The following is my detailed but far from complete review of the Highway One Strat HSS from Fender.

I have had my eye on this guitar for some time as a replacement to my Epiphone G-400. I needed something that could keep up with the diversity of the music encountered in a worship setting, as well as open the doors for me to learn more lead techniques. I really needed one that played well, and fit in a tight budget. Looks were a consideration, but far from top priority. After having the Strat for a couple of weeks, here is what I have discovered…

LOOKS:

The guitar, as advertised, comes in a satin nitro finish. Colors available are Daphne Blue, Wine, Sunburst and Black. I went with the wine, mostly because it was the only one in store and it played well. My preference was sunburst, but I wasn’t about to wait around much longer if I had a solid guitar in hand already. Either way, the finish is quite thin, and is already starting to set into the wood around the points where my body contacts it. If you take good care of this finish, it will wear beautifully. The pickups and tone/volume/pickup controls are all black on a white, 3-ply pick guard.The body is made of alder, while the neck is maple with a rosewood board and simple, white dot inlays. The whole guitar is styled after the 70s versions, the most noticeable feature being the large headstock. Tuning machines and bridge are chrome. Basically, it looks like a Strat. If you look at it, there is no mistake. The subtleties make this guitar what it is, and there isn’t anything that stands out as flashy or expensive.

FEATURES:

The bridge is a standard American floating tremolo bridge, and the guitar does come with the tremolo bar, which screws in to the bridge as desired. Frets on this instrument are VERY large, intended to aid in playability. As the name suggests, the pickup configuration is HSS. The two single coil pickups, located in the middle and neck positions, use Alnico III magnets. The bridge pickup is an Atomic humbucker. The Greasebucket tone circuit resides in the bridge tone pot, and is intended to “roll off the highs, without adding bass.”

SOUND:

I am playing this guitar out of a Fender Cyber Deluxe, using only the on-board effects, if any. Clean sounds are very smooth, if not understated when using the neck pickup. It was a little tough coaxing the kind of output I was looking for, but with a little tweaking it is possible. The middle pickup actually begins to border on country twang, while the humbucker ends up almost overdriving the clean sound slightly. With proper application of tone controls and attack, you can get all of the sounds to feel quite glassy, and by rolling back the tone knobs a little, even warm and Les Paulish. Adding a small dose of chorus and reverb helps this effect, and the clean sounds become slippery smooth. Becoming more aggressive in your playing will really bring about the classic Fender sound, so control is important when playing this guitar. Distorted tones are handled very well by the humbucker and middle pickups, while the neck pickup seems to sound more choppy and uneven. This could be because of the aforementioned output problems, but rolling the tone back tended to even things out. All pickups are very quiet, with the humbucker issuing the most hiss from the amplifier. Because it is so hot compared to the other two, it can be used as a little on-board overdrive. Every sound I could think of, this guitar could produce. All it takes is getting to be familiar with it, and you can have any sound from sparkle to twang to slap to crunch to grunge to metal. This guitar will only be as versatile as the amp though. I like the fact that I have a modeling amp, otherwise I’d be a little limited in my application.

FINAL IMPRESSIONS:

It is a paired down guitar built to sound great in any situation. I’d say it has succeeded. There are aspects to this guitar that may be unappealing, such as the basic looks and trimmed down hardware. Even with the cost aside, this guitar is fully capable of playing with the big boys. Is it a complete package? No, not really. I still wasn’t able to get a true blue Les Paul crunch sound, but then again, it isn’t a Les Paul. It is a Strat to the core, and thus has those particular strengths to its name. At the same time, it is capable of branching out to different styles quite easily, and has already proven to be a suitable tool for most any musician.

If you have any questions about this guitar or want to see something added to this review, be sure to comment.

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