Mexican vs American Strat

Mexican Stratocaster

Fender Standard Strat

American Stratocaster

Fender American Standard Strat

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!

MIM vs MIA strat - side by side

Model Mexican Standard American Standard
Rating 89
($500 - $700)
91
(over $1000)
User Reviews
Ultimate Guitar
Harmony Central
Zzounds
Musicians Friend
Amazon
Ultimate Guitar
Harmony Central
Zzounds
Musicians Friend
Amazon
Model Mexican Standard American Standard
Website Fender.com Fender.com
Weight 3.6 kg/ 7lbs 14oz
Tuners Fender Standard Cast/Sealed
Fender Standard Cast/Sealed Staggered
Neck Bolt-on Maple
Modern C
Scale Length 25.5"
Nut Material Synthetic Bone
Nut Width 1.650" 1.685"
Fingerboard Rosewood or Maple
Fingerboard Radius 9.5"
Frets 21
Medium Jumbo
22
Medium Jumbo
Inlays White Dot (Rosewood FB)
Black Dot (Maple FB)
Pearloid Dot (Rosewood FB)
Black Dot (Maple FB)
Body Alder
Pickups Standard Single-Coil x3 Custom Shop Fat '50s Single-Coil x3
Bridge Vintage-Style Synchronized Tremolo
Synchronized Tremolo with Bent Steel Saddles
Truss Rod Standard Bi-Flex
Mexican Standard American Standard
Comparison
Mexican Standard American Standard
Amazon
Musicians Friend
Zzounds
Amazon
Musicians Friend
Zzounds

Key Differences between The MIM and MIA

Fender American Standard Stratocaster

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...

Hardware

staggered vs standard tunersStaggered tuners on the MIA (top)

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.

Playability

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!

Sound

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

Bottom Line

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?

◀ More Strat Comparisons