Review of Fender EC Artist Strat


New member
Right, there are tons of reviews in Harmony Central, so why one more.

Well, I saw this on a forum and thought it was quite a balanced (although positive) review of the Fender EC Artist Strat. So here it is.

Eric Clapton sig Strat review
Summary: Wow. REALLY nice guitar.

Details: brand new Eric Clapton Stratocaster Blackie model. Soft "V" neck, though this one doesn't seem as pronounced as others I've played. The action is great. This has the vintage 6 screw trem with the vintage S-shaped saddles. Not as 'firm' as the 2-point that Fender uses on the American stuff, but I like this better. Maybe it's vibe, maybe it contributes to a 'springy-er' tone. The neck is finished in a satin urethane, which gives a nice slick finish, though it does feel plastic-y. If you like to feel wood, you might be disappointed in the finish.

This has the (fairly) recent addition of the Fender Vintage Noiseless pickups. Noiseless is right - they're dead quiet. Combined with the TBX (Treble Bass Exchange) at the middle tone and the 25db Mid-Boost at the rear tone, this is a one versatile Strat. Please know that I’m not a guy to obsesses over "traditional" Strat tone. In fact, I’m not sure I know what that is. I’m just looking for nice, chimey, quiet single coil tones. This has it in spades, plus so much more.

The TBX has a detent at 5. Below that, it acts as a normal tone, filtering through a capacitor. Above that, it beings to add presence and brightness to the pickups. Small changes yield noticeable dividends. There is a lot of room for adjustment under the detent, even though you have only half of the normal sweep.

The 25db Mid-Boost is obvious in what it does. At 0, you get standard shimmery Strat tones - the VN p/u's are beautiful here with a clean tone. Playing clean, keeping the TBX right under the detent yields what I would consider to be premium Strat tones. As you go upwardson the Mid-Boost, it (duh) boosts mids, fattening up the pickups. At 10, it comes close to a humbucker. You're not gonna play Metallica on it, but you can get some convincing heavy sounds. Playing Cream is a blast. SWLABR is one of my favorite Cream tunes, and you can pound out those heavy chords and sound pretty dead on.

In a lot of ways, this is a desert island guitar. If I had to bring only one guitar to cover a range of tones, this would be it. Again, assuming we’re not covering Slipknot.

Complaints? Yeah, there are a few, though they’re cosmetic. But on a $1300 guitar, these shouldn’t exist. First, the single-ply pickguard is cut horribly around the treble horn. You can see it in the closeup pics (addy below) and it's worse in person – it doesn’t follow the sweep of the wood at all, it flattens out as it approaches the neck and there’s a slanted gap at the neck. Incredibly poor. I’m going to complain to Fender. Not that it *really* matters, because I plan on putting a 3-ply on it anyhow. Those single-ply, while vintage correct, tend to warp.

{EDIT: After looking closely at the cover of the Christie's auction catalog, it appears that - although this IS miscut - it's miscut to match the original Blackie. Clapton's Strat's scratchplate has the same poor cut to it that mine does. My guess is that it's intentional.}

My other complaint is that, as per usual, Fender doesn’t clean the lacquer off the frets after they spray. This happened on a 40th anniversary I bought new and as it chipped off unevenly due to playing, it also left little nicks on the fretboard. I’m thinking I’ll use an Exacto knife to gently slice at the base of each fret, so as it comes off, it doesn’t chip up the board.

Both of these are fairly minor, but this was an expensive guitar.

Overall, it’s a great player. Extremely versatile, sounds great, and has a great vintage vibe.