Superstrats are an evolution of the famous Fender Stratocaster. But how exactly are they different? In this post I’ll go through all the key differences between Stratocasters and Superstrats. So let’s get started!
What is a Superstrat?
Superstrats have classic Fender Stratocaster shape but are more suited to heavier genres like metal and hard rock. Superstrats have a humbucker and two single coils instead of 3 single coils, a thinner neck and Floyd rose bridge. Superstrats also often come in very bold colour choices.
Superstrat vs Strat
- The three single coil pickup configuration of the Strat is replaced with a humbucker and single coil combination (usually a H-S-S or S-H-S) on the Superstrat.
- A Standard Fender Tremolo system is replaced with a Floyd Rose Bridge.
- The neck is thinner and faster and sometimes has a through-neck construction to make it more resonant.
- The usual Alder or Ash body of the Strat is replaced with either heavier woods, or lighter woods like basswood.
- You’ll also notice that the styling is more experimental on the Superstrat. You’ll usually see a more pointy shape and bolder colours
One of the biggest differences between a Strat and a Superstrat, is the pickup configuration and type.
The Superstrat is intended to make up for the shortcomings of the Strat and allow it to play more heavier genres like hard rock and metal. The standard Stratocaster is fitted with three single coils. This gives it a bright and twangy sound.
The main issue with single coils is the humming you get when you crank up the gain. This means it’s not often the guitar of choice if you play heavier styles of music.
That’s why the Superstrat has the addition of a humbucker pickup. Humbuckers don’t get the humming issue, hence the name, and they offer a darker, warmer and thicker tone than a single coil. Check out this post on the main pickup types and their differences to learn more about this topic.
Usually the humbucker is placed in either the bridge or middle position in a three pickup configuration. With the humbucker in the bridge position, it’ll be at it’s brightest so you can use it to cut through the mix, which is particularly helpful with lead guitar parts. Having the humbucker in the center gives the guitar more versatility. Check out our ultimate guide to pickup configurations to learn more.
Another big difference between the Strat and Superstrat, is in the bridge. Both guitars use a floating bridge, meaning you get the added benefit of a tremolo arm to add this vibrato effect. Take a look at our post on fixed vs. floating bridges to find out more about this type of bridge.
Standard Stratocasters use the original Fender Tremolo bridge. This is a single-locking system in which the strings are locked on the bridge.
The Superstrat on the other hand, utilises the Floyd-Rose bridge. This is an adaptation of the Fender Tremolo and is instead, a double locking system. This means it locks the strings at both the bridge, and the nut. The result, is better tuning stability.
The next big difference between the Strat and Superstrat, is in the neck. Strats are well known for having a C-shaped neck profile. It’s not too thick or thin, and comfortable for the majority of players. But it’s not the fastest.
The Superstrat has a thinner neck profile allowing you to play more quickly. This is particularly helpful in metal music, which is what the Superstrat is generally geared towards.
The neck construction is also different, however, this varies greatly between models. Generally, Strats have a bolt-on neck. However, Superstrats utilise other constructions more often.
It’s not uncommon for the Superstrat to have a through-neck design, which is known to increase the resonance and depth of tone of the guitar. If you want to know more about the differences between the major neck constructions then check out this post on bolt-on vs. set-neck vs. through-neck constructions.
This is less of a significant difference between the two types of guitar, but generally they each tend to use a different type of body wood.
Fender Stratocasters classically use Alder or Ash body woods. Alder bodies produce a balanced sound and Ash comes in two for: soft and hard.
Superstrats usually use different types of body wood. Basswood is a popular option because it’s so lightweight. However, sometimes heavier woods are used like Zebrawood to create an even darker and beefier tone.
Take a look at this more detailed post on how tonewoods affect the sound of an electric guitar.
Finally, there are some key differences in the look of a Strat compared to a Superstrat. Although of course, the Superstrat is very similar in shape to the classic Strat.
Generally, Superstrats are a bit more pointy and harsh looking than Strats which have more rounded edges. Also, the classic Strat tends to use more subtle and classic colours and a white or black pickguard. Superstrats on the other hand, sometimes use more adventurous colours and normally drop the pickguard.
The Best Superstrats
Now we’ve been through the Superstrat and it’s key features, you’re probably wondering who makes them, and which is the best model. Here’s a quick rundown of the most iconic Superstrat brands and models.
Ibanez is a huge manufacturer of Superstrats that are geared towards heavier styles of music, but also offer a lot of versatility. They have an extensive range that caters for all price points too.
The RG series features a mahogany body and H-S-H pickup configuration. The RG1070FM is a great option if you’ve got $1000 to spend, but if you want something cheaper, then check out the RG470. The S series is also another popular option.
The Ibanez JEM has a rich history and is identified with the legend Stevie Vai. You’ll get a mahogany body, tree of life fretboard inlays and H-S-H pickup configuration. The JEMJR is priced at around $500 and the Signature Standard JEM7VP is priced at around $1800.
Jackson are experts at producing guitars geared towards the metal enthusiast. The Jackson Soloist series is hugely popular with those seeking the ultimate Superstrat guitar. The Pro Series Soloist SL3Q has a mahogany body and neck-through construction. You’ll get a H-S-S configuration offering you a lot of power in the bridge position.
The EVH Striped electric guitar is a really iconic Superstrat that’s based on the original artwork of Eddie Van Halen’s signature model. The pickup configuration is less traditional and gives you a single humbucker in the bridge position. You do get a basswood strat-style body though, the floyd rose bridge and fast neck.
So there you go! That’s everything you need to know about Superstrats! I hope you’ve found this article helpful, thanks for reading. Here are some other posts you might find useful: