Squier is certainly a brand with an interesting history. Technically, Squier has been making instruments and audio equipment since the 1800s, but really, most people now know Squier as a part of Fender. Squier manufacture cheaper versions of Fender Guitars, and are now owned by the Fender company. Without getting into the long and confusing history of the companies, the best squier guitars are effectively just Fender’s “budget” range, and are manufactured in Asia, and other parts of the world outside of the USA, but sold globally.
Squier guitars are immensely popular, and with really good reason. Squier offer a lot of the positives of a Fender, as well as the signature sound, without costing as much. For this reason, some of the guitars in their range are known as being the best for beginners or for practice models. If you are on a budget, you can have the look and feel of a Fender guitar without the price tag. There are some shortcomings compared to Squier’s more expensive siblings, but for those just starting out, or for someone on a budget, some of their guitars are an exceptional choice.
In this article, we’ve set about reviewing some of the very best squier guitars, strats, telecasters, jazzmasters and more, for beginners and pros alike. The range is big, but we’ve narrowed it down to a few top choices.
So, what are the criteria we’re looking at?
- Sound – Yes, this is incredibly obvious, but nonetheless it is a key criteria when looking at squier guitars. Some do sound better than others, and getting that amazing Fender tone is incredibly important. Nobody wants to end up with a guitar they aren’t excited about playing or gigging with, so we have only considered the guitars with a beautiful tone.
- Reliability – With any guitar, it has to be well made. There is no point going out and buying the cheapest guitar only for it to break. This is especially true with electric guitars, cheap parts and poor build quality can mean that the electrics break and you find yourself with a useless guitar.
- Feel and “Action” – It is important that a guitar feels natural and is easy to get to grips with (no pun intended). A guitar with a good action, that doesn’t have sharp frets or a fretboard that is hard to navigate can be very frustrating. Some guitars feel a lot nicer to play than others.
- Pickup – On an electric squier guitar, the pickup is going to be truly vital. It is what carries the sound before it is amplified, and therefore plays a key role in the sound. A nasty pickup will mean a nasty sound.
- Genre – Okay, so I’m not going to get into any debate on whether one genre is better than another, but some guitars suit certain genres more than others. Some guitars will be great for blues, some suit heavy metal, considering which genre you are going to be mainly playing will have some bearing.
- Price – Of course, the price is going to play a part. Squier are a brand who are superb for people on a budget, and some offer more value for money than others.
- Design – Here at Subreel, we try not to judge anything too much on looks. However, we do want guitars to look cool, and there’s nothing wrong with that. Many squier guitars come with different design options to choose in terms of colors and finish, and the brand offer designs synonymous with Fender such as the Jazzmaster, telecaster, stratocaster and Jaguar.
Squier Bullet Strat
The Squier Bullet is as good a place as any to start. This is a strat copy like no other, and if you are looking for something to rival the Fender model, without spending the money, there is really nowhere else to look.
It has a solid basswood material body, a maple neck and a 21 fret fingerboard. As we’ve grown to expect from Fender, it has three single coil pickups and even comes with a 5-way selector switch for the pickups.
As you might expect, Squier are very good at replicating the sound of the original. It does have a bit more in the way of high end, and lacks a bit of the body of a traditional Stratocaster. This may not have the pro, clean cut sound of a Fender, but it is good for beginners, intermediates and practicing. On top of all this, the price tag is really quite impressive.
It looks cool, and has six different colors to choose from. If you are looking for a first guitar then this could be a brilliant answer, and Squier even sell it (optionally) as part of a set including an amp and tuner, everything you need to get started. A quick look at reviews of the strat online will likely reinforce our point, with most people agreeing that while this might not be suitable to headline glastonbury with, but can certainly do a good job for those just getting started, or even more intermediate players.
Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar
I love Jags. I’m going to clarify that right at the start of our review, however, there are a huge amount of people out there who have been very happy with the Squier copy of the Fender Jaguar. The sound, known for everything from surf rock to rock and roll and beyond, gives such a huge amount of flexibility, and the tone from a Squier Jag is exceptionally clean and gives a lot of room for variation. As well as looking awesome, the Jaguar has not been properly replicated by any other companies. Until Squier released a jag copy, there had been no other option but to spend a lot of money on an original Fender model.
A lot of Jags were made years ago, but this has a modern feel to it. Duncan designed pickups and the modern fretboard mean that as well as the traditional qualities of the Jag, this has some modern qualities too. The 24 inch scale and the vibrato bridge as well as the awesome finishes including surf gree, olympic white and sunburnt finishes in a few different variations.
With a maple neck, 9.5 radius fingerboard featuring 22 frets and dotted inlays, the design is truly beautiful with tortoiseshell pickguards. For both sound and looks, this absolutely comes with our recommendation. The downside? It is far from the cheapest in the Squier range.
Squier by Fender Classic Vibe 50’s Telecaster
The telecaster – loved by indie and alternative kids the world over! The telecaster has been used by a load of massively influential musicians, and are a popular choice for beginners and pros alike.
The pickups offer the same coil arrangement you find in mid range tele’s, which is to say a single coil, and Alnico 5 magnets
The body of the guitar is made of pine, which is definitely sturdy and helps with the tone of the guitar. In terms of the neck, the maple fingerboard is the same as that you see on a vast amount of Fender’s guitars including some other telecasters and stratocasters.
If both pickups are selected, the tone can be the exceptional, tingling sound we’ve got used to from some of the more ‘indie’ and alternative guitarists who have made the telecaster so popular. Honestly, the sound far exceeded my expectations from what is effectively a copycat tele, but one that offers a huge amount of features and similarities with the Fender models.
The Classic Vibe 50s tele is a beautiful model, and gets our recommendation in terms of being the best squier telecaster, but we also understand that the reason a lot of people look to Squier is the fact that they offer a cheaper alternative. If you do want something for beginners, at the lower end of the market. Squier’s ‘basic’ telecaster comes in 11 colors, and offers a lot of the features of its siblings. As Squier describe it, it has the ‘DNA’ of the other models. If you’re looking for cheap and cheerful, the Squier Affinity Telecaster could be the one for you.
Squier Standard Strat
The second strat to make the list, but this is a little bit of a step up from the Affinity model or the Bullet model. It has the same gorgeous tonewood of Fender strats as well as three single coil pickups and the same level of control and flexibility we get with Fender models. Whatever genre you want to play, this strat can give you a good starting point, and isn’t a million miles away from the model it is supposedly copying. A very affordable model with a lot to offer.
There are many different modified stratocasters out there, too many to list in fact, and though some may be better for your style or genre than others, generally, the clean tone of the strat is versatile enough to work to your own preference.
In the world of music, there will always be purists. A lot of people will tell you that anything other than a legit Fender is going to be selling yourself short. Whilst not many of the Squier range are quite as good, they are wonderful as a budget, value for money option. If you need something cheaper than Fenders, which can run into thousands of dollars, there is no better alternative. Squier telecasters, strats and other models are cropping up as gifts, schools and bedrooms everywhere for both beginners and intermediates.