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The £500 Electric Guitar Challenge!

I was recently asked by a student to recommend a solid yet affordable electric guitar for around 500 pounds and to find an instrument that was significantly better quality from that of any entry level guitar but still within the budget given (or just below). I found three which I thought would be suitable and was actually incredibly surprised and happy with their quality for the price point, they are the: Fender Player Series Stratocaster (£499), Godin Session (£499) and the PRS SE Standard 24 £449. Let me know which is your favourite in the comments below.

Godin, PRS and Fender have really delivered the goods this time.

First impressions:

The first impressions for all three models is very good indeed, putting aside the knowledge that all of these instruments are under 500 pounds they feel and look way more expensive than they actually are, with excellent finishes and zero cosmetic blemishes. Not one of the instruments at this point has any advantage over the others; it’s just purely based on subjective taste in terms of how they look to your eye. For me the Stratocaster and PRS Custom look more iconic at first glance with the Strat looking the more classic out of the two for various historic reasons and associations. The Godin by contrast although being of a similar appearance to that of a Strat looks ever so slightly uncanny to the point that it feels like a cheaper clone rather than an upgrade (despite the exact same price) and the fact that both the PRS and the Strat comes in such gorgeous colour options means that the Godin (only just) is flagging behind a bit for this round. But it’s a close call despite the Godins slightly unusual looks.

Godin Session: 7/10

Fender Player Series: 9/10

PRS Standard 24: 8/10


This where things start to get really, really interesting. Putting these instruments under brutal scrutiny means that I’m being generally quite picky with tone, which is somewhat unjustified as all three sound fab. The PRS sounds incredibly warm and powerful with an optional pull-push pickup setting, but out of the three has a more limited scope of tone, excelling in the areas of gain and warmth but that’s about it (something that could be easily rectified by replacing the pickups to a set of Seymour Duncan’s/Bare Knuckles). The Strat by contrast sounds much more diverse and vocational, able to create a host of single coil themed tones from the light and springy, to warm and fat, to driven and strong and although the Strat can handle higher gain better than any of its predecessors it lacks a true tonal definition and voice all of its own. This is the category that the Godin cleans up in however, as due to its SSH custom pickup configuration it’s incredibly diverse tonally and combines the best elements of both the PRS and Stratocaster in one package. The pickup quality of the Godin is also significantly better than the other two with a wider frequency spectrum at your fingertips with a natural dynamic breakup that responds beautifully to your pick attack. The Clear winner of this category is the Godin.

Godin Session: 10/10

Fender Player Series: 8/10

PRS Standard 24: 7/10


Like tone the playability preferences of a guitar can be hugely subjective and all three of these instruments play amazingly well right out of the Box. The Player series Stratocaster certainly feels the slinkiest and easiest to play as the back of the neck comes with a thin almost sanded down satin finish as standard which is a huge bonus (especially as a sanded down neck is one of the most common after market modifications for a Strat). The tremolo on the Player series Strat however although more modern in design feels slightly weedy, especially under the use of a heavy hand. The PRS can vary based on the finish chosen but the Satin model feels reassuring under the hand and the neck although chunky never feels too big to wrap your hand around. Plus the 24 fret cutaway makes the PRS incredibly easy to play and hugely rewarding, throw in an improved and sturdy tremolo and there is a lot to love about playing the PRS SE custom. The Godin to me felt a tad cumbersome under the fingers and despite its similarities in design to that of the Strat everything just felt a tad off, such as the position of the volume control and the fatness of the neck etc. That being said the Godin had by far the best tremolo system out of the three so the hardware looks built for the professional and experienced in mind.

Godin Session: 6/10

Fender Player Series: 8/10

PRS Standard 24: 7/10

Bonus Features:

This is quite a simple category to consider as only one of these 3 models in question actually comes with any bonuses, as the Godin comes as standard with a pretty fantastic gigbag for easy transportation. The PRS gets a pass in this category for being the cheapest of the 3 (and with the savings you can buy a gigbag). The Strat gets the harshest mark but in all fairness we are dealing with a genuine and iconic Fender instrument for just short of £500, a bargain really.

Godin Session: 9/10

Fender Player Series: 3/10

PRS Standard 24: 6/10

Closing Thoughts:

All three of these models are truly awe inspiring for the money; I genuinely believe we are in the golden age of the mid-range classic where instruments of increasing quality are being sold for cheaper than they ever have been in the last 10 years. With manufactures such as PRS, Sterling, Ibanez and Godin taking business away from titans like Gibson who have not learned as much from the mistakes of the past and create instruments that are simply out of the price range of the majority of guitarists. Fender however are an example of a classic brand that even today innovate their product catalogue to fulfill the needs of everyone at every price point. The Godin Session however came out on top here, combining a quality and high class sound with useful features at a price that can’t really be topped by the other two (both of which are tied as it all comes down to subjective taste which out of the two you would prefer). The Godin brand may not be the most recognisable compared the others but with the session they have proven to be real contenders on the in the mid-range guitar market. If you haven’t tried one out and you’re looking for a guitar around this price point you may be pleasantly surprised by what the Godin Session has to offer!

Final Scores:

Godin Session: 32/40

Fender Player Series: 28/40

PRS Standard 24: 28/40

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Fender Player Series Stratocaster Review

Being quite into the subject of guitar journalism and the music industry in general I couldn’t help but notice the marketing campaign for Fenders new range of” Player Series” instruments, They managed to hit all of the social media platforms extremely hard with some rather trendy accompanying  videos of musicians and bands using the series for various performances and tours. But being a natural cynic I was finding it hard to see the wood-from-the-trees as to if the new range will stand up to my natural scrutiny in person. However I should have known that Fender would hit it out the park, out of all the models available I decided to give the ever iconic Strat a good going over.

“Having a bit of a Slowhand moment..”

First Impressions:

The first impressions of the Player Series Stratocaster was good, the overall weight of the instrument was medium, certainly heavier than some Strats that I’ve held in the past but equally nowhere near as heavy as the  70’s CBS era models, so a nice middle ground there. The finish quality was excellent with no impurities in the look of body and the neck was assembled and completed perfectly with a truly genius sanded satin back (more on that later). The finish colour I choose was Black (in a vain attempt to summon my inner Clapton to the surface) and it all certainly looked the part with a maple neck and white pickguard. So far, so good!

“Black is always the best colour”

Playability & Sound:

This is where things started to get really interesting as having played various other Mexican made Fenders in the past I always felt like these were categories that the brand fell down on, but not so much with this current incarnation. The introduction of the satin neck to the series was truly an inspired and wise decision as the series seems to be aimed at those that want performance over tradition and sanding down a gloss neck on the back to give an easier playing action is an extremely common post purchase modification so to have it as standard is rather awesome. As a result the neck is a dream to play and feels very modern due to its C profile radius, having an extra fret (22) is also a bit of a bonus too as its quite novel to fret so high up on such an vintage design.

The sounds available on the Strat model are incredibly varied and will suit a whole range of contexts, I always believe that a sign of solid set of pickups is to go through every configuration and combination to see how different all the voices are and the set installed In this series is certainly diverse in the best possible way. The neck pickup sounded full and solid whist still retaining its fundamental Strat’yness, the Middle position was typically “quacky” and the bridge was quite bright yet not unusable. What surprised me however was just how gain friendly the pickups were, able to tame variable amounts of gain easily whist again still sounding like a Strat in the process, whoever developed this pickup set really put a lot of thought into its creation, and made them usable for virtually every context. Overall the whole package sounded wonderful if not for a slight bit of hum when gain was applied to the single coil on the 1,3 and 5 setting (which is mostly to be expected)  a hum which vanishes on setting 2 and 4. Overall I’m very very impressed with the whole sound and feel of the range.

Value For Money?:

Absolutely! I genuinely believe that the value for money angle is the greatest selling point of the player series as they are on the lower end of the Mid-range price point. If I were to recommend a solid performing quality instrument then from this point onwards the Player series would be at the top on my list of recommendations, for new players and experienced ones alike. Being an absolute tone hound I would of course mess with a few things post purchase (I’m very heavy handed so I would need a thicker tremolo block) but being honest it would be hard to fit anything else into the price point of this instrument, it’s a genuine marvel that it’s so cost effective to begin with!

Final Thoughts:

Fender has obviously listening to their target demographic and have made modern and useful adjustments to their series that really go a long way in inspiring confidence in the Fender brand. It feels like Fender really hit the ground running with the Player Series, putting their finger on the pulse of the needs of the working musician at a price that is hugely appealing, and in the age £1000+ American made flagships the player series will make  presumed quality disparities between the two less and less obvious .Truth be told  I’m a little shocked that Fender managed to cram so many features and improvements into an instrument at that price and as a result puts to shame a certain rival company that Is currently in a terrible financial situation. It just goes to show that if you create an affordable yet quality instrument with an suitable marketing campaign you can put to rest any perceived  innate superiority of a country of manufacturing origin, as I’ve always shown a little resistance to Mexican made Fender models, that isn’t the case anymore.

Overall I would give this Strat the following marks:

Price: (10/10)

Sound: (7/10)

Feel & Playability: (8/10)

Features & Extras: (7/10)

Overall: (8/10)

This Strat is perfect for anyone that wants a genuine Fender at a decent price, its features are well thought out and for a modern player in mind, true vintage purists may want to give this one a pass unless they want their perception of what makes a “great” guitar immediately challenged. Highly recommended.