Which Strat Will Take You to the Stratosphere?

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In this post, you can find additional info on my ‘Best Fender Stratocaster? American Professional vs John Mayer Signature vs Custom Shop’ comparison video.

The Guitars

  • My American Professional Stratocaster in Candy Apple Red (2017)
  • A Fender John Mayer Signature Stratocaster in Olympic White (2012)
  • A ’59 Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster in Black (2013)
From left to right: The Fender American Professional, the ’59 Custom Shop Relic, the John Mayer Signature

The American Professional Strat vs the American Professional II Strat

In October 2020 Fender launched the American Professional II Line. Here I compare the specs of my MK I Strat with the equivalent of the new line and highlight the differences. The Am Pro II specs are as published by Fender except for the fretboard material since Fender only features the maple version on their website (Dec. 2020). Please note that some shops carry the Treble Bleed feature on the volume control for the Am Pro II in the specs. Fender, however, doesn’t.

Specs

American Professional StratocasterAmerican Professional II Stratocaster
BodyAlderAlder
FinishGloss UrethaneGloss Urethane
NeckMapleMaple
Neck ProfileModern „Deep C“Deep C
FretboardRosewoodRosewood
Radius9,5“ (241 mm)9,5“ (241 mm)
Scale Length25.5“ (648mm)25.5“ (648mm)
Number of Frets2222
Fret SizeNarrow TallNarrow Tall
Fretboard InlayWhite DotWhite Dot
Nut MaterialBoneBone
Nut Width1.685“ (42.8 mm)1.685“ (42.8 mm)
PickupsV-Mod Single CoilV-Mod II Single Coil
Switching5-Position Blade5-Position Blade
ControlMaster Volume with Treble Bleed, Neck Tone, Bridge/Middle ToneMaster Volume, Neck/Middle Tone, Bridge Tone
Bridge2-point synchronized vibrato bridge with bent steel saddles and pop-in arm2-point synchronized Tremolo with bent steel saddles, pop-In tremolo arm and cold rolled steel block
Tuning HeadsFender Standard Cast/ Sealed StaggeredFender Standard Cast/ Sealed
Staggered
Hardware FinishNickel/chromeNickel/chrome
CaseElite molded CaseDeluxe Molded Case
I assume the cases are pretty much the same and Fender only dropped the “Elite” nametag since the “Elite” line has been superseded by the “Ultra” line of guitars.

A closer look at the John Mayer Signature Strat

This paragraph is a hub for further deep-diving into the John Mayer Signature Stratocaster. The JM Signature is based on a Stevie Ray Vaughn type of Strat design. This is because one of John Mayers first guitars was an SRV Signature model Strat. He talks about this particular Strat and the lineage leading to his Signature in this video.

As Mike Mc Cready of Pearl Jam points out in this video, SRV was a big fan of 59 Strats. The only Custom Shop Strat that floats around in my guitar playing community happens to be the 59 Relic, so that’s a nice coincidence for the shootout.


Much has been debated about why John Mayer left Fender in 2014 and why he cooperated with PRS to create the Silver Sky afterward. Here’s what the man himself has to say on the subject in a live stream from 2018. To summarize parts of the video, the Silver Sky is modeled after John Mayer’s vintage 64 Strat. So I guess if you want to get the full John Mayer Rig experience, you have to get both the Signature and the Silver Sky.

Specs

BodySelect Alder
FinishUrethane
NeckMaple
Neck ProfileThick “C” Shape
Radius9,5“ (241 mm)
Scale Length25.5“ (648mm)
Number of Frets21
Fret SizeDunlop 6105 frets
Fretboard InlayWhite Dot
Nut MaterialSynthetic Bone
Nut Width1.65“ (42 mm)
Pickups3 Big Dipper single-coil Stratocaster pickups with special “scooped” midrange voicing to meet John Mayer’s specifications
Switching5 Way Switch
ControlMaster Volume, Neck/Middle Tone, Bridge Tone
BridgeAmerican Vintage Synchronized Tremolo
Tuning HeadsFender/Gotoh Vintage Style
Hardware FinishNickel/chrome
CaseIncase® gig bag
Unique features5 tremolo springs installed at factory
No back plate
String tree slightly further from the nut

The ’59 Custom Shop Relic Stratocaster

This Stratocaster was made in 2013 and sold at Just Music in Munich (check out the In The Blues video made at the store). It is not a Master Built. The spec sheet was kindly mailed to me by Fender support since the owner of the guitar had lost his copy.

Specs

Body2 Piece Sorted Alder
FinishNitro Lacquer
NeckBirdseye A
Neck Profile60 Style Oval „C“
FretboardSorted Rosweood
Radius9,5“ (241 mm)
Scale Length25.5“ (648mm)
Number of Frets21
Fret SizeUSE Sanko 6105
Fretboard InlayMicarta White
Nut MaterialBone
Nut Width1.650“ (42 mm)
PickupsHW Strat MD Fat 50
Switching5-Position Blade
ControlMaster Volume, Neck Tone, Middle Tone
BridgeAmerican Vintage Strat Bridge Relic
Tuning HeadsVintage Fender Logo Relic
Hardware FinishChrome/Nickel
CaseFCS Strat/ Tele Blonde

The Amp

  • Career AF Tube Amp by Felleretta
The Career AF tube amp by Felleretta

For the price point, this is an amazing hardwired amp. I actually started shooting the video with the Marshall 2525C Mini Jubilee. However, I decided to switch to the Career about halfway through because I preferred its darker sound.

The Mic and the Mic Pre’s

  • Sennheiser MD421 U4. A dynamic mic. I had the bass roll-off on “M”.
  • Neumann U87ai. As usual, I set this up to capture my narrative. It also doubles as a room mic for the amp. I usually set it to the figure of 8 patterns because the sideway rejection makes the different levels of the amp and my talking work. This way I don’t have to constantly reset the mic gain as the amp is of course way louder than my voice.
  • A Designs Pacifica P1

Stratocaster Video Mixdown and Specs Music

I mixed the Audio in Logic Pro X. On my voiceover, I did some EQing with the FabFilter Q3 and let the Izotope Nectar 2 handle the dynamics.
The guitars were processed through the UAD Neve 1073 plugin and I pushed the line amp by 5 dB here. In addition to that, I did a bit of level adjustment on a region level in Logic. On the master bus, I used the Fabfilter Pro L2, which I pretty much left on the default settings with the style set to „modern“. The Pro L2 was pushed by 7.2 dB.


The Specs Music was inspired by my recent acquisition, the DOD Rubberneck analog delay. You can hear Brian Wampler and Blake Wyland talk about this great Pedal 9 minutes into this episode on their „Chasing Tone“ – Guitar Podcast. I used the corresponding Strat in the music to every Specsheet. We didn’t use the Am Pro one for pacing reasons, but you can have a listen (and look) at it here. All sounds such as the acoustics and the amp were captured with the Royer 121 ribbon mic.

By Paul Reno

Hi there, I'm Paul (@paulrenogram), and I am a music producer / sound designer and live in Munich.

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