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May/June 2022

by Rebel Reid

Review: Fender Player Plus HSS Stratocaster

by Rebel Reid

Review: Fender Player Plus HSS Stratocaster

Fender Player Plus HSS Stratocaster – I’ve got a brand new out-of-the-box Fender Player Plus HSS Stratocaster to review, (srp $2450) but first I have a story or two of my own about Fender Strats.

I’ve dreamt of having one of these guitars since I was born, literally came out screaming, “straaat”. I’m joking, but Mum named me Rebel after Billy Idol and David Bowie, sooooo… maybe there is some truth to that tale. I definitely remember browsing guitar racks in the music stores around Papatoetoe as a youngster. We couldn’t afford such things in those days, it wasn’t until my 21st birthday when Mum surprised me with my longed-for new baby, my Squier Affinity Stratocaster! Knowing how hard she worked to get that for me makes me want to cry, I still baby that Strat more than any of my other electric guitars.

Mum used to tell me about how my dad was an amazing guitarist. I romanticised and dreamt of meeting this man, my dreams would have him hand me this magical Strat that gave me superpowers… Turns out that four years ago that’s exactly what happened. I met my father for the first time and just like in my fantasies he said, “I have a gift for you,” then pulled out his Dave Gilmour replica Strat and handed it to me…

I tell you that to explain my excitement at being asked to critique this beautiful Player Plus HSS Strat. That girl who grew up dreaming about such opportunities was asked for my opinion and I couldn’t be more proud to share it, so here we go!

Firstly her Cosmic Jade colour finish is stunning. She reminds me of a Trans Am muscle car – proud and pretty, but a beast on the inside! In the sun or stage lights, the green really cosmically beautiful. Other colour options include Aged Candy Apple Red, Opal Spark and Belair Blue –which all sound almost as cosmic. And she has the nicest maple neck. The flatter 12” radius makes it feel super easy to bend on and the satin finish is very comfortable to hold. I can’t quite put it into words, but it’s no surprise that this ’modern C’ neck profile is one of Fender’s most popular neck shapes. The 22 medium jumbo frets make it very fluid for sweeping on, or just simply holding one beautiful note. Just holding it and feeling it roll under your finger is almost meditative. Has that vibe like my Gilmour Strat, just feels like she wants you to fall in love with her.

A push pull tone control activates the shiny humbucker. When I whacked it on, she sounded sooo big and warm. From silky smooth to titanic depth. Open chords sounded orchestral! I put her through some distortion on my Helix Stomp (my version of MT-2 and a tube screamer) and my Marshall 2×12 85th anniversary combo and she sounded like a gun, truly turned into a banshee. A good 20 minutes later I was still sitting there just chugging away, feeling a bit like Nuno Bettencourt…

Locking tuners are another of the Player Plus model points of difference and are very cool, I’m a fan of these babies. A premium hardware addition that ensures buzz-free performance, and help make it a breeze to restring too. I very rarely play with a trem arm but for this review I did, and it was a nice wavy two-point experience. The arm wasn’t stiff and rigid like some I’ve played with before. I felt a bit cool actually…

Not so easy to see but a treble-bleed circuit comes standard on Player Plus series guitars. It’s built into the volume pot and automatically engages as you roll back on the volume, avoiding the common side effect of the loss of high-end clarity resulting in a kind of muddy, low-volume tone. The treble-bleed circuit means crispness and definition even at reduced volumes.

Overall, I think the Fender Player Plus HSS could be named ’playability plus’, and it’s 10/10 for me. I mean, it could be the effect of the honour of writing about her, but nah, she is beautiful to play. She has a mammoth tone and a nice sweet spot on the single coils too. Plus she looks striking enough to make you stand out from any other guitarist on the stage! Definitely a cosmic experience for me.

Rebel Reid is the guitarist and songwriter of Tāmaki Makaurau-based pop-rock band Valkyrie. Known for their continuous track record of successful songs, cinematic videos, and high-energy performances, Valkyrie are well respected as a group of talented, hard-working musicians.