Squier Affinity Stratocaster Review (2020)

Pros

  • Excellent value for the price
  • Classic Fender Stratocaster tone
  • Versatile
  • Excellent Playability
  • Requires little setup out of the box
  • Stays in tune

Cons

  • Quality control
  • Tremolo can cause tuning instability
  • Rough fret edges
  • Single coil pickups hum with high-gain

Stratocasters first arrived on the music scene in the mid-50s. Since then, they have have been wildly popular in all styles of music. 

Having three different pickups and five different configurations of those pickups, you have a wide range of tones on this one guitar. 

To make sure this guitar was in reach of every level of player, Fender started making different versions for different customers. This covers bare minimum and basic, to highly advanced and custom.

This Squier Affinity Stratocaster was made with the beginner in mind but has the quality and features that any player can appreciate.  

In this comprehensive Squier Affinity Stratocaster review, we’ll cover everything you need to know including specifications, design, playability, sound and more. We’ll also compare it to an actual Fender Stratocaster to see if it can stack up to the real deal.

Let’s get started!

Specifications

Here are the specifications of the Squier Affinity Stratocaster as listed on the official Fender website.

  • Body Material: Alder
  • Body Finish: Polyurethane
  • Neck Material: Maple
  • Neck Finish: Satin Urethane
  • Neck Shape: “C” Shape
  • Neck Scale Length: 25.5” (648 mm)
  • Fingerboard Material: Indian Laurel
  • Fingerboard Radius: 9.5” (241 mm)
  • Number of Frets: 21
  • Fret Size: Medium Jumbo
  • Nut Material: Synthetic Bone
  • Nut Width: 1.6” (40.6 mm)
  • Position Inlays: White Pearloid Dot
  • Truss Rod: Standard
  • Bridge Pickup: Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Middle Pickup: Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Neck Pickup: Standard Single-Coil Strat
  • Controls: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Bridge and Middle Pickup, Position 3. Middle Pickup, Position 4. Middle and Neck Pickup, Position 5. Neck Pickup
  • Configuration: SSS
  • Bridge: 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo
  • Hardware Finish: Chrome
  • Tuning Machines: Standard die-cast
  • Pickguard: 3-ply white
  • Control Knobs: White plastic
  • Switch Tip: White
  • Neck Plate: 4-bolt standard
  • Strings: Fender USA 250L Nickel-Plated Steel (.009-.042 gauge)

There is no gig bag, guitar case or other accessories included. 

Design

For the most part, the basic design and features of the Stratocaster have remained very close to how the first ones were first produced. The dual-cutaway body, the signature headstock, the three-pickup layout – all very true to the original. 

Design-wise, this Affinity Stratocaster is nearly-identical to all other Squier and Fender Stratocasters. I feel this classic design can fit into almost any genre of music and has been used extensively in Rock, Blues, Country, Indie, Pop, R&B and even Metal (with replacement pickups). 

A great benefit with Stratocasters is how much you can customize them. A quick Google search will give you many options for replacement parts. The most common parts people will customize their Stratocaster with are: pickups, string tuners, and pickguards. 

I’ve owned various Stratocasters over the years, including this Affinity Stratocaster. I can tell you that this is a true Stratocaster in every way, although there are some differences between models.

Build Quality

The Affinity Stratocaster is my made in China to strict build specs from Fender. Fender has worked closely with Squier for many years, and this partnership has produced a great replica of the Fender Stratocaster. Plus, they’ve kept it at a price the average person can more easily afford. 

I’ve played Stratocasters almost exclusively for live performances, studio sessions, teaching students, creating YouTube videos, and some touring, for around 25 years. I was very impressed with this Affinity Strat when I first picked it up, but I did notice some differences.

To cut down on costs and make the guitar more affordable, there are some variations in components and quality of parts. 

For example, when I first played this guitar, the neck still felt a little rough. Rough meaning the back of the neck wasn’t as polished as my Standard and American Standard.

The edges of the frets also didn’t feel as smooth when I ran through some scales and chords across the neck. The frets themselves didn’t feel as smooth and polished under the strings, either. 

The tuners, although stable and functional, don’t turn as smoothly, and there seems to be a little looseness in them, compared to the Standards. The tuner knobs felt very delicate like they could break easily. 

The pickguard was a simple, cut plastic shape. The edges were not beveled or as smooth as the pickguards on the Standards. 

The pickups sound a little noisier, and the tone sounds thin in comparison, with lower overall volume. 

The control knobs didn’t fit as well onto the pots, and they would often turn past their number markers. I had to take them off and slightly widen the pot’s arm spacing to get them to fit correctly. 

The input jack was loose and I had to tighten it. The jack also started cutting out after a few uses, and I had to take the pickguard off to solder the jack connections. 

Except for the jack issues, all of these were somewhat expected at this lower price. None of these made the guitar unplayable, and I don’t feel they would get in the way of a student of hobby player from learning, practicing, and playing. 

However, some of these issues would be a problem for working musicians, and more serious guitar players that need solid, reliable and sturdy gear. Whether or not this matters is entirely up to you. 

Electronics

Your basic Stratocaster, whether classic or modern in styling, has the same electronic layout. This Affinity Strat is no different. 

You have three single-coil pickups: one slanted pickup at the bridge, one pickup in the middle, and one at the neck. All three have different tones that can be more suited to different styles of guitar. 

Compared to the Standard Stratocaster, the electronics on this Affinity Stratocaster are noticeable lower in volume, while adding more noise into your tone. 

Using mid-gain with this guitar can be noisy. High gain ends up being unusable unless you decided to replace the pickups with something that can handle high gain. 

Sound

As expected, this sounds like a Stratocaster in every way. The quality of the tone can be a different story, though. 

As I noted, to make this guitar more affordable some parts and components had to change. The pickups on pots on this guitar were some of the things that affect the sound. 

Although it’s capable of getting your classic Stratocaster tones, this guitar isn’t suited well to distortion and overdrive as it will generate more hiss and noise than one of the Standard models. 

Using the #2 and #4 positions on the pickup selector can help remove some of the hiss and noise since those positions use two pickups together which helps to cancel out noise. 

Using cleaner tones can get you a better sound if that’s the style of playing you plan on. Similarly, playing this Affinity Strat at high volumes can make that hiss and noise more noticeable. 

The volume and tone pots work well but can start to sound scratchy after normal use. This can be fixed by spraying an electronic contact cleaner on the internals. Replacing the pots altogether in a common upgrade and another option if you plan on playing for more than hobby purposes. 

Playability

Although there are some “rough edges” on this guitar to a point, it is very playable. Like any guitar, the more time you put into playing it, the more playable it gets. 

The more you play this guitar, the smoother the frets feel and the more enjoyable it is to play. 

This is truly a guitar that will grow with you. The more you put into it, the more you will get out of it. 

This guitar does feel like a Stratocaster, but the fit and finish is not as good as a higher-end version. After playing Strats and teaching guitars for many years, I will tell you that this guitar will not hinder you from learning or from playing. 

This guitar, when played often and maintained, will last for many, many years of playing. 

Squier Affinity Stratocaster vs Fender Stratocaster

Squier is owned by Fender and produces affordable versions of their guitars that are manufactured overseas.

So, naturally, it makes sense to compare the budget Squier Affinity Stratocaster to a real Fender Stratocaster to see if the copy can hold it’s own.

You can check out this video for a full blind test comparison between different versions of the Stratocaster by Squier and Fender. I think you’ll be surprised once you hear how good the Squier sounds despite costing a fraction of what the American Fender costs.

Factory

To cut down on costs, Fender Squier guitars are made in a few countries including China, Korea, Indonesia, Japan, and Mexico. The Fender Player Series guitars are made in Mexico and Fender American guitars are made in the USA.

The Fender Player and Fender American Standard have not only a higher level of quality but are very consistent. The Squire guitars can be hit or miss at times due to quality control issues in factories overseas.

While overseas manufacturers have vastly improved over the past few years, you still may run into some problems here and there.

You get what you pay for, and quality and consistency come at a cost. 

Features

As far as features, this Affinity Strat has the same features as an American Standard, so you’re not missing out on anything in this aspect. 

The pickups, pickup selector options, volume and tone controls, and design are all pretty much the same. 

The main difference is quality, consistency, and attention to detail. 

Sound Comparison

The Affinity Stratocaster has a tone that is undoubtedly classic Strat. You will notice a difference in quality and consistency of tone. 

You’ll also see a big difference in the way each guitar handles loud volumes and higher gain/distortion/overdrive settings. The Fenders will handle these noticeably better. 

Construction

Although it doesn’t feel unstable or substandard in any way, the Affinity feels lighter and less “tight” than the Fender. This is partially due to quality control and attention to detail, and somewhat due to having budget (but good) components in the Affinity to save you money. 

Price: 

Squier has its Affinity Stratocaster priced at $199. I believe this is a fair price for the guitar, still a great value, and for a great product.

Fender Player Stratocaster is priced at $699. That upgrade gives you better quality, better pickups, and a better-sounding and feeling guitar all around. 

The Fender American Standard is priced at $1,099. You’re now paying for top of the lines parts and components, exceptional attention to detail, and for a road-worthy, professional guitar. 

Alternatives

If you’ve made it this far into this Squier Affinity Stratocaster review, then by now you probably already have a good idea of whether or not it’s the right choice for you.

Overall, it’s a very well-rounded guitar for beginners and would make for an excellent first guitar.

However, it still may not be for everyone, so I would suggest you check out some of these other Squier Affinity Stratocaster alternatives.

Depending on the style of music you want to play, these options may be a better fit.

Yamaha Pacifica Series PAC112J 

The Yamaha Pacifica is designed to be a more modern version of a Stratocaster. In the 80s, players were very divided. Some loved it and others hated it. 

Few would argue that this is a great, versatile guitar all around. This guitar will give you some great classic Strat tones with a different look and feel. 

Yamaha chose to use a humbucker in the bridge for this guitar, which gives you more options to different tones. This also allows you to play at higher volumes and with medium and high gain for more aggressive styles of music. 

Because of the bridge humbucker, you do lose some of the classic Strat ones in the neck and neck/middle settings. 

This guitar was a favorite among certain rock and metal bands in the 80s. The Pacifica is still a favorite today among players of various styles. 

The Pacifica has an interesting alternative design. Pairing this with a humbucker in the bridge position and it gives you a very modern version of the classic Stratocaster design and tone. 

This guitar would be a better choice for players that like Strat tones, but want to rock out and play higher gain music. 

Ibanez Gio GRX70QATEB

Ibanez knows how to make great guitars at a great price. There is no argument there. Their Gio line is proof that shows how great they are at this. 

This particular Gio has the dual-cutaway styling of a Stratocaster but in a more modern package. 

Dual humbuckers give you a solid, thick tone that can handle any level of gain you feel like using. If you mix with the single-coil pickup in the middle, you can dial in your classic Stratocaster tones. This can give you the best of both worlds. 

The flame top on this guitar gives you a very beautiful finish that is very modern and stylish. The slightly-sharpened cutaway horns give it a more aggressive and interesting look. 

Similar versions of this guitar were (and still are) favorites of players like Steve Vai and Joe Satriani for good reasons. They play well, look great, and sound good with high gain. 

This guitar would be a better choice for fans of Vai and Satriani, or for players that want a more modern and aggressive version of a Strat. 

Squier by Fender Affinity Telecaster

Between the Stratocaster and Telecaster, players always have their favorites. There is no debating that both are excellent guitars for many reasons. 

The Telecaster has only two pickups compared to the Stratocaster. Telecasters have a slightly warmer bridge pickup and do not have a middle pickup. 

Telecasters are a favorite among country music players. These guitars have the twangy single coil tone, but aren’t quite as trebly and shrill as some Stratocasters can be. 

Teles are also very popular among southern rock players for the same reason. Even some blues players have used Telecasters in their songs. 

Unlike a typical Strat, the Telecaster instead has a single-cutaway on the body. Also, because it has only two pickups, the pickup selector only has three settings: bridge, bridge/neck, neck. 

With so many options for third party parts and components, there is no doubt that Stratocasters are the most customized guitars in music. 

This guitar would be a better choice for players that would like a simpler, thicker-sound version of a Stratocaster, still want single coils, but prefer a thicker tone similar to southern rock or country music.

Fender Player Stratocaster

As you already know, there are many flavors of the Stratocaster. Fender made their Player Stratocaster with the serious player in mind. 

A true Fender, I always considered this a slight step up from the Standard Stratocaster which is already a fantastic guitar. 

This Player Strat is pure Stratocaster, with solid parts and components all around. Right from the moment you start playing it, you’ll feel how easy and enjoyable it is to play and why they named it as such. 

A guitar that’s meant to be played for hours, day, weeks on end for the rest of your life. This guitar won’t let you down whenever you pick it up to practice, to compose, or to play a show with hundreds or thousands in the audience. 

This guitar would be best for a Strat purist that wants the classic Stratocaster tone, a polished attention to detail, solid parts and components that are made for the working musician, and at a quality level that’s worthy of its higher price. 

This is the Strat to last a lifetime and encourage the best out of you, each and every time you pick it up. 

Is the Squier Affinity Stratocaster Right for You?

With some many Stratocaster options, as well as comparable alternatives from other companies, the choices can be overwhelming. 

As a major Stratocaster and love of the guitar (I have a Stratocaster tattoo on my arm), I have no problem acknowledging that this is a good, sound replication of the original Stratocaster. 

I would recommend this to one of my students that would want a Stratocaster, but would only use it for hobby purposes, and to learn and play the basics.

If they planned to use it in a band, I would recommend the Fender Player or higher, due to quality and consistency, which affects reliability. 

If playing this guitar in a band was a must, I would recommend having all soldering connections checked at the very least. I also recommend replacing the tuners, the volume and tone pots, and possibly the pickups – in that order, depending on their playing style. 

The Verdict

This Affinity Strat is perfect if you’re a beginner, a hobby player that has a limited budget, or a working musician that wants a backup guitar. I can’t think of a better recommendation for getting the classic Strat tone, feel and look. 

You can easily upgrade this if you want, in an endless amount of ways. So this is a great guitar to start with, and upgrade and you grow in your guitar journey.

For more serious players or people who are looking for the best of the best, you might want to consider spending a little more upfront for a real Fender Stratocaster. You can check out my full review of the Fender Player Stratocaster here.

I hope you enjoyed this in-depth Squier Affinity Stratocaster Review.

Good Luck! 🙂

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