First let's clear up any confusion...
Fender offer two Standard Strats - the MIM (Made in Mexico) or Standard Stratocaster, and MIA (Made in America) or American Standard Stratocaster.
With a price difference of around $600 brand new, the MIM is seen as a way of getting Fender quality on a relatively small budget.
But where have the costs been cut? Is the American-made Strat really worth the extra half a grand? Let's find out!
|Model||Mexican Standard||American Standard|
|Weight||3.6 kg/ 7lbs 14oz|
|Tuners||Fender Standard Cast/Sealed
||Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered|
|Fingerboard||Rosewood or Maple|
|Inlays||White Dot (Rosewood FB)
Black Dot (Maple FB)
|Pearloid Dot (Rosewood FB)
Black Dot (Maple FB)
|Pickups||Standard Single-Coil x3||Custom Shop Fat '50s Single-Coil x3|
||Synchronized Tremolo with Bent Steel Saddles|
|Mexican Standard||American Standard|
As the debates continue to rage in forums and across social media comments, it's clear that any on-paper differences between the Mexican and American Stratocasters don't amount to a huge difference in looks, playability and tone.
Users quantify the actual difference between the MIM and MIA between 1% and 10%.
To potentially complicate matters, there are also inconsistencies in output quality from both factories, meaning someone's MIM could be considered favourable to another's MIA. However, this is quite rare and subjective, so you can probably overlook it.
However, the more discerning the guitarist, the more significant the differences become.
Putting aside the savings inherent in Mexican vs US labour, let's look more closely at where the extra cost is hiding in the American Standard...
Two practical points awarded to the American Standard...
The tuners on the American are staggered, meaning the string posts are increasingly shorter towards the high E string.
This angles the string more optimally and in turn helps to eliminate fret buzz at lower string heights.
The MIA's 2-point tremolo offers more stability to keep your axe in tune even under the most intense dive bombing action.
One difference that (understandably) tends to escape people's notice is that the American Strat has one extra fret than the Mexican - 22 vs 21 medium-jumbo frets respectively.
This might seem pointlessly subtle, but if you like to play those squealing, climactic, high-neck notes, you might consider that 22nd fret a nice bonus.
Other than that, there's really nothing else to report, except an ever so slightly narrower nut width on the MIM ( 1.650" vs 1.685" on the MIA). This isn't exactly going to shake the fence sitters!
Here is where it matters for most players.
The American's Custom Shop Fat 50's single coils sparkle a little more crisply, with more definition than the modest MIM Standard stocks.
This means it'll give even the fullest of chords clear note separation, without muddying up as you pile on the gain/distortion.▲ Compare Sound
Many users who purchase a MIM Standard are prepared for two things:
1) A full setup (possibly including fret dressing) and...
2) A pickup change.
Even if you changed out the MIM's standard single coils for the MIA's Fat 50's, you're still making a saving of around $300 after fitting and setup costs.
But the MIA does play smoother in the hands and, for many, it's difficult to put a price on that, even when the difference is subtle.
The question is, before you've added your amp and effects to the mix, how much is an extra 1%-10% of substance worth to you?