The Squier 40th Anniversary guitars celebrates four decades of affordable Fender models by releasing some very special instruments. Are these new guitars pro quality on a budget? Today we take a look at the models, and go over the new features.
Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars: Has It Been That Long?
We have seen Fender do lots of different things over the years. Some of the changes Fender made to its brand have been pretty substantial, but at the heart of Fender is legacy. When people want a guitar that’s close to being a vintage instrument, Fender always has multiple options for guitarists. Even a Fender Player Series guitar is pretty close to being the same instrument that was invented in the 1950’s and took the world by storm as one of the most recognized and copied designs.
Most of the time when Fender wants to take a chance with designs, it will do a Squier version first. Squier makes affordable models of the most popular Fender models, but there are also some really weird models too! Something like the Contemporary Series is not something we would usually see with Fender. These are modern takes on classic guitars and they are aimed at a specific type of player. If the Squier does well with sales, sometimes a Fender model will be produced.
But the Squier that we see today, is not at all where Fender started with the company. Fender didn’t even create Squier! If you don’t know the history, it’s actually really cool. The VC Squier Instrument Company was bought by Fender in 1965, and Victor Carroll Squier was a violin maker, and string craftsman. Fender used the Squier name to make strings for guitar and bass. Unfortunately, that idea and the Squier name was totally shelved after CBS bought Fender later that year.
The CBS-era of Fender is controversial to say the least, but CBS started to listen to the customers about the issues that Fender guitars were facing in an attempt to regain the customer’s trust. Fender was also dealing with cheap copies of the famous Stratocaster and Telecaster designs being made overseas. Companies like Tokai were making Fender-styled instruments with a much lower MSRP. Fender had to do something fast, and in 1982, the company had an idea.
The first Squier JV Fender guitars were made in 1982 until 1984. These are highly sought after instruments today, since they had practically the same quality as an American/Japanese Fender guitar, but they were made overseas at a cheaper price point. Fender executives knew they were on to something, and in 1984 we saw the first “Squier by Fender” models starting to hit the market. These were pretty much the same Squier guitars that we see today.
Which bring us up to speed with the history of Squier by Fender guitars. It’s been a long journey, but Squier has almost become it’s own brand separate from Fender. Of course, Squier is still aimed at beginners and the instruments sell at a much lower price point than their Fender brethren. The Squier 40th Anniversary guitars are a tribute to the four decades of affordable guitars, and the Squier namesake. But these are not your regular Squier guitars that are aimed at beginners.
Plenty of professional guitarists play Squier guitars, albeit usually upgraded or gutted completely. But what if Squier did all of that work for you? What if you could buy an off-the-rack Squier guitar that had the upgrades that you need to gig? We are talking about a totally tricked-out Squier, with pro specs. Well it looks like Squier took that idea and ran with it. But if they don’t play well, then none of the fancy upgrades matter.
Let’s take a look at the new Squier 40th Anniversary guitars, and go over the awesome features that make these models uniquely quirky! There are several models, and these all look great. But how do they play? I was lucky enough to test out 3 models, and I have some thoughts… as usual!
Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars: New Features!
I have seen a lot of people say that these new Squier guitars are just “The Classic Vibe Series” with a few additions. This is a fair comparison, in some aspects. Squier has really put a lot of thought into these guitars, and each model has the same shared features that are new. We should take a look at some of the features that these guitars share, regardless if it’s a Telecaster, or Stratocaster. These features are also the same across the different colors. The Jazzmaster is a little different, and we will talk about that!
- Nato Wood Body
- Metal Aluminum Pickguard
- Modern C Neck
- 9.5 Radius
- Bone Nut
- Alnico V Pickups
- Special Gold Hardware
Nato was chosen first and foremost because it is a sustainable wood. This may seem like a strange choice for a Tele or a Strat since they are usually Poplar or Alder wood. Nato is sometimes compared to Mahogany when it comes to weight and tone since it is a dense wood. It is even known as the “Eastern Mahogany” when it comes to guitar manufacturing and Cort uses this wood a lot when building guitars. These guitars definitely feel heavier, but that could be because…
They have a hell of a pickguard on them! This is a solid piece of gold plated aluminum and I would buy these guitars just to get ahold of one of these! Now I know you can hit up eBay and get a plethora of options of metal pickguards, but these are officially licensed Fender parts, and that’s pretty cool.
The neck is pretty familiar when it comes to the shape and radius. This is all standard Fender stuff, but the bone nut upgrade is just fantastic. This will ensure that you stay in tune, since bone nuts are so much better than the cheap plastic ones that come on most Squier guitars. If you have tuning issues, it’s almost never the tuners themselves…it is usually the strings binding at the nut. So “cheap guitar tuning disease” is not a factor with these guitars.
Finally, the Alnico V pickups are a huge step up from the usual ceramic magnet pickups that cheaper guitars almost always feature. Alnico V is the strongest of the Alnico magnets, and lots of guitarists prefer the sound. These pickups are usually higher output and they provide a really punchy, aggressive tone. There is also clear string-to-string balance when doing complex chords under high gain.
With all of that out of the way, its finally time to take a look at these beauties individually. As I stated before, the Jazzmaster is a bit of an outlier when it comes to features, so we will save it for last. We will take a special look at the Jazzmaster at the end, and talk about why it may be different.
All of these are available for preorder, and links will be below! Shipping as soon as February!
Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars: Stratocaster
Well this thing is just absolutely drop-dead sexy. Just at a glance, I am sure that there are a few things that this guitar has that you usually never see on a Strat. The Squier 40th Anniversary Stratocaster is really something to behold, if you ask me. But looks aren’t everything, are they? I was not allowed to take any pictures of the sample guitars from our affiliate, but it looks just as good in person. The features are super cool as well:
- Maple Neck
- Indian Laurel Fretboard
- Nato Body
- Pearl Inlays
- Bound Fretboard
- Bone Nut
- Alnico V Pickups
- Vintage 6 Screw Tremolo
- Gold Hardware/ Gold Anodized Pickguard
- Vintage Style Tuners
- 40th Anniversary Engraved Neck Plate
I want to start with the neck on this guitar, because I tried it back-to-back with a Fender Player Strat. The neck plays great, and it feels just a tad bit slimmer than the Player’s Series. But this is a good thing, because I feel like it practically plays itself! The frets have a “narrow tall” feel to them. The binding is a really nice touch that you rarely see outside of the Eric Johnson Fender Strat Models.
The Alnico V pickups sound a lot like what you get with the Classic Vibe models. These are super-bright sounding pickups, but this is a good thing if you’re using gain, or anything but a clean sound. I used two amps at the affiliate store, one was the BOSS Katana because I love it and no one can change my mind on that. The other was a PRS Archon, which I recently discovered! I feel like this was a fair test, since these are popular amps that people buying this guitar might own at home.
Through both amps, the Alnico V pickups sounded beautiful on clean tones. The “in between” positions had that signature quack and spank. But these pickups sounded even better with some added gain. With medium dirty Bluesy tones, you get an inspiring Stevie Ray Vaughan tone. Surprisingly, they sounded great under high gain as well, and the bridge pickup has some smooth lead tones without the “ice pick” sound that plagues single coils.
I pretty much live on the neck pickup when I play a Stratocaster, because I love the syrupy smooth tones that the neck pickup produces. This Alnico V is a little punchier than I would prefer, but turning down the tone knob gave me exactly the sound I love. I would rather have more clarity than I need, and dial it back, than to have a muddy pickup.
The Trem system is the usual six screw vintage bridge that lots of Fenders. I have always had a problem with these bridges, as a Floyd Rose user. But the Squier 40th Anniversary Strat has a bone nut and solid tuners, so the Trem stays in tune when you use it! That being said, you won’t be doing any big dive bombs. But when it comes to flutters and half step bends? This guitar does it all without having to stop and retune. I have my girlfriend’s Squier decked at the moment, maybe it just needs a new nut!
The impression that I get from this Squier 40th Anniversary Strat is that it’s a massively upgraded Classic Vibe at the core. It plays a lot like those models, but it has some aesthetic appointments that make this guitar a visual stunner. I feel like this is a step above the CV guitars though, and I can’t explain the added “mojo”. Something else reiterate, the trem stays in tune when you use it! Probably due to the bone nut! You can see the other two colors at Fender Official. I think the Lake Placid Blue is the coolest color, and this is the model I got to try.
Celebrating 40 years of affordable guitars, Squier has unleashed a beast upon the world! This is not your "Classic Strat" by any stretch of the imagination. Featuring an Anodized Gold Aluminum Pickguard, bound fretboard, pearl square inlays, and Alnico V pickups. Stand out from the pack with this gorgeous Strat!
Squier 40th Anniversary Telecaster
Alright, now we are talking! I have a secret love affair with Telecasters that I just can’t explain. Maybe it’s because the Tele is still a great all-around guitar that can be used for just about any genre, making it a versatile beast. So I guess I don’t need to tell you that this is my favorite one out of all of the Squier 40th Anniversary guitars. If you have never given a Tele a chance, because you associate them with Country music, you’re missing out. It has most of the same features as the Strat:
- Maple Neck
- Indian Laurel Fretboard
- Nato Body
- Pearl Inlays
- Bound Fretboard
- Bone Nut
- Alnico V Pickups
- Classic 3 Saddle String Through Bridge
- Vintage Style Tuners
- 40th Anniversary Engraved Neck Plate
Starting with the neck again, the Tele feels like the neck is a little thicker. This is the case with all Fender guitars for me. The Tele has always felt a little thicker than the Strat, but this could just be me. That being said, it plays wonderfully and it again can be compared to the CV Series, and it has the same fret as the Strat. I think that Squier missed a huge opportunity to do a Tele Custom style binding on the body, to match the neck.
The Alnico V pickups deliver again through both of the test amps. While the Tele can hold its own under high gain Metal tones, that’s not where it really shines. The neck pickup sounds amazing through the Katana on the clean channel. It has a thick, warm tone that sounds very distinct. Tele neck pickups always have a tone that you just can’t get anywhere else. I am tempted to buy one of these and use it in the studio for clean tones (Shh…Don’t tell Schecter I said that!)
The bridge pickup does all the twang that the Tele is known for. I’m not well-versed with chicken-picking licks, but I gave it a shot. The results were exactly what I expected, and this is a sound that can cut through any mix. You can always turn the tone knob down a little bit, and get a solid rhythm sound. The middle pickup selection does the famous “acoustic-like” tone that telecasters seem to always perfectly nail. These pickups are just great, and its more apparent with the Tele than the Strat.
The tuning stability is great once you break the strings in, and this is totally a guitar that I would gig with. I am super particular when it comes to guitars that I would play a show with, but this Telecaster passes all of the tests. It stands out in appearance, and the Telecaster is so simple, yet versatile. If I were a guitarist on a budget and wanted something that screamed “Custom Shop” this would be my choice. My only complaint is I wish it featured the more modern 6 saddle bridge. Otherwise, this is golden.
Squier celebrates 40 years of affordable guitars in serious style! The Telecaster is known for its versatility, and this one has everything a classic Tele should have! Featuring an Anodized Gold Aluminum Pickguard, bound fretboard, pearl square inlays, and Alnico V pickups. Own the stage with this beautiful monster!
Squier 40th Anniversary Jazzmaster
The Jazzmaster, like the Tele, is sort of a chameleon when it comes to sounds and genre. These offset beauties were originally used by surf rock bands like The Beach Boys and Dick Dale. But when the 90’s hit us with Grunge, the Jazzmaster saw a comeback that was well deserved. It has also been associated with Dreampop/Shoegaze like My Bloody Valentine over the years because of the unique tones you can get out of the special Jazzmaster switch controls.
The features are a little different on the Jazzmaster 40th Anniversary model, because of the cool switches that the Jazzmaster are known for. The switches can toggle between a lead tone/rhythm tone, as well as control the volume of both pickups individually. This opens up all kinds of sounds that can be toggled on and off, combined with the three way pickup selector. There are tons of awesome tricks that you do live with the tone toggles.
The neck feels great again, and this feels like the Paranormal Series neck that Squier released a while back. I never reviewed that guitar, but the neck has a vintage feel while retaining a flatter radius. For some reason, the body wood is Poplar on the Squier 40th Anniversary Jazzmaster model, instead of Nato. I imagine this is because of weight issues, since the Jazzmaster body is pretty big. But it could also be a design choice for another reason, I’m honestly not sure. I don’t put much weight (sorry, puns) into the tone wood argument.
The Alnico 5 Single coil pickups sound different than what you may be used to when it comes to a Jazzmaster. They seem to have a little bit more bite, yet it keeps some of the traditional Jazzmaster high-end. This gives the pickups a more even/clear tone that sounds great clean, or dirty. Under high gain, this thing chugs on the bridge pickup. This chugging is also a little unusual, but I am all for it!
The neck pickup isn’t as creamy and warm as the other two models, but then again, that isn’t what the Jazzmaster does. What you get is a pristine clean tone with the neck pickup. The bridge is also punchy, and while high gain sounds great, this guitar was built for FUZZ. Whether you’re more into Doom, or Psychedelic music…fuzz works perfect with the Alnico V single coils. So far, all of the Squier 40th Anniversary pickups have been surprisingly good.
I cannot stress enough how important the nut upgrade is on these models. This Squier 40th Anniversary Jazzmaster is the first that I have ever played right out of the box where the trem system actually worked. Jazzmaster trems have always been a little wonky to deal with, but this one does subtle bends and flutters really well. You definitely won’t be doing any dive-bombs on this guitar, but that isn’t what the Jazzmaster is meant for. Like the Stratocaster model, the bridge works!
I honestly didn’t think I would like this guitar, as Jazzmaster style guitars just… aren’t my thing, usually. But hey, I’m actually really surprised by this guitar, and other than the Dinosaur Jr. model, I have never been impressed by Squier Jazzmaster designs. If the Jazzmaster is your kind of guitar, this Squier 40th Anniversary model wonderful choice!
The Squier 40th Anniversary Gold Series Jazzmaster delivers eye-catching looks with a selection of player-friendly, upscale features. For the celebration of this anniversary, the Squier/Fender design team created this very special instrument to bring advancing players classic performance and style, along with that unique Jazzmaster tone and vibe.
Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars: Wrapping Up…
So I imagine that these guitars are going to be pretty controversial because of the price. Now I agree that $600 seems a little steep for a Squier. This is a company that is usually a bastion of cheap/affordable instruments for beginners. But there have been price increases across the board with every guitar company. If these came out a year ago, I bet they would be priced around $450. Unfortunately, this is what counts as “affordable” these days.
While the Squier 40th Anniversary guitars are priced fairly for what you get, there are also budget brands that offer similar features. Something like the Sire guitars are big competition, and I guess it comes down to which name you prefer on the headstocks. There are other companies as well, but Squier has a reputation that is backed by Fender. These are legacy instruments that have been around for decades. I guess you need to see if that matters to you, and its more than okay if it DOES matter.
I wish I was allowed to take some pictures of the Squier 40th Anniversary prototype models that I got to play. Due to some legal mumbo-jumbo I was not permitted to take any photos. There are details that are not as noticeable in the press release pictures I have featured in this article. Like the cool metal pickguards that have a brushed metal look to them, and the pearl inlays sparkle/shine much better in person. The colors are also more vibrant than what we see in these pictures. When these get released officially, maybe I will update the pics.
If you want a Squier, and these don’t fit your budget, there are plenty of Squier models that are under $300. The entry level guitars will probably always exist and be the choice of most beginners. These Squier 40th Anniversary models are special though, and may become some sort of collector’s item since they will only be available this year. To be fair, they do have lots of upgrades-both practical, and also aesthetics. These are targeted at the guitarist that wants something different.
Speaking of, these Squier 40th Anniversary models aren’t just targeted at beginners. I feel like an intermediate guitarist that is just getting their feet wet, and maybe starting to gig, would benefit hugely from these guitars. These have exactly what you need to get out there and start playing for an audience. especially since they sound great and stay in tune!
That being said, these are Squier guitars that you can actually gig with. The usual upgrades that I would personally do to to a Squier to get it stage-ready are already done on these models. You also can’t deny that these look absolutely sexy. Some people may think they are a bit gaudy, and that’s ok. There is no doubt that all of these models are decked out with fancy appointments that won’t suit everyone. But these guitars aren’t for everyone, just like my Schecter Hellraiser that has abalone all over it. Maybe I just like gaudy stuff and I am totally tasteless?
Nobody answer that last question. It was rhetorical!
Like the PRS SE Silver Sky, these are under preorder status right now. If you want one, I would go ahead and order it. There are supply chain issues that could affect even the big companies like Fender. There’s a chance that there is only a certain number of these guitars in the first batch, and it may be months before Squier produces more. Just something to think about. We all need to be smart buyers this year!
When Can I Order A Squier 40th Anniversary Guitar?
You can preorder all of the models right now! Fender has said they will be shipping in February in limited batches at first. If you want one, I would order it now.
Do The Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars Come With A Case?
No. Unfortunately these guitars don’t come with a case or gig bag. But there are tons of aftermarket options to choose from.
Are The Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars Limited Edition?
These are probably only going to be made in 2022, so yes they are limited edition. However, due to supply chain issues, we may see these released next year as well. It depends on the production and the factories making the guitars.
Can I Gig With The Squier 40th Anniversary Guitars?
Definitely! These have important upgrades like versatile Alnico V pickups, and a bone nut that will assure you stay in tune for the show!
Christoper HortonChristopher has been playing guitar and piano for 27 years. He has been active in the professional music industry for over two decades. He has toured for years with several bands and music projects. He worked in LA as a studio musician and engineer working with bands like IAMSOUND, Baroness, Kylesa, Black Tusk, Reflux, and Tripping Daisy. In between giving private lessons, he is recording a solo album for 2022-2023. Christopher plays Schecter guitars, BOSS amplifiers, and uses STL Tones in the studio.
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