Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives (2020)

Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Waterslide Guitars 1

If you’ve ever been to Guitar Center, you’ve probably noticed some wierd looking Fender Stratocasters, that aren’t truly made by Fender. Turns out, there are companies that build Fender-Style guitars, but they aren’t under the Fender brand name.

They peaked my curiosity so I decided to research, and write this article about “Fender Stratocasters Style Guitars” or a “Stratocaster Copy Guitars” if you will. Some people like to say “S Style Guitars” or “S-Type Guitars” to describe a Strat thats not made by Fender. No matter what you call it, plenty of builders offer a solution, but I didn’t know that when I started searching.

I was interested in non-Fender Stratocasters. Nothing against Fender, I happen to love the brand. But there are hundreds if not thousands of guitar builders out there, and I wanted to see what was available.

A quick google search didn’t yield too many helpful results. I found a few brands but not as much as I had hoped for. Most of them were custom strat builders that go all out, and command a high price for their custom work. However, I have rounded up the very best I could find, and hopefully you’ll benefit from it. So without further ado, here are the best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives.

Fender Stratocaster Alternatives #1 (Stratocaster Copy)

G&L Tribute Series S-500 Electric Guitar - Sonic Blue/Brazilian Cherry - TI-S50-131R07R13

There are only a few guitar brands that can claim they are the original. G&L Guitars is one of those brands. Their claim to fame is that their company was founded by Leo Fender himself. It was the last Guitar Brand he built before his death, and the guitar above was his self-proclaimed best work.

I’ve owned G&L Guitars, and have always been very impressed by the solid foundation of high quality bodies, necks, and electronics that are the canvas of every model. The saying that “You get what you pay for.” does not apply with G&L. With every G&L guitar I’ve bought, I’ve actually gotten MORE THAN I PAYED FOR!

That’s why I NEVER hesitate to recommend G&L Guitars whether it be for, best stratocaster copy, best Fender Stratocaster under 1000, or the best stratocaster alternatives. You don’t need to believe me either, just look at their ratings on any eCommerce site. They are always highly rated purchases.

Player Rating:
5/5

Features:

  • CONSTRUCTION: bolt-on
  • SCALE: 25 1/2″
  • PICKUPS: Leo Fender†-designed G&L MFD™ single coils made in Fullerton, California
  • BODY WOOD: Nato
  • NECK WOOD: Hard-Rock Maple with Maple or Brazilian Cherry fingerboard
  • NECK WIDTH AT NUT: 1 5/8″
  • NECK RADIUS: 12″
  • NECK PROFILE: medium C
  • FRETS: 22 medium jumbo, nickel
  • TUNING KEYS: 18:1 ratio, sealed-back
  • BRIDGE: Leo Fender-designed G&L Dual-Fulcrum™ vibrato
  • CONTROLS: 5-position pickup selector, volume, treble, bass (PTB™ system), push/pull expander on treble pot enabling additional pickup combinations of neck+bridge or all three pickups together.

The new G&L Tribute Series S-500 features one of Leo’s favorite pairings: the power of MFD pickups mellowed by the high porosity of a mahogany body. Making the most of this delicious combo is Leo’s Dual-Fulcrum vibrato, a work of engineering art which allows bending up or down with unsurpassed stability, while offering a silky feel through its beefy aluminum vibrato arm.

Leo’s forward-looking spirit is clearly reflected in the S-500, a guitar he designed for players who share that spirit. And now, it’s available at a price within reach of every working musician. Once you play a G&L Tribute Series, you’ll never look back.

Stratocaster Alternatives #2 (Strat Style Guitars)

G&L Tribute Series Legacy HSS Electric Guitar - 3-Tone Sunburst/Maple - TI-LGY-222R20M23

Features:

  • CONSTRUCTION: bolt-on
  • SCALE: 25 1/2″
  • PICKUPS: G&L CLF-100 Alnico V single-coils made in Fullerton, California
  • BODY WOOD: Swamp Ash on translucent and burst finishes, Basswood on solid finishes
  • NECK WOOD: Hard-Rock Maple with Maple or Brazilian cherry fingerboard
  • NECK WIDTH AT NUT: 1 5/8″
  • NECK RADIUS: 12″
  • NECK PROFILE: medium C
  • FRETS: 22 medium jumbo, nickel
  • TUNING KEYS: 18:1 ratio, sealed-back
  • BRIDGE: Leo Fender-designed G&L Dual-Fulcrum™ vibrato
  • CONTROLS: 5-position pickup selector, volume, treble, bass (PTB™ system)

G&L Guitars are one of the least appreciated guitar brands in history. This is the last complany built by Leo Fender before he died. He said that the guitars he designed and built at G&L Guitars, were the best he had ever built.

So when considering Fender Stratocaster Alternatives, the G&L Legacy should be at the very top of your list. Not only are you getting better value than a Fender, but you are getting a guitar designed by Leo Fender himself.

Player Rating:
5/5

Stratocaster Alternatives #3 (Best Strat Copy)

Jackson X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDXM - Snow White with Maple Fingerboard

Features:

  • MODEL NUMBER 2913052576
  • SERIES Artist Signature
  • COLOR Snow White
  • NUMBER OF STRINGS 6
  • BODY SHAPE San Dimas®
  • BODY MATERIAL Basswood
  • MISCELLANEOUS
    STRINGS Nickel Plated Steel (.009-.042 Gauges)
  • NECK MATERIAL Maple
  • NECK CONSTRUCTION Bolt-On with Graphite Reinforcement
  • NECK FINISH Satin

Features:

  • SCALE LENGTH 25.5″ (648 mm)
  • FINGERBOARD RADIUS 12″-16″ Compound
  • Radius (304.8 mm to 406.4 mm)
  • FINGERBOARD MATERIAL Maple
  • NUMBER OF FRETS 22
  • FRET SIZE Jumbo
  • NUT MATERIAL Floyd Rose® Locking
  • NUT WIDTH 1.6875″ (42.86 mm)
  • TRUSS ROD NUT Truss Rod Adjustment at Nut

Jackson has been making solid reliable guitars for the metal genre guitarist for decades. Turns out, they also offer a legit Fender Stratocaster Alternative. Jackson pays tribute to the legendary axeman with the X Series Signature Adrian Smith SDXM model. The SDXM features a basswood San Dimas® body and a bolt-on maple neck with graphite-reinforcement rods that refuse to budge. Its 12”-16” compound radius maple fingerboard with 22 jumbo frets.

The SDXM packs a Jackson high-output humbucker in the bridge position and Jackson single-coil pickups in the neck and middle positions. A five-way blade selector switch with single volume and tone controls open up endless tonal possibilities, while the Floyd Rose® Special double-locking tremolo system keeps the guitar in tune through any and all abuse you throw its way.

Player Rating:
5/5
Stratocaster Alternatives #4 - High End Strat Alternatives

Next up in “Fender” Stratocaster Alternatives Roundup is the Veritas Guitars Double Cut Portlander. This is by far the most expensive on the list, but Veritas also makes a pro line models on occasion.

Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander 4
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander

Body Material- Alder for solid colors and Ash for our open grain satin (OGS).

Finish- Gloss Polyurethane, OGS Nitro.

Neck Material- Maple 

Neck Shape- .82-.90 ”C” 

Scale Length- 25.5″ (648 mm) 

Fingerboard Material- Rosewood (international Granadillo)

Fingerboard Radius- 12″ (304.8 mm) 

Number of Frets- 22 

Fret Size- 47095

Nut Material- Bone 

Nut Width- 1.6875″ (42.86 mm) 

Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander

Position Markers- Dots

Controls- Master Volume, Tone, Tone 

Switching- 5 way blade: 1. Bridge Pickup, 2. Bridge and Middle Pickups, 3. middle Pickup, 4. Middle and Neck Pickups, 5. Neck Pickup.

 

Bridge- (Standard) TonePros Rolling Tunematic, Bigsby B5

Tuning Machines- Kluson

Volume & Tone Knobs- Bell knob, silver top, Black sides with #’s 1-10

Neck Plate- 4 Bolt

I’ve been following @VeritasGuitars for a long while. They are a boutique builder specializing in customized fender style guitars.

Their Portlander has become a staple in the boutique guitar world, and rightly so. Lead Guitar Players from Bethel Music have pretty much made Veritas their exclusive choice. Specific artists include Michael Pope, David Hislop, and Bobby Strand (Bethel Music). Not just Bethel either, there is Patrick Thompson(Rend Collective), and Chason Ford (Jesus Culture).

That has resulted in a plethora of young guitarists in the Worship Guitar realm to want these things. Who said Artist Endorsements don’t work? Not that these guys are officially sponsored by Veritas as far as I know. In all honesty I think its the quality of the guitar and word of mouth that is responsible for Veritas’ recent surge in popularity. I mean, just listen to the guitar tone in Bethel’s or Jesus Culture’s music…it’s pretty much EPIC, and not in the stupid millenial sense of the word, but truly epic, before that word was abused.

 

I think it has to be my favorite Strat Alternatives. They have positioned themselves as a higher end competitor to Fender, and the craftsmanship is blatenltly obvious from 50 feet away. Their Mini Master (Custom Fender style Jazzmaster/Jaguar) might be the best in the business. Its something special. Check them out.

Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander 6
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander 3
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Veritas Double Cut Portlander
Fender Stratocaster Alternatives (Stratocaster Clone) #5
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Waterslide Guitars
Best Fender Stratocaster Alternatives Waterslide Guitars 1

Waterslide Guitars is a very special guitar brand located in Hollywood, CA. This brand sets itself apart from the competition by using super high end parts, and cleverly mismatched hardware from various fender models to create a truly unique partscaster. The classy knobs and little finishing touches don’t hurt either.

They also specialize in b and g benders for strats and teles. The use of the lap steel pickups is really what caught my attention. That combined with their crazy good tone is why they make my list of the best electric guitar brands today. There wasn’t a whole lot of info on their backstory, but I get the feeling its because they are so busy producing guitars. 

From what I’ve read on the guitar forums, Waterslide Guitars entered the scene around 2014. Since then, they’ve gained a stellar reputation among very discerning players for having everything a player wants in an electric guitar build. Many say thats because the founder (Patrick) is a damn good guitarist, and knows exactly what guitar players like.

Another point frequently noted about Waterslide, is their affordable price in relation to other comparable guitar builders. They’ve definitely got great resale value, and guitarists are basically lining up to get one secondhand since they are mostly custom order guitars.

Here is what Waterslide have to say about the unique humbuckers in many of their models.

“Those of you familiar with Coodercasters know that the design of these old Valco-style lap steel pickups typically results in a middle position where three strings are in-phase and three are out. We’ve worked with Mojo to come up with a solution to that problem so all Waterslide Coodercasters with Mojo UK Lap Steel & Gold Foil pickups now feature our new switching system which allows all six strings to be in-phase with each other when both pickups are ‘on’.”

Best Electric Guitar Brands You've Never Heard Of Waterslide Guitars (1)
Best Electric Guitar Brands Youve Never Heard Of Waterslide Guitars 8
Best Electric Guitar Brands You've Never Heard Of Waterslide Guitars (4)

If Fender style and custom electric guitar builders are your thing, you ‘ll absolutely love this article on the Best Fender Telecaster Alternatives 2020!

The thing that blows my mind about waterslide guitars is their g and b bender capability. It does them no justice to write about them, and trying to describe the tone. You really need to hear and see these guitars in action to truly appreciate their excellence. Just watch the video below, you’ll understand why I consider them to be one of the top custom electric guitar builders immediately.

Custom Electric Guitar Builders

Sounds pretty sweet right? If classic fender bodystyles, lap steel humbuckers, and crazy cool b benders are something you might like to try, you should definitely visit their site. At the very least follow them on Instagram where they post their latest builds. You won’t be disappointed. Super exciting guitar builder. Can’t wait to see more from them.

waterslideguitars.com/

Fender Stratocaster Alternatives (Strat Copy) #6

Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR MPL - VINTAGE WHITE

Charvel Pro-Mod So-Cal Style 1 HH FR E Satin Orange Blaze

Charvel has turned out stratocaster style guitars of their own. And its not too hard on the eyes either. The stark bright colors of the body against that black or maple fretboard and hardware makes for an appealing fender stratocaster alternative.

It seems there are quite a few artists out there in love with that classic stratocaster shape, and easy to reach higher frets. If you’ve never picked up a strat, and given it a fair play, then you need to do so the next time you see one. It just feels classic, and there is a reason its the most popular electric guitar of all time.

Features:

  • BOLT-ON MAPLE NECK WITH GRAPHITE REINFORCEMENT
  • 12″-16″ COMPOUND RADIUS MAPLE FINGERBOARD
  • DIRECT MOUNT SEYMOUR DUNCAN DISTORTION TB-6/SH-6N PICKUPS
  • FLOYD ROSE1000 SERIES DOUBLE-LOCKING TREMOLO BRIDGE SYSTEM
  • 3-WAY BLADE, PUSH/PULL VOLUME & NO-LOAD TONE CONTROLS

Conclusion:

Sure, Leo Fender invented the Stratocaster, and its the most famous electric guitar of all time…but that doesn’t mean you always need to buy a Fender. There are plenty of really great Non-Fender Stratocaster Models out there, from some solid, experienced guitar brands. I hope this roundup of the best non-fender stratocasters has opened your eyes to the possiblities.

If you found this interesting, you should check out the 9 Best Custom Electric Guitar Brands You’ve Never Heard Of (2020)!

Rock On,

The Axe Dr.

  • 1. What is the best Stratocaster for the money?

    In my opinion, the best "stratocaster" for the money is a G&L Legacy Tribute Series. They can be found brand new for $250 to $300. The guitars are built at the same factories as Cort Guitars. The hardware is usually real G&L (Made In USA).

  • 2. What is the best cheap Stratocaster copy?

    In my opinion, the best  cheap "stratocaster" copy is a G&L Legacy Tribute Series. (G&L was founded by Leo Fender, and its where he said he did his best work.)

    They can be found brand new for $250 to $300. The guitars are built at the same factories as Cort Guitars. The hardware is usually real G&L (Made In USA).

  • 3. What telecaster style guitars have humbucker pickups?

    There are a lot of Stratocaster variants with humbucker pickups. The main one that comes to mind is the Stratocaster Player Series HH.

  • 4. Are there any "Boutique" Stratocaster Builders?

    I've found quite a few boutique stratocaster builders, and they are becoming more and more popular. Some may be considered custom builders, while others like Veritas are able to build at a larger scale. Here are several amazing telecaster builders:

    1. Veritas Custom Guitars
    2. JL Custom Guitars
    3. Waterslide Guitars
    4. Mario Guitars
    5. SLJ Guitars

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