One of the most frequently asked questions we get here at Port Mac Guitars is “what’s the difference between a USA made Fender Strat and a Mexican made Strat?” So in this blog post I’ll endeavour to answer that question the best I can.

The easiest way to do this comparison is to assume the two guitars we are looking at are an American Standard Stratocaster made in the USA and a Standard Stratocaster made in Mexico. This will give us the most direct comparison between the two different makes and judge their differences in features and value.

The best place to start is with the material used in the bodies. Both are made from high quality Alder but the main difference is the whilst the USA made models will be made from usually two to three pieces of timber, the Mexican models can be made up of up to seven pieces. The Mexican models also usually have a thin veneer over the front and back for a more pleasing appearance. Does this difference make a sound difference. I believe it has very little impact on the overall performance of the instrument but does serve as a good cost saving thus keeping the price down on the Mexican made Standards. Both models are finished in a high gloss urethane which is tough and durable. The Standard is finished very well, but generally speaking the American Standard has a slightly more highly buffed feel and look you’d expect from a higher priced instrument.

Next, we look at the neck. Both models use the same standard of materials in this case but the Mexican Standard Strat has 21 frets while the USA Standard has 22. Another difference is in which tuning heads are used. Both are Fender branded, enclosed tuners but the American Standards have tapered string post to allow for a better string angle over the nut. The fret work and finishing are both very good but the USA made model does feel slightly more polished and refined.

Pickups can make a great difference to the sound of a guitar and this is very true with the American Standard Stratocaster versus it’s Mexican compadre. The USA model has pickups wound in the Custom Shop section of the Fender USA factory. They have a rich, classic Strat sound and suit the guitar very well. The wires running from the pickups are also the more tradition wax coated cloth style as used in vintage pickups of years past. The Mexican Standard pickups are made in the Ensenada factory and whilst still a good value item, they are not to the same quality as the USA made pickups. They also use the more modern plastic coated wire to connect to the rest of the wiring harness. The pots and switch are again, of a higher quality in the American Standard.

When it comes to the hardware, this is where the American Standard is quite different. All the metal components, with the exception of the machine heads, are stamped, pressed and machined in the USA Fender Factory as they have been for over 60 years. They are then chrome plated off-site. The Standard uses high quality parts sourced from Asia made specifically for Fender. This saves on manufacturing costs and allows for a lower market price to be achieved. In addition, the American Standard employs a modern two bridge post system as opposed to the traditional six screws used on the Standard’s bridge.

The American Standard includes a very good Hard Case which itself has a value of about $200. The Mexican made Standard does not include any sort of case, once again allowing for a lower price.

So there you have it. These are the main points of difference between the Fender American Standard Stratocaster vs the Fender Standard Stratocaster. Both, in my opinion offer great value in their respective price ranges and are suitable for players of many different styles and proficiency.

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