Strat-style guitars – that is, guitars that take their style and tone cues from Fender’s iconic double-cut Stratocaster – is an area of the market which is growing at an exceptional rate, with loads of new S-types coming out every year. As such, the choice can be pretty overwhelming. With this guide, we’ll be helping you cut through the noise and give you all the answers on how to choose the best Strat-style guitar for you.
Of course, ‘best’ is a subjective term – and for this reason we’ve found 10 options at different price points, all with different specs, finishes and electronics and from some of the industry’s biggest brands. These guitars will cover just about every genre and playing style, and while they all very obviously take inspiration from one iconic electric guitar, they’ve all got their own unique personalities and sounds.
The guitars in this guide are listed in increasing price order, to make it a little easier for you to find the best option for your budget. We’ve included some in-depth buying advice at the end of this guide too, so if you’d like to read more about the best Strat-style guitars and how to pick the right one for you, we’d suggest you head straight there. If you’d like to just get on with checking out our choices, keep scrolling.
Best Strat-style guitars: Our top picks
It’s always difficult to pick a favorite from a product list as stacked as this one, but if you’re working to a smaller budget, we’d choose the Sterling by Music Man Cutlass CT50HSS. It’s not the cheapest Strat-style guitar in this guide, but we feel it’s the best for that kind of money, around $5-600. The overall build quality is satisfying and as such the guitar feels really solid. The hardware is top notch, and would withstand even the sweatiest and most hectic of live shows.
For those with a little more to spend, we’d suggest you pay the Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM some attention. Charvel has been making some truly impressive guitars of late, and this DK22 follows the trend nicely. A slim neck profile with a compound fingerboard radius means that this guitar is a shredder’s dream, but with a set of classic Seymour Duncans onboard, the vintage-style clean and crunchy tones are covered too.
For those willing to part with lots of cash, the PRS Silver Sky is our pick. If you want Strat-style, there are few guitars that get you closer than the Silver Sky – but with modifications like the bevelled lower horn and smoother-than-Strat sounding 635JM pickups, as well as the classic 7.25” fingerboard radius and outstanding PRS build quality, you won’t be left wanting.
Best Strat-style guitars: Product guide
Ibanez’s full-fat AZ series is one of Ibanez’s most popular new models, thanks to its slick looks, versatility and fantastic playability. The budget-friendly equivalent – the AZ Essentials series – carries the torch well, delivering one of the best budget Strat-style guitars around.
The AZES40 is equipped with a HSS pickup configuration, with an Ibanez ‘Accord’ bridge humbucker and two ‘Essentials’ single coils in the middle and neck positions. A slightly cheaper SSS-equipped version (the AZES31) is available for those who want a more authentic ‘Strat’ vibe, but the versatility that a bridge humbucker affords is greatly appreciated – especially when combined with the ‘alter’ switch, which provides series and parallel pickup selections.
The AZES40’s solid build and hardware puts to bed our usual budget guitar concerns. The tuning stability is excellent, the six-point tremolo is pretty smooth and the fretwork is of a standard you’d expect from guitars double the price. The maple neck is comfortable enough for hands of most shapes and sizes, and when combined with the solid Poplar body, the tone is bright, snappy with an added mid-range warmth – offering modern Strat-style tones in a well-priced beginner electric guitar.
Sterling by Music Man has, in our opinion, been one of the leading budget brands in recent years – and it’s easy to see why when you take a look at the Cutlass CT50HSS. Like every product on this list, this guitar’s point of inspiration is obvious – but with a welcome Music Man twist, the Cutlass offers up a great playing experience which you just can’t get from a traditional Strat.
The CT50HSS has a poplar body with a bolt-on roasted maple neck and matching fingerboard. The poplar/maple combination of materials seems to be a go-to for the budget end of the Strat-style product category, but we’re impressed by the gutsy resonance and sophisticated tones this guitar produces. The roasted maple on the neck and fingerboard is not only hugely aesthetically pleasing, but provides the signature snappy, bright top end you’d expect from a guitar of this style.
While still in the ‘budget’ end of the price spectrum, the CT50HSS feels and sounds like a guitar worth a whole lot more. The build quality is nigh-on flawless, and feels solid, secure and reassuring in the hand. The pickup configuration delivers an impressive array of tones, and is happily capable of anything from sparkly country cleans to hard-rock gain. The bridge humbucker will even kick out some metal tones, if that’s your thing.
A set of locking tuners alongside the smooth two-point trem is a touch you’d only expect to see on a guitar at a much higher price point – so all in all, we’re thoroughly impressed.
The Yamaha Pacifica has been one of the industry’s go-to beginner options for years, and it’s no surprise. Yamaha’s overall quality and attention to detail is second to none, even in their cheapest electric guitars – so we’re excited to see what this higher-end 612V MKII can bring to the table.
The answer is, in short, a lot. The Alder body and maple neck combination offers great resonance, punch and brightness, and delivers that iconic Strat-style tone with the modern precision which Yamaha does so well. A set of killer Seymour Duncan pickups from stock is a true gift, with this guitar delivering tones well above its price bracket. The Pacifica has always been a modder’s dream guitar, but this 612V MKII has essentially had all the expected upgrades done straight from the factory, meaning that it has the spec list of a guitar you’d expect to pay four digits for.
Our only small gripe with the Pacifica 612V MKII – and Yamahas in general – is that they always feel like ultra-precision instruments. One of the reasons we love Stratocaster-style guitars is that they all have their own quirks and personalities – and the Pacifica can sometimes feel a bit too perfect for its own good. That being said, the 612V MKII is, on paper, probably one of the best value-for-money guitars you can buy today.
Read the full Yamaha Pacifica PAC612VIIFMX review
Nick Johnston’s guitar playing is a highly impressive, smooth and flowing virtuosic experience, so it makes sense that his signature guitar from Schecter offers that same experience to whomever picks one up.
Like most Strat-style guitars, the Alder body/Maple neck combination is employed here. The tone that this material combination provides has a fantastic, traditional vibe which you’d expect to get from any instrument with this body shape and pickup configuration, but this Schecter has something individual and special about it. The radius of the fingerboard – an ultra-playable 14” – provides a comfortable base for any type of legato playing or string bending. However, as far as flat fingerboards go, it’s up there with some of the flattest – something to be aware of if you’re into more vintage specs.
The signature Schecter Diamond Nick Johnston pickups are another fantastic feature of this guitar. Available in either SSS or HSS configurations, these electric guitar pickups are capable of all types of tones, from vintage cleans and drive to levels of gain you’d never expect from a set of single coils. All in all, this is a vintage inspired Super Strat that will do you right in a large array of musical scenarios.
When talking about Strat-style guitars, Charvel is a name which comes up nearly 100% of the time. Even before they were bought by Fender, Charvel was no stranger to a double cutaway design – but after being acquired by Fender in 2002, we feel like they’re probably more qualified than ever to make a killer Strat-style guitar.
And that’s what they’ve done with the (deep breath) Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM. Whilst their product naming strategy might need a little bit of work, the guitar itself isn’t much short of a masterpiece. Again, we’ve got the standard alder body and maple neck combo involved here – and while it may look pretty unremarkable, the neck on this guitar is one of the best we’ve ever played. It’s been baked to increase strength and resonance, and is graphite-reinforced which provides excellent stability in any climate – and the hand-rubbed satin urethane finish is a true joy. Playability is sublime overall, and we’ve personally got nothing in our ‘to improve’ list.
Routed for an SSS pickup configuration maintains the traditional vibe and look, but this guitar is blessed with the versatility of a humbucker in the bridge position. The single-coil sized Hot Rails humbucker doesn’t quite kick out the same amount of beefy low end as a full size equivalent, but this works in the DK22’s favor – providing more note clarity and precision, especially when using gain. The neck and middle pickups also deliver sweet, glassy tones with both clean and dirty tones, and plenty of Strat-esque chime. Finding any negative points about this guitar is tough – but if we could just have a white one, that’d be great.
Read the full Charvel Pro-Mod DK22 SSS 2PT CM review
The G&L Fullerton Deluxe Legacy is definitely the one for you if you want to get as close to a Fender Strat as possible without having it written on the headstock. Blending contemporary refinements from the Leo Fender-designed G&L S-500 and Comanche guitars with a few old-school appointments, the Fullerton Deluxe Legacy is an updated take on the O.G – and overall, we like it.
Unsurprisingly, this guitar follows the Strat blueprint more closely than any other guitar on this list. Three Alnico V single coils, two tone controls and that iconic body shape suggest that the Fullerton’s Strat inspiration may run a little deeper than just an outside appreciation – but this isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Think of the Fullerton Deluxe Legacy as a Strat that’s had things fixed up a bit. Take G&L’s P.T.B system for instance. Passive Treble and Bass controls allow you to separately cut treble and bass frequencies for greater control over your tone, and as it’s passive, your tone won’t be unduly influenced or interrupted.
The G&L, annoyingly, has only one real flaw. Unlike every other guitar in this guide – which all offer something different to the Strat – this guitar doesn’t really do that. It’s so close to the Strat, that there’s probably not much to gain in buying one of these over an original Fender. Don’t get us wrong, it’s got some very useful unique features that we love – but maybe we just don’t love them enough.
Ibanez is one of the most popular brands that spring to mind when talking about Strat-style guitars. They’re a brand who basically invented the ‘Superstrat’ title, and then kept reinventing it with more and more crazy specs, designs and price tags – so it’s nice to see that they’ve dialled it back a little bit for the AZ2204 Prestige.
Surprise, surprise – it’s got an Alder body and a maple neck. Even with a fairly basic material palette to work with, Ibanez still manages to make something impressive – with the roasted maple neck of this AZ2204 providing not only a hugely pleasurable aesthetic experience, but also a dreamy playing experience. The profile is the AZ’s own oval profile, and it works well for virtually all playing styles. There’s enough to it that you can happily dig into some big open chords, and the smooth satin finish makes virtuosic legato playing easy as pie too. The stock Seymour Duncans do the rest of the heavy lifting here, providing a versatile and balanced experience thanks to their Alnico V magnets.
Like most electric guitars under $2,000, the AZ2204 Prestige removes all of the variables of sub-par fretwork and hardware. With jumbo stainless steel frets, Prestige fret-edge treatment, a bone nut and Gotoh hardware, this is a great homage to the original Strat, but with some tasteful, 21st century updates.
When it was unveiled, PRS’s Silver Sky was one of the most controversial guitars in a long time. John Mayer’s move from Fender to PRS was understandable – to have a PRS signature guitar is to be part of a pretty exclusive club – but his signature model took some pretty obvious inspiration from another, very famous guitar…
Like every single guitar in this guide, the Silver Sky is a Strat-style instrument – and with its Alder body and Maple neck, its inspiration runs a little deeper. Those Strat tones are well within reach with the Silver Sky, with the 635JM pickups bringing a sweet, rich bottom end to the mix as well as plenty of chimey treble. The ‘635’ moniker is to explain John Mayer’s reference point regarding both the pickups and the neck shape – somewhere between a ’63 and ‘64 Strat – and with a 7.25” radius fingerboard, there’s a killer vintage feel to this guitar that we adore.
It’s a super solid guitar. In its neutral position, the trem is flush against the body of the guitar to increase resonance and acoustic volume, and the vintage-style locking tuners do wonders for the tuning stability. It does look and sound very close to a Fender, but the feel of the Silver Sky is the main reason this guitar is so special. There’s something about it that’s very hard to describe – so go and play one.
Read the full PRS John Mayer Silver Sky review
Suhr is one of the most iconic brands in the industry when it comes to Strat-style guitars. Having produced modern-specced Superstrats for many years, the Classic S shows Suhr turning their hand to the old-school, classic spec instruments that we know and love.
The alder body and maple neck are an unsurprising combination here, delivering a huge array of vintage-inspired Strat tones with loads of musical brightness and shimmer. It’s hard to explain these tones without sounding like a romantic poet, but the Suhr Classic S has a natural air-y tonal quality which makes any tone sound wide and thoroughly pleasing to the ear.
With a ‘60s C Vintage Standard neck profile, this neck is a super comfortable and enjoyable one to navigate – and the 9” to 12” compound fingerboard radius makes strings easy to bend, legato playing a dream and those thumb-over-the-top open chords achievable in the lower frets.
With Suhr locking tuners, a Gotoh 510 trem with a steel block and an overall second-to-none build quality, we’re unsurprised to hear that Suhr is creating some of the best Strat style instruments around. At $3,000, we’d have liked something that looks a little more extravagant, but the classic look is one we enjoy all the same.
Music Man’s Sabre design has been around for a fair while – since 1978, to be exact. It came straight from the brain of Leo Fender and gang, so we feel like it’s more than appropriate that it’s featured in this best Strat-style guitars guide.
The sheer material worth of this guitar is insane. From a body made from solid Okoume, to a 13mm thick piece of flamed maple for the top and a roasted figured maple neck, this guitar looks just as epic as it sounds. The custom wound Music Man humbuckers are Alnico V (bridge) and Ceramic (neck) magnets, and are quoted as having outputs of 18k and 12.2k respectively. With a 5-way switch to help you access these incredible tones, the Sabre is versatile enough to take you on any musical adventure you so wish.
This guitar is not only tonally solid, but the build quality and hardware feels strong and capable of withstanding any playing you can throw at it. Locking Schaller tuners, a super-stable chrome ‘Modern Tremolo’ and 22 high-profile stainless steel frets invite you to play to your heart’s content – and you definitely will. This Sabre is one of the finest high-end electric guitars money can buy.
Read the full Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre review
Best Strat-style guitars: Buying advice
What should you consider when buying a Strat-style guitar?
Before buying one of the best Strat-style guitars, there are a few factors you should consider. There’s a huge amount of variation available among the instruments in this product category, going all the way from super-traditional to ultra-modern – so it’s important to know exactly what you’re looking for.
Think about your playing style. Do you spend your practice time chicken-pickin’, getting into the world of Americana, chopping about like a funk god or practising your sweep-picking? While it may be true that most guitars suit most styles of playing, we’re talking about finding your perfect guitar here, so knowing what suits your playing is an absolute must.
For players who like to play more traditional styles of music, something with a fairly authentic set of specs will be most suitable for you. A thicker neck profile and rounder fingerboard radius will help you dig in to those big open chords a little more and a set of lower-output pickups will provide you with all of those classic vintage-inspired clean and dirty tones.
If you tend to play more extreme styles, then any of the more modern-spec instruments in this guide would suit you better. Thin neck profiles, flatter fingerboard radii and higher-output pickups will see you right in this instance. Thankfully, with brands like Charvel and Ibanez guitars producing so many different modern-spec Strat-style instruments, you should have no trouble finding a guitar on which you can shred.
What makes a great Strat-style guitar?
For us, a great Strat-style guitar has to have its own personality. When taking inspiration from such an iconic guitar, it’s easy to make a product which feels more like a ‘copy’ than its own entity – and if your Strat-style guitar is too similar to the original Strat, then what’s a player going to gain from buying one over a Fender?
The Strat has certain qualities that should be borrowed, though. The body shape and pickup configurations are two of the features that gave the original Strat its reputation, and to make a Strat-style guitar that doesn’t share at least one of these criteria is just plain wrong. At the very least, any Strat-style guitar should share the body shape of the original.
All of the guitars in this guide offer an individual take on the Strat, with some straying further from the path than others. This gives players plenty of options to explore new tones and playing styles, while still having an instrument which looks classy and is comfortable to play.
Why should you get a Strat-style guitar over a regular Strat?
Why should you choose a Strat-style guitar over a Fender Stratocaster? We all love Fender Strats, but they aren’t perfect for every type of player.
The Strat has been around for the best part of 70 years, and the design has stayed largely the same for that time. While that’s proof that the original Strat is a great guitar, it also suggests that Fender won’t be changing anything any time soon. This is where the Strat-style guitar comes into its own.
Every brand that makes a Strat-style guitar has iconic inspiration to then add their own personality to. Because of this, you can get your hands on some classy-looking guitars with modifications that Fender themselves would never make.
Also, if you love the Strat but aren’t a fan of Fender, or just want something different, then a Strat-style guitar could be just what you need.
Which brands make the best Strat-style guitars?
It’s also worth taking a moment to think about which brands you prefer, and which ones will cater for you the best. We’re lucky enough to have access to so many great guitar brands at the moment, but each one has their own style and a thing they do best.
In the Strat-style category, brands like PRS and G&L (and of course, Fender) have the traditional style covered pretty happily with classic neck profiles, vintage-inspired hardware and electronics and classy finishes.
Brands such as Yamaha, Sterling by Music Man and EBMM have the middle-ground on lock – combining old-school pickup configurations and hardware with sophisticated compound fingerboard radii and other modern features.
You’ve then got brands like Jackson, Suhr, Charvel and Ibanez, whose guitars are mostly a showcase of ultra-modern specs and features. We’re talking locking tremolos, high-output and active pickups, super-skinny neck profiles and the like.