Best Stratocaster Alternative (our top pick)
PRS SE Silver Sky
When John Mayer "broke up" with Fender, he partnered with PRS to make a type of Stratocaster copy, but with a distinct PRS flavor. This guitar has turned out to be a really nice addition to the PRS lineup, and one of the few single coil guitars they offer. The SE is a lot more affordable than the core model, but both make great Fender Stratocaster alternatives.
There are a couple different roads you might be wanting to take with a Stratocaster alternative. First, you could be looking for a Stratocaster copy or something with a similar three single coil (SSS) pickup arrangement, like the PRS Silver Sky I highlighted above.
The alternative is a more dramatic shift to a guitar with dual humbuckers (HH) that still leans towards a bluesy, classic rock style.
- Stratocaster copy
- Bluesy dual humbucker
Note that we're not listing the Telecaster here, because we're assuming you've considered that already and are wanting one of the two options listed above. We'll expand more on the Telecaster below.
To get started, here's our comparison table with our top recommendations. Note we've included the Fender American Performer Stratocaster, though you can swap that out for other versions of the Stratocaster if you prefer.
Compare Additional Stratocaster Alternatives
Click on the compare buttons to see Stratocaster alternatives next to the Fender American Strat. You can add more Strats, or other electric guitars, using the search tool below the table.
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Fender American Stratocaster
PRS SE Silver Sky
Gibson SG Special
Fender Vintera '60s Jaguar
Compare more electric Guitars
If you want to compare some more electric guitars or a different type of Fender Stratocaster, you can search our database here and add products to the compare bar at the bottom of this page.
We write about brands that we know and trust. We also focus specifically on gear that we've tested ourselves, or that we can verify with someone who has.
This means we avoid recommending products that we have little or not experience with and do not summarize other reviews from third parties. We also never use AI to write our content.
That said, we have decades of experience and familiarity with the most trusted musical instrument brands in the industry. We've even collaborated with manufacturers like PRS, Walrus Audio, Seymour Duncan, and many more.
If you have questions about our methodology or how we make our recommendations, please reach out via our contact page, or get in touch using the comments section below.
Quick note about Squier Strats
Squier Stratocasters make good alternatives to Fender Strats, but are still Stratocasters and not really a copy or an alternative in the strictest sense of the word.
If you're looking for a price reduction, Squier is probably the way to go, but we're filing this under the same category as the Telecaster.
It's probably an option you know of, and not likely to be something you're looking for right now.
What about Telecasters?
As I've mentioned, the Telecaster is perhaps an obvious Strat alternative.
And most of the Fender Strat models are mirrored in the Telecaster lineup. For example, there's a Player Strat and Player Tele, alongside an American Strat and American Tele.
But again, we're assuming this is something you thought of and that you're likely trying to get outside of the Fender brand.
If not, the Telecaster is certainly a viable option. It's more country and twangy than the Stratocaster, but can still handle a lot of the same styles.
Single coils VS humbuckers
Stratocasters are one of the few guitars that employ an all-single coil pickup arrangement, with three total, at the bridge, middle, and neck positions. It's sort of like having a three-band EQ directly on your guitar.
However, there are major tone distinctions between this and the dual humbucker arrangement.
Single coils are brighter and more suited for lead guitar, while also being a little more prone to noise. They're most comfortable in a blues or light rock genre.
Humbuckers are much heavier and warmer.
They were also originally designed to mitigate the noise issues with single coil pickups, which they do quite effectively. Though keep in mind, current single coil pickups have gotten a lot better at reducing noise, particularly the Fender Noiseless pickup series.
Read more: Best Noiseless Stratocaster pickup sets
The PRS Silver Sky style
Most of the differences between the PRS Silver Sky and Fender Stratocaster are hardware-related.
Well, it's pretty hard to differentiate.
Since Mayer designed the Silver Sky to be similar to what he was used to playing with Fender, it's extremely similar in tone. However, the Silver Sky has a little more warmth and percussive chunk, which is consistent with the PRS style.
But again, it's a nuanced distinction. From a style standpoint, you're getting a very Strat-esque guitar in the Silver Sky.
Read more: Fender Strat VS Silver Sky
SE VS Core Silver Sky
The SE Silver Sky has a poplar body while the Core model is alder. Both have a maple, bolt-on neck.
Within the PRS brand, it's often difficult to pin down the quality difference between their pickups. That's definitely the case with the Silver Sky models.
- SE Version: 635JM "S" Single-coil
- Core Version: 635JM Single-coil
Also, the tuners on the SE are non-locking while the tuners on the Core models are locking.
- SE tuners: Non-locking
- Core tuners: Locking
The bridge hardware in the SE version is a two-piece steel tremolo, while the Core model bridge is a one piece steel tremolo.
- SE bridge: Two-piece steel tremolo
- Core bridge: One-piece steel tremolo
With a price difference that is this significant, you're absolutely going to see cost-cutting measures. That said, the PRS SE line is still a fantastic series of guitars, and one of our favorite lines to recommend as a more affordable alternative.
Conclusion and Questions
There are a lot of good Stratocaster alternatives out there, but we think the Silver Sky is your best bet, along with some of the others we recommended in the comparison table above.
If you have questions about these guitars, or our methodology, please feel free to reach out via the comments section below.
We'll see you there.
Written by Bobby Kittleberger on Electrics & Roundups
Written by GC Editorial on Electrics & Roundups
Stuart McCloud says
I always felt that the Squire strats were a good alternative to the Fender Strat. well made and good value for money.