Lately I’ve been learning and playing several songs that use high gain and the vibrato – not ideal for single coils and blocked vibratos. This has gotten me interested in Superstrats. While there’s no formal definition of what a Superstrat is, I’d consider the following points to be pretty much mandatory:
- two humbuckers
- A dual-cutaway Stratocaster-like body shape
- A vibrato system, possibly a (Floyd Rose) locking vibrato
While the heyday of the Superstrat was certainly in the 1980s, there are still plenty of options available today.
The original Stratocaster maker has a very limited selection of guitars that fit the above criteria:
- The Squier Contempary Stratocaster HH FR has two humbuckers, and a Floyd Rose vibrato
- The Dave Murray Stratocaster has three single coil-sized humbuckers, and a Floyd Rose. It is only available in sunburst.
There are several more options if a bridge humbucker is sufficient:
- Player Plus Stratocaster HSS
- American Professional II Stratocaster HSS
- Aerodyne Special Stratocaster HSS
- American Ultra Stratocaster HSS
- American Ultra Stratocaster HSS, which comes with Floyd Rose
- Tash Sultana Stratocaster
If a used guitar is an option, you could go looking for a Big Apple Strat, which was essentially an American Standard with two humbuckers.
Charvel is owned by Fender, and the brand of choice if you want a Superstrat that still resembles a normal Stratocaster. There are three main ranges:
- So-Cal Style is a traditional Strat body with pickguard. These are available in HH, HSH, and HSS form, all with Floyd Rose.
- San Dimas Style is without pickguard (and hence pickups screwed into the body). There’s quite a large variety, once again in HH/HSH/HSS form and with Floyd Rose.
- The Dinky features a body that is a bit smaller. There are models with all three pickup configurations. Most feature a non-locking two-point vibrato, but hardtail and Floyd Rose are available, too.
Another brand now owned by Fender, and traditionally associated with guitars more on the Metal side of things. Most feature pointy headstocks.
- Soloist is the main range with a large variety, including extended range guitars
- The Dinky features, as described above, a smaller body. Several feature reverse headstocks. HH and HSS models available
- San Dimas Style is (just as with Charvel) a traditional Stratocaster body, and the only Jackson model with the normal Stratocaster headstock. Almost all of them are Adrian Smith signature models in HSS configuration with Floyd Rose.
After starting out at Music Man and then a long stint with Peavey, Eddie van Halen eventually ended up at Fender, where he got his own sub-brand.
- The Wolfgang is an evolution of Eddie’s original Music Man signature guitar. While a departure from the normal Strat design, I think they could still be considered Superstrats. Several ranges available in HH configuration with Floyd Rose.
- The 5150 is based upon the Kramer models that Eddie used for some time, with a “hockey stick” headstock and slightly modified Strat body – not the most beautiful guitar in my opinion. HH and Floyd Rose only.
- The Striped Series is based upon Eddie’s Frankenstrat. Traditional Strat body and headstock, Floyd Rose, bridge humbucker only.
This Japanese brand is probably the biggest manufacturer of Superstrats today, with a huge range from the entry-level GIO models to high-end Japanese guitars. Here’s an overview:
- AZ is the most traditional range, with HH, HSH, and HSS models – all with non-locking vibrato. The necks are a bit thicker than usual for Ibanez.
- RG is the best-known range, with a sleeker Strat-style body. Available in many different versions, including hardtails.
- The RGA is similar to the RG, but with a carved top.
- The S has a more rounded body and is a bit reminiscent of the PRS style.
- JS is the Joe Satriani signature model with very rounded edges
- JEM is the Steve Vai signature model, famous for its “monkey grip”
Another well-known Japanese brand with a tradition of guitars used in Heavy Metal. LTD is their entry-level brand – but this is relative, as there are high-priced LTD models, too. Most models derive their shape from a classic electric guitar model, such as the Stratocaster, Les Paul, or Flying V. Here are LTD’s Superstrat offerings:
- H Series: Carved top, HH, mostly hardtail but Floyd Rose available, too.
- H3 Series: Carved top, elongated upper horn. Mostly strings-through-body, but Floyd Rose available, too.
- M Series: Flat top, reverse headstock, single or dual humbuckers.
- MH Series: Carved top, HH and HSS,
- SN Series: More traditional Strat body with pickguard. HH and HSS models, hardtail and Floyd Rose.
The ESP Original and US ranges have similar models, with slightly different names for the Originals:
- Horizon: similar to H Series
- Horizon III: Similar to H3 Series
- Mystique: Body style similar to H3, but more PRS-like in appearance.
- Snapper: Similar to SN. HSS and non-locking vibrato only.
Another brand associated mostly with Metal, and hence a large variety of suitable guitars. Here are the Strat-like offerings:
- Banshee: Neck-through-body, reverse headstock, HH. Available as hard tail, Evertune bridge, or with Floyd Rose. 7 string models available, too.
- C-6: Entry-level HH model, either strings-through-body/TOM or Floyd Rose.
- Damien: Similar body style to the C-6, but available in satin black only.
- Hellraiser; Carved quilted maple top, EMGs. Once again either strings-through-body/TOM or Floyd Rose. Available with 6, 7, 8 or even 9 strings.
- Reaper: Kiesel-stye figured top, reverse headstock, HH.
- Silver Mountain: Another carved-top HH model, FR models have a Sustainiac.
- SLS: Carved top, mostly with striped Maple top, Fishman Fluence pickups.
- Sun Valley Super Shredder: ’80s-style Super Strat with Floyd Rose, more traditional Strat-like body and pickguard. Available with and without Sustainiac, the former has the more interesting colors available. Exotic woods available, too.
Although a blend of Fender and Gibson elements, many PRS models feature dual humbuckers, two cutaways, and a vibrato, and could be considered Superstrats – especially the Custom 22 and Custom 24 models, which are available at various price points:
- The entry-level SE range has Custom 22, Custom 24, and Standard models. The Custom 24 is also available with Floyd Rose.
- S2 is the range above that, and has the Custom 24 model as well.
- CE is the bolt-on range, which has the CE 24 model, including a Floyd Rose version
- Core is the “original” US-made set-neck range. There are several Custom 24 variations, including one with Floyd Rose.
Music Man is a smaller company that has nevertheless made a name for itself, including being the brand of choice for several high-profile guitarists. The US-made models are not cheap. Those by the Sterling sub-brand are more affordable.
- The JP (John Petrucci) range has several dual-humbucker models.
- The Luke (Steve Lukather) range has HSS and HH models.
- The Sabre is a relatively recent model with a more traditional Strat-style body, available as HH model.
- The Axis is essentially the former Eddie van Halen model. Available with Floyd Rose and non-locking tremolo.
- The Silhouette has a Strat-like body, although with steeper edges, and is available as HSH and HSS model.
I’ve focused on the bigger brands with larger ranges. There are many more out there, including those that are more on the upper end of the spectrum and do mostly custom work, like Kiesel, Mayones, and others.