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Old 01-22-2022, 01:04 PM
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Default Possible upgrades to a MIM Strat

In 2010, for Christmas we bought our son a new MIM Fender Strat Standard HSS as per pic (with bridge position Fender humbucker) which was his choice upon visiting local shops. It is virtually identical to the new “Player” version. We also bought him a Fender Super Champ amp at the same time. At the time, the HSS was Cdn$600, it’s now about $1,200. Prior to that, he’d been playing a Norman B20 acoustic we’d bought him years earlier. He’s always been primarily an acoustic player.



A few years ago, he bought himself a Taylor 114ce. In the last month or so, after trying my new Martin D-18, he’s expressed that he likes the tone and feel and started considering a Martin within his budget which seems to be around Cdn$2k. No sooner had he hit the local guitar shops, electric guitars were catching his eye and he’s now shifted to wanting one, yet he doesn’t play the Strat much and so doesn’t know much about electrics...tones, signal chains, amps. He seems mostly smitten by looks only at this point...Les Pauls, PRSs and lesser so, Teles. He has since gone on his own to shops and plugged in and he’s liking a particular PRS at around $2,200. Of course, this could take him down the black hole of better amp and other gear that he can’t afford.

I certainly understand the GAS he’s feeling, and I did go with him the first two times he visited a shop, but I’m suggesting that he take his Strat with him to compare. Actually, his Strat is practically brand new, and feels as good or better than the Les Pauls and PRSs in the same price range as his HSS. Before dropping a lot of money on a new electric, I’ve given him food for thought to consider much less expensively trying better quality tuning machines, bridge and pickups on his Strat as easy swap-outs to arguably turn it into a much better guitar that he might be happy with, and learn about doing such upgrades on his own. He could still afford to buy a Martin acoustic of some sort.

He’s thinking about it, but he’s not sure that making such changes to the Strat is worth it. I tend to think that the fundamental guitar in terms of body wood, neck (maple) and frets are totally fine and by making components changes and proper setup, it will be a much better guitar. One question I have is about the wiring...is it the same as in a higher quality Strat? Am I giving him good advice? I just hope to give him as much food for thought as possible to help him with his decision.

Thanks for any feedback!

p.s. Any better pickup recommendations including a humbucker would be appreciated.
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Last edited by Acousticado; 01-22-2022 at 01:13 PM.
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Old 01-22-2022, 01:37 PM
Paleolith54 Paleolith54 is offline
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Originally Posted by Acousticado View Post
In 2010, for Christmas we bought our son a new MIM Fender Strat Standard HSS as per pic (with bridge position Fender humbucker) which was his choice upon visiting local shops. It is virtually identical to the new Player version. We also bought him a Fender Super Champ amp at the same time. At the time, the HSS was Cdn$600, its now about $1,200. Prior to that, hed been playing a Norman B20 acoustic wed bought him years earlier. Hes always been primarily an acoustic player.



A few years ago, he bought himself a Taylor 114ce. In the last month or so, after trying my new Martin D-18, hes expressed that he likes the tone and feel and started considering a Martin within his budget which seems to be around Cdn$2k. No sooner had he hit the local guitar shops, electric guitars were catching his eye and hes now shifted to wanting one, yet he doesnt play the Strat much and so doesnt know much about electrics...tones, signal chains, amps. He seems mostly smitten by looks only at this point...Les Pauls, PRSs and lesser so, Teles. He has since gone on his own to shops and plugged in and hes liking a particular PRS at around $2,200. Of course, this could take him down the black hole of better amp and other gear that he cant afford.

I certainly understand the GAS hes feeling, and I did go with him the first two times he visited a shop, but Im suggesting that he take his Strat with him to compare. Actually, his Strat is practically brand new, and feels as good or better than the Les Pauls and PRSs in the same price range as his HSS. Before dropping a lot of money on a new electric, Ive given him food for thought to consider much less expensively trying better quality tuning machines, bridge and pickups on his Strat as easy swap-outs to arguably turn it into a much better guitar that he might be happy with, and learn about doing such upgrades on his own. He could still afford to buy a Martin acoustic of some sort.

Hes thinking about it, but hes not sure that making such changes to the Strat is worth it. I tend to think that the fundamental guitar in terms of body wood, neck (maple) and frets are totally fine and by making components changes and proper setup, it will be a much better guitar. One question I have is about the wiring...is it the same as in a higher quality Strat? Am I giving him good advice? I just hope to give him as much food for thought as possible to help him with his decision.

Thanks for any feedback!

p.s. Any better pickup recommendations including a humbucker would be appreciated.
Personally, I think the improvement from component swaps would be real but marginal. It also doesn't sound like it addresses the issue, which is that he's young and really doesn't know what he wants. So, based on what I've read here, it doesn't sound like it'll scratch his itch.
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Old 01-22-2022, 01:43 PM
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Thanks! Fwiw, he’s 40 y/o, but true that he doesn’t seem to know what he wants. Certainly, to keep visiting the shops and trying out different guitars is a good thing.

Perhaps you’re right that component swaps will be marginal...I thought that better pickups in particular would be substantial, but I don’t really know as I don’t play my own Strat all that much. Maybe his amp is mostly what he’s not liking such that any guitar he buys won’t change that much.
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Old 01-22-2022, 02:07 PM
Chickee Chickee is offline
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Here are two very hot rodded Super Champ X2s and one lightly modded American Performer Strat.

The Strat received GraphTech Teflon saddles, nut and string trees. Also brushed satin locking tuners. A fret end dressing and a big engraved Fender F neck plate and ceramic coated tremolo springs. Thats it. It play fast, stays in tune forever. To me the guitar is priceless, and for a mid level axe thats saying a whole lot. Would your son get it? Who knows.

Now the Super Champs.
The burgundy has a Celestion Greenback speaker installed with a JJ tube upgrade. I would take this amp anywhere and play any stage with this. Its that good of a hot rod.
The Sonic Blue is a secret weapon. A Celestion Gold speaker with Genalex Gold Lion tube set make this Super Champ so efficient it goes up against the hardest hitting rock drummers and laughs at them. Twenty three pound weight all in. Was it worth spending the same amount on a speaker and tube set as the cost of the amp itself? To me, thats a big yes. Only your son can answer that for himself. And BTW-Super Champs were quietly discontinued by Fender last year and the prices for used ones are skyrocketing right now. Take a look on Reverb and try to buy one
Good luck to your son.

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Old 01-22-2022, 02:17 PM
Chickee Chickee is offline
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Im sorry, I didnt touch on the electronics part of your post concerning a pick up swap, my answer was geared more towards the playability improvements made to my Strat.

I have to say, unless there is something in the sound of the guitar when amplified that your son disapproves of, leave the pickups alone.

If he wants to emulate a particular Strat player, there are tons of loaded pick guards being offered by many of the aftermarket pick up guys. Just choose who you want to sound like! All it takes is money.😂
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Old 01-22-2022, 04:41 PM
Dru Edwards Dru Edwards is offline
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Hi Tom, pickup swaps can make a big difference. You son needs to know what kind of sound he wants from the Strat. If he wants to play some classic metal then perhaps a DiMarzio Super Distortion in the bridge. If he wants some great blues/rock tones a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates would sound great in the bridge. Throw in a SRV Fender Texas Special in the neck position.

As you mentioned, an amp is important and would probably make a bigger difference.

Long & McQuade has rentals. He could probably rent a nice Epiphone Les Paul or even a Gibson Les Paul Studio / Tribute for a week just to see if that's more the tone he's going for. Same with renting an amp.
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Old 01-23-2022, 04:06 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chickee View Post
Here are two very hot rodded Super Champ X2s and one lightly modded American Performer Strat.

The Strat received GraphTech Teflon saddles, nut and string trees. Also brushed satin locking tuners. A fret end dressing and a big engraved Fender F neck plate and ceramic coated tremolo springs. Thats it. It play fast, stays in tune forever. To me the guitar is priceless, and for a mid level axe thats saying a whole lot. Would your son get it? Who knows.

Now the Super Champs.
The burgundy has a Celestion Greenback speaker installed with a JJ tube upgrade. I would take this amp anywhere and play any stage with this. Its that good of a hot rod.
The Sonic Blue is a secret weapon. A Celestion Gold speaker with Genalex Gold Lion tube set make this Super Champ so efficient it goes up against the hardest hitting rock drummers and laughs at them. Twenty three pound weight all in. Was it worth spending the same amount on a speaker and tube set as the cost of the amp itself? To me, thats a big yes. Only your son can answer that for himself. And BTW-Super Champs were quietly discontinued by Fender last year and the prices for used ones are skyrocketing right now. Take a look on Reverb and try to buy one
Good luck to your son.


Is this the speaker you used in your Super Champ?

https://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...-speaker-8-ohm
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Old 01-23-2022, 05:03 PM
Chickee Chickee is offline
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Default Possible upgrades to a MIM Strat

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Originally Posted by FrankHudson View Post
Is this the speaker you used in your Super Champ?



https://www.sweetwater.com/store/det...-speaker-8-ohm


Yes Frank it is. One of the best hot rods I ever put together. Break in time was a solid ten hours of use to get to really rich, full, smooth tube tone. Im not a fan of big distortion, instead enjoy just enough grind in the mix to have full bodied, fat, wrap around sound that you know the guitar is talking. Works equally well with single coil, P90s and humbuckers. The amp have six or seven Fender models to choose from. And the unmodeled main channel is the ubiquitous Fender clean.



The other one has a twentyfive watt, 8 ohm, 10 Greenback installed. And it has a unique beautiful tone all its own. A real Texas blues amp. What a beautiful sound it creates.


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Last edited by Chickee; 01-23-2022 at 05:33 PM.
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Old 01-23-2022, 06:39 PM
Chickee Chickee is offline
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I am very sorry Acousticado, i genuinely did not intend to highjack your thread. Please forgive me.
frank d.
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Old 01-23-2022, 10:43 PM
FrankHudson FrankHudson is offline
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Originally Posted by Acousticado View Post
In 2010, for Christmas we bought our son a new MIM Fender Strat Standard HSS as per pic (with bridge position Fender humbucker) which was his choice upon visiting local shops. It is virtually identical to the new “Player” version. We also bought him a Fender Super Champ amp at the same time. At the time, the HSS was Cdn$600, it’s now about $1,200. Prior to that, he’d been playing a Norman B20 acoustic we’d bought him years earlier. He’s always been primarily an acoustic player.



A few years ago, he bought himself a Taylor 114ce. In the last month or so, after trying my new Martin D-18, he’s expressed that he likes the tone and feel and started considering a Martin within his budget which seems to be around Cdn$2k. No sooner had he hit the local guitar shops, electric guitars were catching his eye and he’s now shifted to wanting one, yet he doesn’t play the Strat much and so doesn’t know much about electrics...tones, signal chains, amps. He seems mostly smitten by looks only at this point...Les Pauls, PRSs and lesser so, Teles. He has since gone on his own to shops and plugged in and he’s liking a particular PRS at around $2,200. Of course, this could take him down the black hole of better amp and other gear that he can’t afford.

I certainly understand the GAS he’s feeling, and I did go with him the first two times he visited a shop, but I’m suggesting that he take his Strat with him to compare. Actually, his Strat is practically brand new, and feels as good or better than the Les Pauls and PRSs in the same price range as his HSS. Before dropping a lot of money on a new electric, I’ve given him food for thought to consider much less expensively trying better quality tuning machines, bridge and pickups on his Strat as easy swap-outs to arguably turn it into a much better guitar that he might be happy with, and learn about doing such upgrades on his own. He could still afford to buy a Martin acoustic of some sort.

He’s thinking about it, but he’s not sure that making such changes to the Strat is worth it. I tend to think that the fundamental guitar in terms of body wood, neck (maple) and frets are totally fine and by making components changes and proper setup, it will be a much better guitar. One question I have is about the wiring...is it the same as in a higher quality Strat? Am I giving him good advice? I just hope to give him as much food for thought as possible to help him with his decision.

Thanks for any feedback!

p.s. Any better pickup recommendations including a humbucker would be appreciated.
I've gone through dozens of electric guitars and a fair number of amps, and at time pedals and the like too. I enjoy the subtle differences in electric guitars and unlike with acoustic guitars (where the looks are highly important to me) I also kind of like the shapes and colors and the "machineness" of them. So, if your son is got a case of GAS and it trying out various other guitars it may be a subtle and hard to define feel, sound, or looks thing.

Your idea that the good and existing Strat could be modified is not crazytown. Yes, pickups can change the sound, and if you're not particularly handy, the Strat design allows the option of a new "loaded pickguard" which is pretty easy to swap in with different pickups and electronic ready to go.

Some Strat players swear by bridge and tremolo block replacements to change sound. I've never done that myself, but I've blocked or decked existing Strat trems which changes the sound and "feel" and costs nothing.

Some electric players put a great deal more faith than I do in the idea that the correct wood or particularly example of wood or even type of finish is an overriding factor in how a solid body electric sounds. I think wood can have some effect, but the overall level of determination is often overstated. I highly doubt there's anything wrong with the "bones" of your Strat that makes it too poor to upgrade.

And if it's just playability, a great setup will fix that.

Amps and effects are a huge part of a lot of "electric guitar" sounds. I happen to admire the Super Champ you already have, though my stock example of that model doesn't have enough clean headroom to play with the drummers I've encountered. On the other hand, for home use, learning how to play an electric, or recording I find it a fine platform. It's built-in effects are basic/simple, but cover some basics there. It not good for big closed-back cabinet sound or really gainy metal I'd think, but it cand do much else at modest volumes. So, you really did a good job back in 2010 in what you selected then. Both the amp and the guitar have a lot of versatility designed in. You did your job. Did I read in the thread that your son is 40? They probably need to start figuring this guitar stuff out along with what thay can and should afford.
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Old 01-24-2022, 09:10 AM
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there's no mention of what your boy is using for an amplifier

the MIM strats are fine, there's really not much you need to do to them these days

A change in the amplifier would probably be one of the biggest things to consider.

But we've not heard about that setup to know what to thing about advising from there.
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Old 01-24-2022, 10:18 AM
Chickee Chickee is offline
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there's no mention of what your boy is using for an amplifier

the MIM strats are fine, there's really not much you need to do to them these days

A change in the amplifier would probably be one of the biggest things to consider.

But we've not heard about that setup to know what to thing about advising from there.
The O.P. states his son is using a Super Champ and a MIM Strat. A terrific home combination.
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Old 01-24-2022, 11:13 PM
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I am very sorry Acousticado, i genuinely did not intend to highjack your thread. Please forgive me.
frank d.
Chickee, no problem at all!
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Old 01-24-2022, 11:28 PM
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All, thanks so much for the feedback. It is really helpful to learn about what you’ve done to your gear.

Chickee, I’ll be sharing your component changes to your guitar and X2 with my son. His Super Champ is an XD. Actually, his younger brother is equipped with the same Strat and Amp. I have an XD as well, though I don’t play my American Strat ‘57 Reissue very much as I’ve long been much more of an acoustic guy.

I’m pleased to learn that the choice of the MIM Strat and Super Champ was a good choice for the budget my wife and I had to outfit both sons as Christmas gifts back in 2010. Yesterday, I gave my son a book I’ve had for a long time on the history of guitars which includes a lot of info about electrics and the Strat in particular, amps and the maintenance of it all. He seemed really interested to want to read it.

Chris has been playing acoustic guitar since 2005 and although he’s noodled on the Strat/amp over the years, he didn’t really take to electrics, but that has been changing recently. At 40, he’s a busy guy with wife, kids, career and home, so I’m happy that he’s getting into it which will probably get me more into it as well. It’s a great father-son thing to share.

Thanks again, guys!

p.s. On Sunday, while we were minding our granddaughters, he took his Strat with him to visit a guitar shop. I haven’t yet talked to him about how it went, but I’m glad that he’s taking the right steps, being patient, willing to learn and really listen to what he’s auditioning.
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Last edited by Acousticado; 01-24-2022 at 11:33 PM.
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Old 01-24-2022, 11:57 PM
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I've been using electric guitars all my life, and have been in the Fender camp for so long.

Actually, you really dont have to do anything - hardware wise - to a MIM strat.. some basic upgrades that actually beneficial are the bridge system and saddles, but when I upgraded mine, I never really heard a difference. LOL

pickups might be the best thing you can improve on these guitars.. vintage voiced pickups have really nice clean tones, up to the edge of break up (mild overdrive).. these new MIM's comes equipped with a bit of modern voiced pickups which is suitable for anything, but mainly really good for hard rock..

Id say, get a nice pre-wired strat pickguard with vintage voiced pickups and it will sound super sweet.. also, if you dont want to buy for now, get a screw driver and adjust the pickup heights! this is where 90% of my time setting up a guitar goes.. tone changes along with the height of the pickups.. since these are modern higher output pickups, lowering them will give you some vintagey low output tones, getting them higher will be nicer for overdrive/distortion tones.

but I'll leave the hardware alone unless it really needs replacing..

also, get the nut cut correctly for the preferred string gauge and have the frets levelled.. these two things are actually what I do to all the new guitars I buy.
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