• Squier Classic Vibe Stratocaster review

    In this series of “mini-reviews” I’ll be looking at news and general gear that I recommend for recreating David’s tones. First off is a glance at the popular Classic Vibe guitars from Squier.

    I’ve received a lot of questions about these guitars and I’ve had the chance to try most of them. I must admit that I’ve never had any “wow!” experiences with Squier but I know many of you have and are using Standards and Affinitys as your main guitars with much success.

    The Classic Vibes are essentially the cheaper version of the Mexican/Japanese Fender Classic Series with a couple of additions. I’ve chosen the 50s and 60s Stratocaster and the Telecaster Custom for this review.

    50s Stratocaster
    This model is specially intriguing as it’s offered in an Olympic White finish with an gold anodized pickguard. Sounds familiar? Yes, it looks very much like David’s #0001 Strat! The guitar feature a super light alder body, a comfortable and easy play 9.5″ C-shaped maple neck and three Fender Custom vintage style alnico 3 single coils with a typical 50s bright mid boosted tone.

    60s Stratocaster
    This Stevie Ray Vaughan-ish 3-colour sunburst with a tortoise shell pickguard is actually a very nice Strat with a great 60s look and feel. The guitar feature a super light alder body, a nice 9.5″ C-shaped rosewood neck (looks surprisingly good with no sings of open pores or dry wood) and three Fender Custom vintage style alnico 5 single coils that’s a bit hotter than the 50s Strat producing a typical scooped mids 60s tone. Definitely my favourite of the Strats.

    Telecaster Custom
    Although the name is a bit misleading – a Telecaster Custom actually has a Fender neck humbucker, this is a Custom Telecaster – I was especially interested in this model since I have a lovely CIJ ’62 Custom myself. The guitar feature a 3-colour sunburst alder body with a lovely binding (taking you right back to Animals and Dogs) a 9.5″ C-shaped rosewood neck and two alnico 3 Tele single coils. To be honest I both enjoy this one and got a bit disappointed. It doesn’t feel anything near a Fender ’62 Custom reissue with its super glossy finish, thin neck and ultra light body but it both plays and sound surprisingly nice on its own.

    Conclusion
    Although it seems that Fender and Squier has finally managed to produce quality guitars covering the classic designs I can’t help but wonder if it’s good enough. Compare the Classic Vibe guitars to a similar price range from Epiphone and I’d definitely go for a Les Paul Standard or SG 400. In my opinion you’ll get a much better guitar that undoubtedly will stand a lot more abuse and wear. The reason for this is that I feel that although the Classic Vibes look great there’s no doubt that Fender/Squier has cut some corners to minimize the price. The thin necks and ultra light bodies makes these guitars sound a bit flat and not as rich and balanced as their Mexican and Japanese counterparts. The pickups are actually quite OK – I assume they’re the same as featured on the MIM Classic Series – but I’d replace them for something much better like Fender Custom Shop 69 or Duncan SSL1 or SSL5 for the Strats and Fender Custom Shop Texas Special for the Tele. The super glossy polyester finish also makes the guitar look a bit cheap – a strange choice because the overall finish and assembly is very good.

    The Classic Vibe guitars are a great alternative for tight budgets or your first visit to the Fender world. If only I could get a classic Strat for $500 when I was 13! I think my final conclusion will be that I’m not overly excited but I wouldn’t be surprised if I one day got one of the Strats…

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22 Responsesso far.

  1. commonsense says:

    I bought one of the classic vibe squier strats, and I think it is great. Honestly, the quality is on par with my american made strat and my american made G&L. Except the pickups are microphonic. I am going to pot them, and that should take care of it.
    As far as epiphone vs. squier, the quality is almost identical. They are probably both made in the same factory in china. Its just a matter of being a fender guy or a gibson guy. Truthfully, except for ego, I see no reason to spend over 1000.00 for a u.s.a made instrument, sorry, I want to support made in the usa. But, the chinese know how to do it (because we showed them). Oh well.

  2. Øyvind Halvorsen says:

    The Telecaster Custom manufactured between 1959 and 1968 were equipped with standard single coil pickups in both neck and bridge position. A Telecaster Custom of this era only differs from a standard Telecaster in having a bound body. This was entirely changed when the Telecaster Custom was redesigned in 1972 (but that’s another story). The ‘Classic Vibe’ Telecaster Custom is obviously a replica of the 59 to 68 Custom, and is as such equipped with a single coil pickup in the neck position. Already in the sixties many players would install humbuckers in the neck positions of their Telecasters to obtain a beefier sound. Most notably Albert Collins and later Andy Summers. This practice probably explains the widespread misconceptions around this issue.

    Kind Regards
    Øyvind Halvorsen

  3. gabriel says:

    Thanks a lot for your answer Bjorn! just to make sure…i am about to order the pickups: the nocasters or the texas specials (you mentioned those in your review) for this guitar? i play mostly blues through a blues junior. Thanks!

    [The No Casters has a bright twangy tone while the Texas Specials are warmer with a slightly higher output. – Bjorn]

  4. gabriel says:

    Hi from Argentina Bjorn!, i just bought a CV telecaster custom. I really like it! but i feel it could be improved. You said above that “Fine guitar and with a couple of upgrades you’ll have a great instrument”. Could you name what these would be? What do you suggest?

    Thanks a lot!!

    PS: i am the one who sent you a mail asking for the carbon copy delay settings…did you get that mail? i didnt know where was the right place to ask about it :)

    [I’d replace the pickups for something like the Fender CS NoCasters and perhaps the hardware too but just by replacing the pickups you’ll get a much better guitar. I’ll have a look at your mail soon :) – Bjorn]

  5. ian wilson says:

    hi , i just got an olympic white 50s cv strat with gold pickgaurd , have to say
    the photos ive seen dont do it justice , been playing many years and have owned several strats , generally find them to vary a lot , american or mexican , i often find they feel heavy to me , however the squier classic vibe feels lighter and balanced , the neck and fret work are great and it looks fantastic , i am really happy with the guitar .

  6. Dave A says:

    So sorry that comment should have been in the Black strat 40th anniversary article

  7. FredrikX says:

    I am asking again. What is the proper specs. for the pickguard. I do not want to order the wrong part.
    What do you think I would order to get the correct “gold”-pickguard?

    [It’s a gold anodized 1 ply 8 hole pickguard. – Bjorn]

  8. Nuno Simões says:

    I bought a Classic VIbe Tele a few months ago. I played it side by side with a Fender Tele MIM and actually prefered the Squier. The sunburst looks great, the weight fells great and all in all it really is a great guitar, even for twice it’s price. Even the pickups are to my liking altough I’ll probably put a Texas Special Tele set on it. From playing it until now I would replace the nut (it’s a cheap plastic one and not really good) and maybe the tuners (only after replacing the nut; they feel right, I just gotta see if the problem is all in the nut) to improve the tuning stability.

    It has a really good construction and I didn’t find any bad aspect about it, other than the input jack screw becoming loose, but nothing a little tightening didn’t solve. And it’s just that! The rest of it works great, no problem at all. I was actually amazed at how bassy this guitar can sound, it really has great wood for a 300€ guitar. Amazing first Tele and a damn good Tele even if you have one already.

    It’s one of those guitars that make you feel proud of being a Squier rather than a Fender. Knowing that it’s so cheap and still so good… I bought it, love it and will probably never sell it.

    [I agree. Fine guitar and with a couple of upgrades you’ll have a great instrument. Thanks for your input! – Bjorn]

  9. Cunha says:

    Hi Bjorn
    I follow your site from quite some time.

    I have the 60s Stratocaster and i changed the pickups to ssl1.

    The guitar have a great sound and i love to play it. It’s the first squier i have seen that keeps in tune for quite some time.

    Unfortunally some parts are less good like the tremolo arm that i have broken.
    Now i can’t remove the rest and put another one.
    Any ideias how to make it?

    [I’d replace the whole tremolo system with a Callaham Vintage S system. Much better than the stock systems – more sustain and better tuning stability. – Bjorn]

  10. Dave A says:

    Thanks for the review.There is a nice Blond Telecaster 50s in the series,looks a really nice guitar.Good specs,Alnico pickups,Brass saddles etc.It states that it has a Pine body.Any Idea in what way this affects it tonaly.Have you managed to see this one.Im not sure I have played a Pine body before.

    [The 50s is very nice too although personally I prefer the Custom. Pine is unusual but very similar to ash with a fairly bright tone compared to alder. – Bjorn]

  11. Jae says:

    I’m off topic here, but what happened to all your videos on Utube? I’m subscribed to your channel, but lately there has been only 2 videos listed.
    Jae

    [They’re there. I think they’ve changed the layout so find the “see all” button and you’re good. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  12. Mike says:

    Great sight… I haven’t tried the classic vibes yet, but i have had a few squire “wow” moments… and currently own a very rare japanese red Hank Marvin signature squire, wich although VERY different in feel to a Fender, is a truely lovely guitar. Personally, epiphone is more hit and miss for me and some of the worst guitars i have had the misfortune to play are epiphones.

    All best,
    Mike.

    [I guess all brands have hits and misses. Cheaper guitars are more subjected to quality variations although it’s not a rule. Hank had a Fender signature some years ago as well didn’t he? – Bjorn]

  13. Mouloudo says:

    hey Bjorn cool as usual… BTW Im a bit late but hte Black strat is 40 this month

    [Yeah. There will be a small celebration this weekend. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  14. Fernando says:

    Thank you Evan!

  15. Evan says:

    Directed at Fernando, just about everyone you speak to online about the Epi ’56 Goldtop will praise the hell out of it. It’s one of the best deals Epiphone offers, honestly, Epiphone P90s being excellent enough to not need replacing and solid build construction all around.

    Try it out before you buy, of course, but I’d go at it without hesitation.

    Cool little article indeed, Bjorn. I believe the pickups are actually licensed Toneriders, as some investigation via the Harmony Central forums shows the construction to be practically identical between Toneriders and the Squier pickups. And yeah, I’ve tried out the Classic Vibe stuff several times over, and if I had enough space cash I’d have gotten one by now. Wonderful stuff.

    [Thanks for the input. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  16. Fernando says:

    Thank you Bjorn, very useful article. Nice to see that the thin neck of the Squiers is a general comment and/or complain.

    I would like to know your opinion about the 56′ Epiphone Les Paul Gold Top. Although I’m a Fender man, sometimes I want to play a Les Paul with P-90s. There’s a Gibson Les Paul Special with those pickups, but it costs twice the price of the Epiphone.

    Best Regards,

    Fernando

    [Never tried it actually. I like the P90s very much though. Played Gibson Goldtops and Juniors a lot and they have a great great tone somewhere between a really fat single coil and a bright humbucker. – Bjorn]

  17. Matteo says:

    Ciao Bjorn,

    I am one of your faithful reader since long time but never wrote a comment, I am italian and I live in China, Shanghai. Yesterday I bought the Classic vibe Custom Telecaster at the show room of the national distributor of fender and squier and yesterday already used in my band rehearsal. I am very impressed by the guitar even with factory setup and string 0.09 that will be replaced today with 0.10.

    I cannot compare it with CIJ 62 Custom Telecaster, but In the showroom I compared it with some mexico (classic 60 and roadworn) and US tele (amaerican special and highway) and honestly i didn’t find a difference to justify the double cost or more of these last. I compare it with my strato mexico classic 60 (modified with toggle switch and seymour duncan pickups, following a gilmourish way ;) and the squier is very well done (price wise)!!!

    These classic vibe are made in Canton and exported so then reimported in China, different from other low level series that are marketed directly in the country, so I payed a price similar to Europe (350 Euro)

    I see that you suggest texas special pick up, I will think about this upgrade, and maybe brass saddles i am also tempted to put an hum bucker pickup at the neck, I have a p-rail that can give me an interesting option, but from the other side I would like to keep the classic tele looks and feel on this guitar, I will see ;-)

    By the way I take this comment opportunity to really thanks you for the great work you do to spread the Gilmour gospel to the word !!!!

    Matteo

    [Thanks for your input and kind words Matteo! I think my issue is that there’s a too wide gap between the Classic Vibes and the Mexican Classic Series price wise, as you also mention. Apart from slightly different specs on the neck contour especially, there’s very little difference between the two and the Classic Series is just a bit too expensive. As I said, I think you get a generally better guitar with an Epiphone for the same price… but then again, they don’t offer Strats and Teles :) Cheers! – Bjorn]

  18. danielkn says:

    Neat. I’m tempted to get that 60s strat, but I think saving for a Twin or a Blues Deluxe will help me get that SRV tone more efficiently.

    Anyways, I was gonna ask you. On Remember That Night, I think I saw phil manzanera with a real cool decal on his Les Paul or something. It looked like 3 sharks swimming in a circle? Do you have any pics of this? I was looking to make myself a decal similar to this…

    [There was a sticker or something on his guitar. Don’t have any pictures but check out the gallery on David’s site or the Albert Hall or GDansk DVDs. – Bjorn]

  19. Daniel Krause says:

    Hey Bjorn…

    Again…Nice article ;-)

    I got myself a CV 50’s Tele about half a year ago and I like it very much. Yeah…the bridge pickup is a bit microphonic but overall the guitar plays and sounds really good.
    I haven’t tried the others, but I think Squier did a good job on these guitars. Think I’m gonna try the Strats in a while.

    Cheers,

    Daniel

    [Cool! For the price you really can’t go wrong and in any case, replacing some of the weaker parts will give you a great guitar. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  20. Sly F says:

    Nice review Bjorn, thanks !
    I’ve got a CV 50’s and turned it into a cheap version of the black strat, including mini toggle switch, hendrix strap, acrylic pickguard and SSL-5 bridge pickup.
    If you wonder about the result, the price it costs or the wirting diagram, feel free to check the blog : http://myblackstrat.blogspot.com/
    I tried to share as much as I could in there. (French language, sorry, but easy to understant pictures, drawings and prices ! )

    [Thanks for the link. These Classic Vibes makes some really nice alternatives with a couple of upgrades. Cheers! – Bjorn]

  21. Michael says:

    Neat article! I have to say out of those guitars, I love the tele the most. I saw the same televibe (lets call it that :-) ) at my guitar store not too long ago and I immediatly thought of this site (remembering that old classic vibe thing you posted a while back.)

    Keep up these new articles, love’m!!!

  22. FredrikX says:

    Got an olympic white US std.
    What is the actual spec. for the pickguard. I see there are a few to choose from.

    Thanks for a great site.