Review: USB Fender Squier Strat

A long-time Mac user, Mark has been writing about technology in some form for over ten years. Recently returning to the guitar after a lengthy absence, he feels he is personally responsible for guitar shops in his area posting record quarters this year. Mark enjoys Fenders, Gibsons, and the distance between his house and the neighbors. His rarely-updated personal site is and you can follow him on twitter at

My main Strat is a 30-year-old American model, but I don’t like to gig with it. It’s kept nice and safe at home. I’ve been looking for a gigging Strat for a while now and had decided to get a cheap Squier and trick it out. I’d create a sleeper guitar — one that looked cheap but had decent hardware.

With the new Fender USB Squier guitar1 I may have found that Strat. As an added bonus, I can plug it directly into my Mac or iOS devices.

Most of the recording I do these days is through a direct interface like the Apogee Jam so I’m thrilled this guitar has a micro-USB output. The Squire shows up as a USB Guitar in GarageBand’s Audio Inputs section in the app’s preferences, so there is no extra configuration needed — just plug it in and go.

For $200, you get a decent guitar. I was expecting I’d be replacing most of the hardware, but it doesn’t look like that will be necessary. Made in Indonesia, the tuners and bridge on this Strat are decent at least. The neck is nice and thin, and is very close to the neck on my American Strat. The biggest complaint I have is that the fret edges are very rough and need a good going-over with a fret file. That’s an easily correctible problem. I haven’t given it a proper setup, but out of the box the action was fine.

I’m not sure what wood it is made out of, but it’s by far the lightest guitar I own. It’s much lighter than my basswood Ibanez RG 570 guitar, even accounting for the difference in thickness (and obviously, it’s far lighter than my American Strat). As a result, even with the humbucking pickup it’s a tad on the bright side, even for a Strat.

I was pleasantly surprised to find the humbucker is actually a hot little pickup. I was getting some good pinch harmonics out of it, which requires some gain and cooperation from the guitar’s pickups.

At some point, I’ll probably put in some Fender Fat 50s and a Seymour Duncan Pearly Gates pickup, but that’s more for my love of those pickups and compensating a little bit for the ultra light body.

The logo is reminiscent of the old Fender spaghetti logo, which I love.

I wasn’t sure how the guitar would sound when I used the digital outputs. I’m happy to report there is no noticeable latency and I detected no tonal differences when I used the micro-USB port on the guitar. As a control test, I also used my Apogee Jam and it sounded the same through that interface.

You can also plug it directly into your iOS device with the included micro-USB to 30-pin cable. I tested it out via AmpliTube Slash on my iPad and again, I experienced no latency issues.

The included cable is a 30-pin plug, so you’ll need one of the Lighting adapters for it to work on the newer iOS devices. Obviously, if you’re using the direct connection ports you cannot use your stomp boxes, so if a lot of your sound comes from your pedals, you’re out of luck.

Using my iPhone as an amp reminds me of when I’d throw a Rockman X100 into my gig bag so I could practice at school. With the Squier Strat, I can now do that with one cable, instead of an analog cable and an Apogee Jam.

Even through my live rig, it sounded great. This guitar is a lot of fun to play. It does not feel like a cheap guitar at all (other than the frets requiring a dressing and lighter body). Most importantly, it sounds like a Strat.

  1. The Fender USB Strat is sold exclusively through the Apple Store