At $200, it's hard to find a better entry level guitar with as many
features as the Squier by Fender USB Stratocaster!
Sure, the name Squier isn’t exactly held among the upper echelon of axes by the guitar-snobs out there that swear by their American-made Fenders, but that doesn’t mean that the brand doesn’t serve a very important purpose. Many professional guitarists and bassists out there started their journey with a Squier. In fact, my very first electric was a Squier Strat not unlike this USB model and believe me – I played that thing until my parent’s threatened to disown me if it didn’t start sounding like music (kidding, but you get the idea).
Cutting to the chase, this new Squier by Fender Strat’s most compelling feature is its built-in signal processor which can connect to any computer or 30-pin iOS device, allowing you to play directly into DAW programs and sound editors such as Logic Pro and Garage Band. Furthermore, this guitar is looking to cut the need for an amplifier making this already economical guitar that much more compelling for beginners not looking to drop an extra couple of hundred in order to rock out.
Seeing as how this is one of the first guitars to boast such a (long overdue) feature, the $200 price tag – while very attractive – might make some worry about what sort of sacrifices must have been made to the ax itself in order to have it priced so low. While no one is going to confuse this Strat for a $2000 American-made Fender, you’ll be glad to know that the quality is as outstanding as the price – albeit with a few compatibility hiccups and minor hardware issues.
The Indonesian-made USB Squier is a solid-body electric that comes with the usual Strat features such as tone controls, a five-position pickup switch, volume knob along with your standard ¼ inch guitar output in case you want to play it through an amp. On the bottom of the guitar you can find a few other not-so-standard features such as 1/8 inch stereo input for headphones, another volume knob for the headphones and a miniUSB port that can handle bi-directional audio streaming. And best of all, it’s powered through the USB bus alone meaning need for batteries. While you standard Stratocaster features three single coils, this electric comes equipped with two single-coil pickups and one humbucker in the bridge position. The body itself is made of basswood with a 21 fret rosewood fretboard and maple neck. The USB Squier Strat also comes with the requisite tremolo bar. You also get two cables: a Fender-branded mini USB to 30-pin dock connector cable along with your standard mini USB to USB-B connector for connecting to a computer.
Just as you would expect with any other entry-level guitar, this Strat isn’t about to blow anyone away but I did find it a notch or so better than most guitars in this range, although I was admittedly pleasantly surprised to find the height and action perfectly positioned right out of the box. The guitar also boasts rather good playability which is definitely something that can’t be said with a lot of $200 electrics. My only real gripe with the entire guitar in terms of hardware were the frets which can be a little rough but nothing that a good filing can’t handle. The tuning knobs were nothing special but decent considering the price.
As far as the sound goes, the USB Squier Strat actually sings quite well. The humbucker itself is a bit hot and while this makes it sound slightly brighter than your standard Strat, it makes pulling off pinch harmonics that much easier in case you plan on jamming out to some Van Halen. And best of all, besides the brighter sound of the humbucker, this Squier actually sounds like a Strat! Once connected, I was very happy to find absolutely no lag in its signal along with a consistent tone regardless of what type of connection I was using or whether it was through my iPad or computer. Depending on the program you will be using, you’ll find adding effects and recording is pretty simple and fun, regardless if you’re a novice or a pro.
While this the pros out there aren’t about to trade in their American Strats for this particular guitar, the price alone makes anyone looking to jam out behind in front of a monitor instead of in front of a crown should have plenty of fun with this Squier. It’s outstanding as an entry level guitar for beginners and solid enough for pros looking for something that gives them something different. All in all, for $200, its hard to beat the USB Squier Strat!