I’ve been looking for a really good original ’57 Strat with a good neck and plenty of tone for a while, and while I’ve kissed quite a few frogs, I haven’t found my princess yet.
So I started looking out for an Eric Johnson model, itself based on a ’57 with a couple of modern tweaks, instead.
This one turned up and it’s really resonant. It was also very bright and I was surprised at the pickups’ low output – it really does resemble the real ’57’s I’ve played very closely. Great through a clean amp, but very harsh and glassy through overdrive, something that proved to be beyond correction with the use of effects.
Of all the Strats I’ve owned, it is by far the most sensitive to fine adjustment. Get things wrong and the sound really suffers. Pickups are extremely sensitive to fine height adjustment – too high and the magnets damp the strings and make it too percussive and it starts to warble; too low and it’s smoother but the output is too quiet to get good overdrive – even a small fraction of a millimetre makes a big difference.
The word on the forums is that this is Fender’s best production guitar. It’s certainly a good chassis, but I was not convined by the pickups as they showed me the hard way that they were not sufficiently versatile to gig with (unless you’re in a Buddy Holly covers band – but surprisingly and most emphatically NOT an Eric Johnson tribute!).
So I dropped a set of Lollar Strat Specials in and things improved substantially. I’ve now used it a main gigging guitar for over a year and the guitar’s sound, if not my playing, has attracted numerous compliments, so I can attest to the quality of these pickups.
Now it transpires that my Firebird has a Lollar in it too. No wonder it sounds so damn great.