The Fender Strat is the highest selling, most copied electric guitar of all time. Its visual appeal, tone, feel and reliability through the years vaulted it into the position it will most likely hold for the rest of time. While you can certainly buy quality Fender Strats under the $1000 price point and you can argue that tampering with a proven best-seller is bad business, sometimes you just want to be different. If you're looking for a guitar similar enough to the Strat but just a tad different, look no further: here are the best of the best under $1000.
G & L Tribute Comanche
When discussing Strat alternatives, it only makes sense to start with G & L. Founded by Leo Fender and his two friends George Fullerton and Dale Hyatt after Fender sold the company to CBS in the mid 1960s, G & L mostly offers guitars that the Fender aficionado will instantly recognize and love. It can be said that each of their guitars is rooted in the past with it's branches in the present.
The Tribute Comanche is most definitely a Strat with a twist. The three unique Z-coil style pickups are noiseless, have all the sparkle and chime of a traditional single coil pickup and, well, just look cool. Modern wiring allows for just about any combination of pickups- including all three at once- to be used. The tonewood, unlike most Strats, is a heavier mahogany body to give it a bit more heft and warmth than a traditional Strat as well.
While a Black finish with rosewood fretboard is currently the only option available on their website, custom orders are usually accepted for an increased price.
Founded in the early 1970s, Canada's Godin Guitars rank among my personal favorites. All their guitars are crafted either in Quebec or New Hampshire, USA, a rare feat these days for just about any guitar manufacturer. Quality is consistent and Godin strives to push for innovation when designing guitars, as can be seen when looking at any of their many models.
The Progression, their modified version of the Fender Strat, is most definitely a versatile guitar for tone-loving musicians. Included is Godin's High-Definition Revoicer (HDR), an electronic system that allows the pickups to be used passively or actively, thus giving the user ten separate tones onboard the guitar. From the typical bell-like chimey tones Strats are famous for, to more aggressive lead tones, just about every sound in your head can be achieved with the brilliant HDR system.
Godin offers either a maple or rosewood fretboard and three different color options.
Schecter Hellcat VI
For those with a vague or surface knowledge of Schecter guitars, the Hellcat may come as a surprise. Primarily know as a leader in the hard rock and metal genres, Schecter also has a solid line of retro guitars that need to be seen to be believed. While many of them are slightly quirky amalgamations of two or more guitar shapes, they all seem to just feel right.
In the case of the Hellcat VI, it's clear to see the Strat influence coupled with that of a Fender Jaguar. Swapping the traditional Strat tremolo in favor of a TonePros Tune-o-matic style fixed bridge and dropping the standard 5-way pickup selector switch for a Jaguar-inspired switching system (three separate on/off switches), the Hellcat will most likely get a lot of "What the...?" questions hurled your way. Aside from these differences, the scale length is quite unique as well, coming in at 30".
As for color and fingerboard options, the Tobacco Sunburst version comes with a rosewood fingerboard and the Black version comes with a maple fretboard.
Reverend Six Gun III
By far the youngest manufacturer of the bunch, Reverend Guitars has not yet reached 20 years in the industry. For those who remember when the company was founded in 1996, Reverend Guitars were commonly referred to as the "plastic guitars," in reference to the unusual components used in construction, such as plastic and laminate. After some company restructuring, Reverend took a step back into the "normal" world of guitar creation and began offering guitars actually made of wood and less dramatic body shapes.
The Six Gun III is the third iteration of the popular Six Gun series. While in the past, a Telecaster style pickup was commonly used in the bridge position, it now includes three single coil pickups more akin to a Strat. With the inclusion of a Bass Contour knob, a passive tone control that rolls off or adds bass response, a plethora of tones can be found in this one guitar. With a body made of the rare korina wood, Wilkinson tremolo for incredible accuracy with use, graphite nut for tuning stability and locking tuners, the Six Gun III may just be the best bang for your buck on this list.
The Six Gun III comes in Chronic Blue, Black and Tobacco Burst with maple or rosewood fretboards.
Fernandes Retrorocket Pro
While originally a flamenco guitar manufacturer, the Japanese Fernandes Guitars came to prominent fame after releasing their much hailed Sustainer system. Essentially an Ebow for every string, the Sustainer will sustain a note or chord as long as the user continues to fret the strings. This allows users to conjure unheard of tones impossible to do otherwise. Notable users of the Sustainer system include The Edge (U2), Steve Vai, Eddie Van Halen, Neal Schon (Journey), Ed O'Brien (Radiohead) and Matt Bellamy (Muse).
The Retrorocket Pro comes with the Sustainer system included. Aside from the usefulness of the system, the pickup configuration includes a humbucker in the bridge and two single coils. Body wood is solid ash, a brighter and snappier wood common on many Strats from the 1950s. Aside from these two features, the Retrorocket Pro is very much like a Strat in every other way.
While each guitar is unique in its own way, inspiration from the Fender Strat can clearly be seen among them all. Are they better than the Strat itself? Each certainly has something different and unusual to offer than the legendary guitar does. As a devoted guitarist, I'm sure you can come up with at least one reason to own each and every one of these guitars- plus a Strat- quite easily.
© 2013 Robert Allen Johnson