Fender American Professional II Stratocaster: A Comprehensive Review
The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster, released in 2020, is the latest iteration of the iconic Stratocaster series that has been at the heart of popular music for decades. This new model builds upon the legacy of its predecessor, the American Professional series, while incorporating a variety of updates and improvements to enhance playability, sound, and overall performance. In this comprehensive review, we will explore the history, design, construction, sound, and notable features of the American Professional II Stratocaster, ultimately determining whether it lives up to the expectations set by its lineage.
History and Background
The Stratocaster was first introduced in 1954 and quickly became one of the most popular and influential electric guitars in the world. Its innovative design, distinct sound, and versatility have made it the preferred instrument for countless musicians across various genres, from rock and blues to jazz and pop. The American Professional series was launched in 2016 as a direct successor to the American Standard series, which had been Fender’s flagship line of production guitars since 1987.
Building on the foundations of the American Professional series, the American Professional II Stratocaster aims to retain the classic elements that have endeared it to generations of players, while incorporating subtle refinements and improvements to meet the needs of modern guitarists.
Design and Construction
At first glance, the American Professional II Stratocaster appears largely unchanged from its predecessors, maintaining the iconic double-cutaway body shape, contoured edges, and three single-coil pickup configuration that define the Stratocaster aesthetic. However, upon closer inspection, a number of subtle updates become apparent.
The body is crafted from alder or roasted pine (depending on the color option chosen), both of which are known for their balanced tone and resonance. The neck is constructed from maple and is available with either a maple or rosewood fretboard, offering players a choice between the bright, snappy response of maple or the warmer, smoother feel of rosewood. The neck features a comfortable “Deep C” profile and a satin finish, providing a fast and comfortable playing experience.
One notable update in the American Professional II series is the introduction of a sculpted neck heel, which allows for easier access to the upper frets, making it more comfortable for modern playing styles that require extended reach. The frets are also narrow-tall, which facilitates precise bending and improved intonation.
Electronics and Hardware
The American Professional II Stratocaster is equipped with three Fender V-Mod II single-coil pickups, designed by pickup guru Tim Shaw. These pickups provide a balanced, articulate tone with a vintage-inspired character, while also offering increased output and versatility. The guitar’s electronics include a master volume control, two tone controls (one for the neck and middle pickups, and one for the bridge pickup), and a 5-way pickup selector switch.
A new addition to the American Professional II series is the push-push tone control, which activates the neck pickup in positions 1 and 2 on the selector switch, allowing for additional tonal combinations. This feature expands the guitar’s sonic palette, providing players with even more options for shaping their sound.
The hardware on the American Professional II Stratocaster has also been updated. The 2-point synchronized tremolo bridge now features a cold-rolled steel block for increased sustain and resonance, while the redesigned Fender-branded tuning machines offer improved tuning stability and smooth operation.
Sound and Performance
The American Professional II Stratocaster delivers a wide range of tones, from warm, bell-like cleans to biting, overdriven leads. The V-Mod II pickups provide a rich, dynamic response that captures the nuances of the player’s touch, making the guitar suitable for a variety of styles and genres. The push-push tone control further expands the guitar’s tonal capabilities, offering additional pickup combinations for increased versatility.
The updated neck profile, sculpted heel, and narrow-tall frets contribute to the guitar’s playability, allowing for smooth, effortless playing across the entire fretboard. The improved tremolo system and tuning machines ensure reliable performance and tuning stability, making the American Professional II Stratocaster an excellent choice for gigging musicians and recording artists alike.
The Fender American Professional II Stratocaster successfully builds upon the legacy of its predecessors, maintaining the classic features that have made the Stratocaster a beloved instrument while incorporating thoughtful updates and refinements to meet the demands of modern players. With its comfortable playability, versatile sound, and high-quality construction, the American Professional II Stratocaster is an excellent option for guitarists of all skill levels and musical styles. Whether you’re a longtime Stratocaster enthusiast or a newcomer to the world of electric guitars, the American Professional II Stratocaster is well worth considering as a worthy addition to your collection.