The author is a guitarist and bassist with over 35 years of experience as a musician.
Squier by Fender Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Strats
Squier by Fender Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Series guitars have a lot to prove. Everybody knows Squier Stratocasters are an excellent choice for beginners. This is a brand that brings classic Fender instruments down to a price even newbies can afford.
In fact, the Squier brand is owned by Fender, which is part of the reason they are some of the best budget guitars on the planet. But traditionally, after a beginner got a little better, and had a little more cash in their pocket, they would leave Squier behind and move on to a higher-quality guitar. That changed with the introduction of the Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Series.
Traditions, as warm and comfy as they are, can be broken, and Squier has done exactly that with their Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Stratocasters. This is no longer a company viewed only as a budget brand for beginners. These Stratocasters are quality instruments that have impressed even veteran guitar players, including myself.
Somehow, Squier has still managed to keep the prices under control, which makes these instruments some of the best bargains out there. This means a newbie can afford to start out on a better instrument, intermediate players don’t have to bust their wallets to move up to a quality guitar, and advanced players can add some cool Strats to their collections and not have to mortgage their houses.
As for quality, these instruments give Fender’s Standard MIM Stratocasters a challenge. I’m a big fan of the MIM Strat, so I don’t make that statement lightly!
In this article, you’ll read about what I think are the most impressive Stratocasters in the Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe lineups. Consider this as a sampler platter where you can check out some tasty guitars and compare these two series.
When you're done here you should have a better idea of which Stratocaster in the Squier Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe lineups is the right choice for you. But don’t hesitate to look deeper into the Squier by Fender catalog. Squier has Telecasters, Jaguars, and other classic designs in CV and VM Series, and some bass guitars too.
So let’s check out some guitars!
Classic Vibe ‘50s Stratocaster
Back in the early 1950s, Fender introduced the first production solid-body electric guitar called the Broadcaster, which eventually became the Telecaster. The Stratocaster soon followed in 1954, and it was a pretty bizarre design for the day. It caught on when players like Buddy Holly adopted it as their main instrument, and the rest is history.
The Squier Vintage Modified ‘50s Strat is a throwback to those early days of the Fender Stratocaster. It features a nato body with a maple neck. Early Strats only had maple fingerboards, and so does this CV ‘50s version.
However, the 5-way switch is one way this guitar differs (thankfully) from ‘50s-era Stratocasters. Back then Strats only had 3-way switches, so players had to find ways to jam the switch in those in-between positions to get the 2nd and 4th position sounds we are familiar with today.
The pickups are Fender-designed Alnico Single Coils, and the bridge is a vintage 6-screw Synchronized Tremolo.
This thing oozes vintage Strat mojo while maintaining some modern appointments, and it’s a great choice for players who want that throwback Strat tone and vibe.
Check Out the Classic Vibe '50s Strat
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Classic Vibe ‘60s Stratocaster
Here’s one more Classic Vibe Strat, this one with a ‘60s theme. It shares a lot of similarities with the ‘50s model with a couple of differences. The pickups are a Custom Vintage-Style Alnico V set controlled via a 5-way switch. These pickups should be a touch beefier than those on the ‘50s Strat, but I wouldn’t get too hung up on the Alnico III vs Alnico V thing.
To me, a bigger difference is the fingerboard. The ‘60s version has an Indian laurel fretboard, so your choice may once again come down to this vs maple.
Squier lists both the ‘50s and ‘60s Classic Vibe Series Strats as having “C” shape necks. This isn’t quite in line with guitars of the day, and depending on the years they would have had very different neck profiles. However, for modern times this is a very comfortable neck shape, and one more example of how these guitars walk the line between yesterday and today.
Classic Vibe '70s Stratocaster
In addition to the basic model, the Classic Vibe Stratocaster ‘70s model features the same great Duncan Designed pickups, basswood body, maple neck, and Stratocaster electronics, but there are a few key differences.
The Classic Vibe ‘70s Strat comes in either a black finish, an Olympic White finish, or a very cool natural finish. It also has a larger, ‘70s-style headstock and Indian laurel fingerboard. Indian laurel is a stand-on for rosewood, which has become a little more difficult to source in recent years.
I’ve always preferred the feel of maple for Stratocaster fingerboards. Maple also tends to have a brighter, sharper sound where rosewood is a bit more rounded. Of course, it is a matter of preference. All three Classic Vibe Stratocasters are outstanding instruments, especially in this price range.
Note: The '70s Strat is also available in an HSS version with a humbucker and two single-coil pickups. If you are into hard rock or metal, this guitar may be the right choice for you.
Vintage Modified Stratocaster
Note: Squier no longer has Vintage Modified Strats in their lineup. Older models like the Vintage Modified '70s Stratocaster were absorbed into the Classic Vibe lineup and others were discontinued. Because I know guitar players might be interested in these guitars on the used market I will leave my previous reviews in this article for the time being.
The base Vintage Modified Strat has the look and qualities one would expect in a Fender Stratocaster, but of course, it comes in at a fraction of the price.
But this guitar also has a few surprises for those who are paying attention. For one thing, the body is made of basswood, not alder. Alder and ash are the woods most typically associated with the Stratocaster sound. Basswood gives a guitar a woodier, deeper, slightly warmer tone. Personally, I like basswood and I don’t see why Fender doesn't utilize this tonewood in their Strat designs more often.
It's also worth noting, even though the point of this article is to compare the Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Strats, that the Squier Standard Strat features an Agathis body. For a slight bump in the price, you get a big bump in tonewood quality.
The pickups in this guitar are a nice surprise too: three Duncan Designed Single Coils. I expect to see more generic pickups in a guitar at this price point, but this is one of the reasons Squier Vintage Modified Strats are such great values.
The maple neck is topped with rosewood fingerboard, with no option for a maple fretboard. The bridge is a vintage-style 6-saddle synchronized tremolo and the electronics are a standard Stratocaster 5-way switch with two tone controls and one volume.
If you’re looking for an affordable, quality Stratocaster it is hard to do much better than this!
Note: If you are into that surf and rockabilly sound there is also a “Surf” version of this guitar with Duncan Designed lipstick-style pickups.
Vintage Modified Stratocaster Sound
Vintage Modified Stratocaster HSS
This is another Vintage Modified Strat, nearly identical to the basic model with one massive difference. Instead of three single-coil pickups, this model has two single coils and Duncan Designed humbucker.
Replacing a single coil with a humbucker obviously has a huge impact on the sound of the guitar. Combined with the basswood body, this is a great recipe for heavier forms of music, or just for hot, thick lead guitar tone.
I love Strats with a humbucker in the bridge position. This is the mod that led to the Super-Strat design we see today in guitars like the Ibanez RG and Jackson Dinky. Back in the ‘70s players like Eddie Van Halen began to take Strat bodies and slap humbuckers onto them, giving them the smooth playability of a Stratocaster with a thicker, heavier tone.
You don’t have to be a mad guitar tinkerer like Eddie to get that kind of tone and playability today. The HSS VM Strat is affordable, and a great choice for players who are into rock music, especially hard rock, shred, and even metal.
Again, if you want an affordable Strat with a humbucker you can choose to go with the Standard MIM HSS version, but it will come in around twice the price of this little gem. When it comes to value, the VM HSS Strat is tough to beat.
Hear the Vintage Modified Strat HSS
Squier Vintage Modified or Classic Vibe?
So which series do you like better? It’s not an easy choice, is it? Really, the key differences are outlined in their names.
The Strats in the Vintage Modified Series feature some classic mods from decades gone by. Whether it’s the addition of a humbucker for a heavier tone, lipstick pickups to grab that surf sound or simply some alternate plastic pieces to create a unique guitar, these instruments represent the best of the Strat tinkerers of yesterday
The Classic Vibe Series is modeled after some of the most sought after guitars in history. Strats of the ‘50s and ‘60s are cherished instruments, and here Squier brings us that vintage feel in guitars with some modern features.
Really, it comes down to which guitars light your fire. They’re all affordable and they are all excellent values of the money. The Classic Vibe Series might get a slight nod in the quality department, but they are also a little more expensive.
Here are a few more comparisons I think are significant which may help you make your decision (note that many of these comparisons apply to older models).
- The Vintage Modified Series is typical about $100 under the Classic Vibes. If you are on a tight budget, this may make your decision clear.
- The basswood vs alder issue may not matter much for new players, and you shouldn’t lose any sleep over it if you prefer one guitar over another for other reasons. However, veteran guitarists who know the difference may prefer one tonewood over the other.
- The Vintage Modified Series has a more diverse lineup. If you want to Strat with a humbucker or one that nails that California surf-era tone you’ll find it here.
- The Classic Vibe Series may be a little prettier. Of course, this is a matter of taste, but they just look a bit higher end.
- On that subject, make sure you check out all the different colors available for each guitar. Squier did a nice job of coming up with some unique choices here.
Good luck comparing the Squier Vintage Modified and Classic Vibe Stratocasters and choosing your new guitar. I’ve given my opinion. The rest is up to you!
Your Opinion: Squier Vintage Modified or Classic Vibe?
More on Squier, Fender and Stratocasters
- Squier vs Fender Stratocaster Guitar Review
Knowing the difference between the Squier and Fender Stratocaster will help you decide which guitar is right for you and your budget.
- Squier Guitars Review: Is Squier by Fender a Good Brand?
Is Squier a good guitar brand? This review takes a look at Squier by Fender and lays out the good, the bad and the ugly.
Guitar Gopher (author) on May 10, 2020:
@Sid - Thanks for catching that typo!
Sid on May 09, 2020:
Top picture is not a HSS strat... ;)
Alleycat on March 23, 2020:
I have an American made Tele and Strat. Love both, and anyone checked the Squire CV Starcaster?? I bought one and is nice quality and plays and sounds great!
Rob.. on May 05, 2019:
Both the classic vibe, and the vintage, modified offer the best bang for the buck in my opinion.. can't go wrong with either, and they are definitely on par with the mim, and standard basic American made strat!
pi on July 14, 2017:
Nobody talks about the neck. The CV neck is thin. The VM neck is beefy.
Another important thing: the VM comes with 250k normal size pots. The CV comes with tiny size pots.
Gary wilson on January 25, 2017:
Think it's crazy 2 put a humbucker in a strat. IMO it takes away from the mojo.
Guitar Gopher (author) on August 04, 2015:
Hi DM! First off, there is no wrong answer to your dilemma, because you can never have too many Strats! :-)
As far as the difference between the VM and CV '50s, I think there are two main things to consider: Tonewoods and pickups. Your VM has a basswood body, while the the CV has traditional alder. Your VM has Duncan Designed single-coils, where the CV has Squier vintage single-c0ils. I think you'll notice a difference between these two guitars. Your guitar is a bit hotter and gutsier, where the CV is a more traditional vintage-sounding Strat.
I think the CV is an affordable way to expand your collection, and it won't be so close in sound to your VM that it will be like having two of the same guitar . Good luck!
DyslexicMonkey on August 03, 2015:
Hello there Mr. GuitarGopher. Thanks for this head to head line up with the two of my favorite Squier line ups! Very helpful!
I wish to ask though (and I really hope you can see this...) if going from a VM to a CV 50s Strat is a well-worth it upgrade?
I was given a new 2014 Squier VM Strat (in Vintage Blonde) as a gift from my aunt, and I love it to bits. But if I were, to say, get another guitar to add to a little collection of mine (And I ADORE Strats) do you think the Classic Vibe 50s would be a good option for me? Would there be enough difference between the two guitars that I'd be able to tell them apart?
I'm asking this since the CV 50s is pretty much the most affordable guitar I can find with a maple fretboard. I wanted to try it out.
Thanks in advanced. :)