Fender American Performer vs Player Series Electric Guitars


If you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, then the Fender American Performer and Player series are the best to look at if you want a true Fender electric guitar. But is the American Performer worth the extra money compared to the Player series version?

In this article I’ll compare the differences between Fender Player and American Performer Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmaster and Mustangs so you can figure out which is the best guitar for you.

Contents:

  • The Key Differences
  • The Similarities
  • What about Player Plus Models?
  • Comparing Specific Models
    • Stratocaster
    • Telecaster
    • Jazzmaster
    • Mustang

The Key Differences

Fender American Performer and Player series guitars have different pickups, bridges, tuning machines and fret sizes. Fender Player series guitars are made in Mexico unlike the American Performer models. Guitars in both series have the same neck shape, wood type, fret number, scale length and strings.

Here is a table comparing the key features of Fender Player and American Performer guitars.

FeatureFender PlayerFender American Performer
Manufactured InMexicoUSA
PickupsFender Player AlnicoYosemite
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender ClassicGear
HeadstockStandardOversized ‘70s Style
Truss Rod Nut3/16” Hex Adjustment1/8” American Series
Left-Handed VersionsYesNo
Gig Bag IncludedNoYes
Average Price (USA)$850-980$1400-$1500
Average Price (UK)£560-£850£1250-£1350
Fender Player vs American Performer series

Some Fender Player models are available in left and right-handed versions, whereas Fender American Performer guitars are only available in right-handed versions. Here is a table highlighting which shapes and pickup configurations are available in each series.

ModelFender PlayerFender American Performer
Stratocaster (SSS)Right and Left-HandRight-Hand Only
Stratocaster (HSS)Right-Hand OnlyRight-Hand Only
Telecaster (SS)Right and Left-HandRight-Hand Only
Telecaster (SH)Not AvailableRight-Hand Only
Telecaster (HH)Right-Hand OnlyNot Available
JazzmasterRight-Hand OnlyRight-Hand Only
MustangRight-Hand OnlyRight-Hand Only
JaguarRight-Hand OnlyNot Available
Guitar shapes available in the Fender Player and American Performer series

The Similarities

Although there are several differences between the models, there are some features which stay the same throughout the range when looking at Fender Player and American Performer guitars. All Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster and Mustang models from both series share the following features:

  • Alder bodies and maple necks
  • Satin neck finishes
  • C-shape necks
  • Scale length, fingerboard radius, nut width and fret number
  • Synthetic bone nuts
  • Dot inlays
  • Fender USA 9-gauge strings
  • Chrome/ nickel hardware finish
  • Standard neck heel (not sculpted)

What About Player Plus Models?

Fender make two main variants of the Player series models:

  • Player Plus
  • Plus Top

Plus Top models have the same features as the standard Player series models, the difference between the two is cosmetic. Player Plus Top guitars have a more premium maple cap unlike the regular Player guitars which just have an alder body. This makes the Player Plus Top models approximately $50-$100 more expensive, or £50-£75 in the UK.

Player Plus series guitars have several upgraded features compared to the standard Player series guitars. These include noiseless pickups, extra switching, a wider nut, rolled fingerboard edges, locking tunes and a gig-bag incuded.

If you want to learn more about the Player Plus series, check out my article comparing Fender Player and Player Plus guitars.

Comparing Specific Models

In addition to their being some key differences and similarities between the two series which can be observed across all the different shapes, there are also a few mode specific differences such as the bridge type, pickup configurations, switching options and color choices.

Let’s now compare each model individually in the following order:

  • Stratocaster
  • Telecaster
  • Jazzmaster
  • Mustang

Stratocaster Models

The Fender American Performer Stratocaster has upgraded tuners, a vintage-style 6-point tremolo, oversized ’70s style headstock, jumbo frets and Yosemite pickups whereas the Fender Player Stratocaster has a 2-point tremolo, standard headstock, medium jumbo frets and Player series alnico pickups.

Check out my comparison between 2-point and 6-point tremolo systems to learn more about this topic.

The Fender American Performer has Yosemite pickups which sound fuller but also slightly clearer in comparison to the alnico V pickups in the Player series model.

The Fender American Performer Strat has a push-pull tone pot unlike the Player version. On the SSS version, this allows you to activate either the bridge and neck pickup together (without the middle) or all three pickups at the same time. On the HSS version, it coil splits the humbucker pickup. You also get these switching options on Player Plus versions but not on regular Player series models.

Check out this YouTube video to hear both guitars in action.

Check out this table highlighting all the key differences between the Fender Player and American Performer Stratocaster models.

FeaturePlayer StratocasterAmerican Performer Stratocaster
FretboardMaple/ Pau FerroMaple/ Rosewood
Body FinishGlossSatin/ Gloss
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
Truss Rod Nut3/16” Hex Adjustment1/8” American Series
PickupsPlayer Series Alnico VYosemite
Push/ Pull Tone PotNoYes
Bridge2-Point Tremolo6-Point Tremolo
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender ClassicGear
HeadstockStandardOversized ‘70s
Gigbag IncludedNoYes
Made InMexicoUSA
Color OptionsBlack
Polar White
Sunburst
Buttercream
Tidepool
Capri Orange Silver
Honey Burst (SSS)
Arctic White (SSS)
Lake Placid Blue (SSS)
3 Color Sunburst (HSS)
Black (HSS)
Aubergine (HSS)
Surf Green (HSS)
Fender Player vs American Performer Stratocaster models

Telecaster Models

The Fender American Performer Telecaster is available with either SS or SH pickup configurations, whilst the Fender Player Telecaster comes with either an SS or HH pickup configuration. The Player series Tele has a 6-saddle bridge which makes intonating the guitar more accurate compared to the 3-saddle bridge on the American Performer.

Check out my article comparing the 3-saddle and 6-saddle Telecaster bridge to learn about the pros and cons of each design.

The Fender Player series Telecaster has alnico V pickups which has more upper-mids and treble than the Yosemite pickups in the Fender American Performer Tele. The American Performer sounds a bit fuller but not quite as “glassy” compared to the Player series version.

On the SH version of the American Performer, you get a push-pull tone pot which allows you to coil-split the humbucker. There isn’t a coil-split function on the regular Player Telecaster, but there is on the Player Plus version.

Take a look at this YouTube video comparing the tones of the Fender American Performer and Player Tele.

Check out this table highlighting all the key differences between the Fender Player and American Performer Telecaster models.

FeaturePlayer TelecasterAmerican Performer Telecaster
Pickup ConfigurationsSS/ HHSS/ SH
FretboardMaple/ Pau FerroMaple/ Rosewood
Body FinishGlossSatin/ Gloss
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
Truss Rod Nut3/16” Hex Adjustment1/8” American Series
PickupsPlayer Series Alnico VYosemite
Push/ Pull Tone PotNoOnly on SH model
Bridge6-Saddle String-Through3-Saddle String-Through
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender ClassicGear
HeadstockStandardOversized ‘70s
Gigbag IncludedNoYes
Made InMexicoUSA
Color OptionsButterscotch Blonde
Black
Tidepool
Polar White
Capri Orange Sunburst
Honeyburst (SS)
Sonic Blue (SS)
Vintage White (SS/ SH)
3-Color Sunburst (SH)
Surf Green (SH)
Aubergine (SH)  
Fender Player vs American Performer Telecaster models

Jazzmaster Models

The Fender American Performer and Player Jazzmaster models are quite different. The Player series version has two humbucker pickups giving it a warmer and fuller tone compared to the two single coil pickups on the American Performer Jazzmaster which sound brighter but thinner.

Neither guitar has the rhythm/ lead circuit which is commonly seen on other versions of the Jazzmaster. However, the Player series Jazzmaster does have a push-pull tone pot allows you to split the humbuckers to achieve single-coil type tones, making it a bit more versatile than the American Performer version.

The Player series Jazzmaster has the iconic floating tail piece tremolo system, whereas the American Performer Jazzmaster has a synchronised tremolo, similar to what you’d see on a Strat which is better at staying in tune.

Check out this table highlighting all the key differences between the Fender Player and American Performer Jazzmaster models.

FeaturePlayer JazzmasterAmerican Performer Jazzmaster
Pickup ConfigurationHHSS
FretboardPau FerroRosewood
Body FinishGlossSatin/ Gloss
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
Truss Rod Nut3/16” Hex Adjustment1/8” American Series
PickupsPlayer Series Alnico IIYosemite
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNo
Bridge6-Saddle Vintage-Style w/ Floating Tail Piece6-Saddle Vintage-Style w/ Synchronised Tremolo
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender ClassicGear
Pickguard3-Ply4-Ply
HeadstockStandardOversized ‘70s
Gigbag IncludedNoYes
Made InMexicoUSA
Color OptionsButtercream
Polar White
Capri Orange
3-Color Sunburst
Lake Placid Blue
Vintage White
3-Color Sunburst
Fender Player vs American Performer Jazzmaster models

Mustang Models

The tones of the Player and American Performer Mustang are considerably different due to the pickup configurations. The Player Mustang has two P90 pickups which sound warmer and fuller than the two single coils seen in the American Performer Mustang.

The Player series Mustang is the only model which does not have a modern C neck and instead has a slightly thicker standard C-shape neck. The American Performer Mustang has the slimmer modern C-shape neck seen on most other models.

The other main difference is that the Player Mustang has a hardtail bridge whereas the American Performer has a tremolo bridge.

Check out this table highlighting all the key differences between the Fender Player and American Performer Mustang models.

FeaturePlayer MustangAmerican Performer Mustang
Pickup ConfigurationP90 P90SS
FretboardPau FerroRosewood
Body FinishGlossSatin/ Gloss
Neck ShapeC-ShapeModern-C
Fret SizeMedium JumboJumbo
PickupsMustang MP-90Yosemite
Push/ Pull Tone PotYesNo
Bridge6-Saddle String-Through Hardtail6-Saddle Vintage-Style w/ Synchronised Tremolo
Tuning MachinesStandard CastFender Classic Gear
Pickguard3-Ply4-Ply
Gigbag IncludedNoYes
Made InMexicoUSA
Color OptionsBurgundy Mist Metallic
Seafoam Green
Aged Natural
Sonic Blue
Vintage White
3-Color Sunburst
Fender Player vs American Performer Mustang models

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Heather

Hey, I'm Heather. I started playing an electric guitar when I was given a Squier Strat for my birthday around 15 years ago. I now own an acoustic guitar and several electric guitars including my personal favourite, a PRS SE Custom 24.

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