Terrific (Non-Fender) S-Style Guitar Models
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Is there a more iconic guitar body shape than that of the Stratocaster? Maybe a Les Paul… but I would argue that when most non-guitar players think of the instrument, the Strat shape is what pops into their head. Regardless, it is no doubt one of the most successful and widely known guitar models ever made.
This list contains 7 S-style guitars that are not Fenders (I’ll try to avoid calling them Strats). These are all great options, at varying price points, to give you some of that Stratocaster tone without having to stick with one company. There are a lot of reasons people look for guitars like this outside of Fender. Many of these models have things like roasted necks, locking tuners and/or simply colors that you just can’t find on a stock Fender. So, jumping right into it then, here are some great S-type guitars that are made by other companies.
Yamaha Pacifica PAC112J – $199.99
Yamaha’s Pacifica line has been around for quite some time now, since the early ‘90s in fact. And in those few decades these instruments have become quite well known for being a solid entry level S-type guitar. If you go and check out the entire range of Pacificas, you will see that this model is on the lower end of things price wise. Additionally, there are numerous other pickup configurations you can get other than this HSS variant. However, I have picked the PAC112J because I think it represents what most people view this line of guitars as. If you want an HSS that is comparable to the Squier Affinity price point, this is a great option.
G&L Tribute S500 – $599.99
If you want to ditch Fender but stick with Leo, G&L is the company for you. Leo’s post Fender endeavor is still making guitars to this day that are beloved by fans of the brand. In this instance we are talking about their incredibly good value Tribute line of guitars. Basically, these guitars are Fenders with little tweaks (though they feel quite different). These alterations most notably include the headstock design, 2-point vibrato and pickups. On this guitar you have a standard SSS configuration that are all MFD pickups. Overall, the G&L stuff can be thought of as Leo’s little improvements to his iconic designs. I think the G&L Tribute line is a great alternative to things like Squier Classic Vibes or MIM offerings from Fender.
Schecter Nick Johnston Traditional – $799.00
When most people think of Schecter, this guitar is probably not what comes to mind. Yes, Schecter does in fact make a classic SSS configured S-Type. And this model is an absolutely great representation of what a modern Strat “copy” should look like. Where this guitar really stands out is the feature set it offers up, and at a sub $1000 price tag no less. The combination of a roasted neck, locking tuners and ebony fingerboard are rather impressive considering the cost. Also, you get some really solid pickups, a 2-point trem and master tone and volume controls. There are just enough alterations to the classic Fender blueprint here to make this a new and improved, yet familiar design.
Charvel Pro-Mod DK24 - $1049.99
This model is probably the least traditional-like on our list, but it still has the body and pickups that make it an S-style. Also, I just had to throw a Charvel on this list, they don’t get talked about as much as they should. Here we have their Pro-Mod DK24, a modern HSS that can handle just about anything you throw at it. It’s got locking tuners, a caramelized maple neck and a 12-16-inch compound radius fingerboard. This radius along with the bridge humbucker in this thing gives it the potential to be a shred machine if need be. But the middle and neck single coils give some tones that get closer to a more classic Strat sound. Without a doubt this is a guitar that does not get enough praise.
Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass RS – $2149.99
Ernie Ball is one of those guitar manufacturers that nearly everyone who owns one of their instruments can’t stop raving about it. And this praise from their fans is not without reason. Music Man guitars are consistently great sounding tools that any player could appreciate. Their Cutlass model is their S-style guitar, which comes in HSS and SSS configurations. Like many of the other entries on this list, the Cutlass does a great job at introducing modern improvements to the traditional design of a Strat. Locking tuners, a roasted flame-maple neck, and Music Man’s own silent circuit active electronics are some of the highlights. All these features along with plenty of other nice little details make this a model worth checking out.
PRS Silver Sky – $2299.99
For all the criticism this guitar model received upon its initial announcement, it has now really settled into its own as being PRS’s S-Type. At its core this is just a really great Strat “copy” based off of a few different years of vintage Fenders. However, what really makes the Silver Sky standout are the numerous PRS appointments that take this guitar up a notch. Aesthetically you have things like the off-colored cutaway scoop, a modern looking input jack, and lack of a backplate. Functionally, you have the PRS bridge and modern locking tuners. And the heart of this guitar’s tone lies in the wonderful sounding 635JM single coils. This one will be great for those wanting vintage Strat tone with some modern garnishes.
Friedman Vintage-S – $2899.99
While many people are aware of Friedman’s amplifiers, the company also makes some really incredible guitars. The Vintage S is a modern boutique instrument meant to capture the mojo of the past but with plenty of modern considerations. This model specifically has some relicing that is quite tastefully done. And in conjunction with things like the vintage tuners and a traditional body shape really gives off an authentic vintage look. But don’t be fooled by the looks, this guitar is still very much a modern instrument. The pickups it comes loaded with (along with most other Friedmans) are not really voiced like those of a vintage guitar, but rather a bit hotter and more aggressive. No surprise that these guitars pair great with their amps for massive rock tones. But regardless of what you play this thing through, it will no doubt sound delightful.