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FDP Forum / Fender Product Reviews / 2014 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster

Morgenholz

Indiana/USA

A Thing of Beauty is a Joy Forever.
Mar 21st, 2016 05:30 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

OK, one reason I am posting this is that these are still available NOS, and if I had a little more disposable cash, I would buy another one now. I bought mine because I love my 2013 ash AV56 in aged white blonde (who couldn't love that?) so much, I reasoned that if the 54 was close, I would have two that I love. This is gonna get really geeky, so please cut me some slack and stop right here if that is not your thing.

Firstly, I looked at a half dozen of these this past winter and chose mine simply because it was lighter than the others (6lb.13oz.). The wood is plain, with some maple grain running through the fretboard, a plainish front, and a nice grain to the back for leaning against the wall. The others were all more beautiful and I nearly pulled my trigger prematurely a few times. Balance and heft are perfect-- I like ash for this reason. I cannot comment on the factory setup because the tech at the shop from which I purchased set it up as a matter of pride, and the action is as low as any strat I have owned-- perhaps too low, but this did allow me to ascertain that the frets are wonderfully level. More on the fretwork later.

Differences from the AV56: Here is where it gets interesting-- Light weight, ash bodies, different guitars. First, the pickups are different. They are beveled where the '56 are flat. I did not pull them or measure their resistance yet. I like the '56 pickups every bit as much as the Custom Shop '56 pickups of a decade ago, maybe more. The '54s have a little more midrange, a bit more presence; they definitely cut more and would be more suitable in a band setting than the '56s, which I love playing straight into a Victoria tweed. On this point alone, I could be entertained switching between the two. Another obvious difference is the polystyrene knobs and switch/trem handles; my middle TONE came cracked from the factory, just like Buddy Holly might have expected taking delivery of his first... I bought some spares, but am leaving the cracked one installed as the first stage of reliquing ("relicking" reads as if I repeatedly tasted it; I didn't).
I initially thought that the neck contour was the same as the '56, but it is not. It starts out at the nut with a similar very soft V, but up the neck it is more U shaped. No distraction here. I had mentioned the fretwork-- The fret ends on this one are as finely finished as on my Custom Shop Relics, that is, they are perfectly rounded off and smoothed into the fret flats and shoulders. The '56 frets are dressed very well, like the very best American Standards and Deluxes I have handled, but this '54 got extra or more experienced attention. They are perfect. Thank you, Fender, I do appreciate what you did here.

Geeky details, top down: Before taking it out of the case, one notices that the center-pocket tweed case is a few inches narrower than the standard size utilized for the '56 and Custom Shop tweeds-- it is closer externally in size to the case that came with the last generation of '52AVRI teles. The headstock is different. Top is more rounded than the '56; not sure if this is accurate or just particular to mine. However, the bottom, back side of the headstock is heavily rounded and contoured, and I have it from an old timer that this is correct, to his memory. Neck is slightly more tinted than the '56. The neck pocket on this one is tighter than for any American Vintage I have ever handled, and as tight as any Custom Shop I have ever played. Body contours, especially the back relief cut, are noticeably shallower than my '56. I believe I have read that the late '56 and the '57 had the most extremely contoured bodies, so I will have to believe that this is yet another relative accuracy built into this model. The horn cutaways are slightly shallower. Finally, the strap button is angled slightly more inward toward the neck. I don't know if these last two are particular to mine, or design features.

My assumption had always been that Leo Fender needed a few years to perfect the strat, and had accomplished this by '56 or '57. As far as reissues are concerned, this one has taught me that much of it was right from inception-- this AV54 could easily be my only solidbody electric guitar, no question whatsoever. Although I have a thing for round lams of '63-'65 design, I am not certain that I would surrender this one before any of my custom Relics.

(This message was last edited by Morgenholz at 07:43 PM, Mar 21st, 2016)

Chris Greene
FDP Host

Idaho, USA

Strat, Tele, Strat, Tele...hmmmmm
Mar 21st, 2016 05:58 PM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Excellent review, thanks.

Malcolm
Contributing Member
*****

Edmond, OK

Apr 9th, 2016 10:38 AM   Edit   Profile   Print Topic   Search Topic

Perfect birth year guitar. Alas, no cash.

FDP Forum / Fender Product Reviews / 2014 60th Anniversary American Vintage 1954 Stratocaster




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