“A versatile, state-of-the-art instrument designed to push your playing to new heights”: Fender’s 70th Anniversary Ultra Strat HSS offers us a glimpse at the future of the world’s most popular electric guitar

Fender has rolled out three new additions to its limited edition 70th Anniversary Stratocaster series, including the futuristic color-changing Ultra Strat HSS, a reissue of its original 1954 build and a new take on one of the most maligned looks in its history – the Antigua finish.

So where to start? Well, for our money, the headline is the 70th Anniversary Ultra Stratocaster HSS. The model slots into the firm’s state-of-the-art Ultra spec series and sees Fender highlighting the Strat’s continued relevance as a tool for modern guitarists.

It’s finished in a color-changing Amethyst, which Fender notes “dances across the alder body’s sculpted contours” and shifts tones according to the direction of the light (Lunar Ice Silver Sky, anyone?). 

Those contours are designed to improve upon the original’s ergonomics –significantly reducing the neck heel, offering easier upper fret access and a smoother belly cut, in the process. 

Then there’s a new Ultra Quadra Tap humbucker – which offers two voicings (engaging a ‘hot’ voicing using a push-pull pot on the Tone 1 control) alongside the usual Ultra humbucker double coil-tap switching – and a five-way selector.  

Fender 70th Anniversary Stratocasters

Fender 70th Anniversary Ultra Strat HSS(Image credit: Fender)

“We’re not overly precious, and that’s one of the things that helps retain relevance as you go forward,” Fender’s EVP of Product, Justin Norvell told GW recently

“You don’t want just a ream of people playing Buddy Holly and that’s what a Fender is for. Buddy Holly’s fantastic, but it needs to be this thing that keeps moving.”

The Ultra is the Fender’s ultimate case in point in this respect and is about as far removed from Buddy Holly (and the original traditional Strat spec) as it is possible to be, while still maintaining the iconic DNA of the world’s number one electric guitar.

The 70th Anniversary Ultra Strat USS retails for $2,499.

Fender 70th Anniversary American Vintage II 1954 Stratocaster

Fender 70th Anniversary American Vintage II 1954 Stratocaster(Image credit: Fender)

For those who do want to channel more of the Buddy Holly vibe. Well, then the American Vintage II 1954 Stratocaster is the one for you – and the model we have been expecting from the moment we clocked the big 7-0 was on the horizon.

It’s a US-made vintage correct reissue of the first Strats and, as you’d hope, the eye for detail here is incredible. 

From the woods (two-piece ash body and one-piece maple neck) to the plastics (single-ply scratchplate, rounded pickup covers and the ‘football’ tip on the pickup selector), it is designed to feel, sound and look the part. 

Even under the hood, Fender has hand-written the body and neck dates on these models, a la 1954. Then it’s loaded with a trio of 1954 Single-Coil Strat pickups and comes with a host of killer case candy.

Fender 70th Anniversary American Vintage II 1954 Stratocaster case

The 70th Anniversary American Vintage II 1954 Stratocaster comes loaded with case candy (Image credit: Fender)

Crack open the 70th Anniversary hardcase and you’ll spot a bridge cover, cable, strap, reproduced 1954 Strat instructions and hang tags – and even a spare five-way selector switch, should you want the option to swap out the three-way. It’s set to retail for $2,599. 

Finally, Fender has brought back the once-derided Antigua finish as part of the Strat’s big birthday celebrations. The oddball paint job was a staple of Fender’s ’70s offerings and became one of the most divisive options the firm has ever issued.

Fender 70th Anniversary Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster

Fender 70th Anniversary Vintera II Antigua Stratocaster(Image credit: Fender)

Nonetheless, it’s now developed its own cult following and has been reissued on occasion (including the now highly sought-after Vintage Modified Baritone Jazzmaster, in 2014). 

This Mexican-made 70th Anniversary Vintera II Strat is a hard tail build inspired by those original C.B.S.-era guitars, featuring a comfortable ‘U’ style neck profile (typical of the decade’s productions), 70th Anniversary Vintage-Style ’70s Single-Coil Strat pickups and a hand-painted matching pickguard. It retails for $1,499.

Fender 70th Anniversary Stratocasters

(Image credit: Fender)

Fender’s C.B.S. era is not a period that is warmly regarded in its history (indeed Norvell recently told us he keeps the actual C.B.S. letters that adorned the Fender factory under his desk, as a reminder not to get complacent). However, we imagine the quality control is going to be considerably more on point with this model. 

What’s more, with the Antigua, Fender is not simply tipping the cap to one of its oddballs, it’s also acknowledging the cult vintage market – and the full breadth of the Strat’s varied lifespan, warts and all… 

All of the three latest 70th Anniversary Stratocasters will be available from April.

For more information, head to Fender.

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