde Olimpic White with maple neck/fretboard. Total Hendrix!!!
Michael James (author) on October 07, 2014:
Gunmetal blue . . . nice! Another happy MIM strat owner.
mark on October 06, 2014:
I own MIM, USA, and a Japan one which I have heard no comments on.
Love all three of these babies and just want to say my particular MIM Strat 2001 gunmetal blue plays as well or better ;)
Michael James (author) on September 26, 2014:
I'm like you, John. I just play for fun these days, and my main guitar is an MIM Strat. However, it's nice to know it sounds good enough to get together with more serious musicians if the situation presents itself.
John Dyhouse from UK on September 25, 2014:
I guess I plaay for fun, I have toyed with guitars for many years and I have to admit that I am old enough to favour Hank Marvin. I never did get a strat until a few years ago and at the time I had to go for a MIM because of price considerations. I have however been very, very happy with it.
Michael James (author) on September 19, 2014:
Sounds great, Duncan! I love the look of a Strat with a natural finish.
Duncan on September 18, 2014:
I just got a MIM Strat natural wood finish with rosewood neck and and love it. Not only does it look great but the action and sound is superb, clean and crisp, may switch out the Pubs later on but totally happy with it. I also have a deep red, excellent G&L ASAT and would not part with either one.