Squier Guitar Ultimate Buying Guide

When I first learned about the Squier name and the brand's affiliation with Fender I originally assumed that Fender had simply come up with a new brand name and called it a day. Little did I know the long history associated with the Squier name.

For those new to guitar, it is worth giving a quick overview of Fender and Squier guitars. Fender has been producing high end guitars since the 1940s. They are one of the premier guitar brands on the market. Some of their models are highly copied such as the Stratocaster and Telecaster, which are also produced under the Squier name.

While there is a strong appeal to owning a Fender not everyone can afford the price. The solution was a no brainer. In 1982 Fender began offering a budget friendly guitar called Squier. The Squier name offers the classic designs of Fender but with entry-level pricing.

History of the Squier Brand

When Leo Fender was producing electric guitars it goes without saying that he needed to add a set of electric guitar strings. Not specializing in guitar strings, the California guitar maker made a deal with Squier in the 1950s to provide them with strings for their electric guitars. The Squier brand at that time was known for their handmade guitar strings. In the 1960’s Squier was acquired by Fender and the company sold strings under this name until 1972.

After Mr. Fender sold his brand to CBS the company slowly started to decline. Sales were dwindling by the end of the 1970s and quality control issues hurt the perception of the Fender line-up. Just as crippling was the number of cheap Japanese copies that were cutting into sales.

To combat cheap overseas Japanese copies Fender decided to make a bold move. They decided to compete with themself by using the Squier name to sell budget friendly guitars while keeping Fender to sell their higher end guitars. The new Squier models would be offered as student edition guitars called the Bullet series, and some lower costing, yet identical looking guitars that looked like standard Fender models.

Below is an approximate timeline of the Squier brand and guitar line.

Squier Timeline

1890 Victor Carroll Squier creates Squier in Battle Creek, Michigan

1950's Squire began supplying Fender with strings

1963 official original equipment manufacturer for Fender

1965 Squier is acquired by Fender

1965 Fender purchased by CBS

1972 Squier strings now sold under Fender name

1982 Squier name reactivated to sell affordable line of Fender guitars

1982-1987 Squier models made in Japan

1985 Schultz and a small group of investors purchase Fender

1987 to 1998 - Korea factory producing Squier guitars

1989 - 1990 Squier produces guitars in Corona, USA Fender factory

1989 - 1990 Some Squier IIs were made in India

1990 - 2002 - Made in Mexico

1995 - China factory producing Squier guitars

1997 - Indonesia factory producing Squier guitars

1995-2008 Crafted in Japan

1999 to 2007 Korea Factory producing guitars

2007 - Made in Japan

Squier Model Buying Guide

Whenever I look at the Squier range I am usually reminded just how impressive their offerings are. While this is a brand that was created for the novices, there are some that look to be designed for experienced players as well. 

Below you will find the company's offerings, with detailed key features for each. This section will help you determine which model might be best for you.

Bullet Series

The Bullet series by Squier is the starting point for many guitar players. This is the brands entry level beginner model. The model is based on Fender’s iconic design. Just about any guitar store on the planet will likely have a Squier Bullet series somewhere in their store. 

The Bullet series includes models such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, and Mustang. For the price you likely won’t find another guitar with such incredible value and craftsmanship.

The sure variety of colors, body styles, and playability makes this series easy for a novice to select an electric guitar that will fit their style. For example, a Telecaster known for its spanky sound and is well suited for a player who is interested in country music or indie rock. The Mustang uses dual humbuckers that produce a thick-sound that is better for heavy rock music. And the Stratocaster is the most versatile choice that can be used for just about anything from rock to funk.

Affinity Series

Considered to be the flagship series, the Affinity range is built for beginners but considered a step up from the standard Bullet models.  The Affinity range uses better tonewoods, electronics, and hardware.

This series offers a number of body types such as the Stratocaster, Telecaster, Jazzmaster, and the Starcaster.  In addition to guitars the Affinity flagship also includes the Jazz Bass and P-Bass models as well.

Classic Vibe Series

For the player that resonates with vintage guitars might appreciate the Classic Vibe series, which has models based on the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s.  This is a popular option within the catalog and rightly so when comparing these prices to similar options.

Originally launched in 2012, this series might be viewed as a bargain for guitar players. Price isn’t the only upside here.  Nostalgia, vintage-voiced pickups, period-correct necks, and authentic sound are all just a few of the upsides to this lineup.  The Classic Vibe series offers one of the most diverse collections by the Squier brand.  The bulk of the lineup are Strat and Teles but don’t think that there aren't a number of rarities. Examples range from semi-hollow Starcasters, modded Mustangs, Thinlines, and exotic Esquires.  In addition to the Jazz and P-Bass, you can also discover the 1950’s Telecaster basses as well as a Bass VI.

Key Features:

Body: Alder Body

Neck: "C" Shape Neck

Fretboard: 25.5 inch scale with 21 frets

Pickups: Vintage Style Pick-ups

Paranormal Series

The Paranormal series by Squier offers a number of cool features that you might not find in other affordable instruments lines. This specific collection includes some oddities and old favorites from past Fender lineups. If you’re looking for a good balance between modern and retro colors, with a look that will stand out, this may be just right up your alley.

Key Features:

Pickups: Alnico pickups

Neck: “C” Shaped neck

Fretboard: 24.75” scale length (similar to Gibson)

Contemporary Series

The Contemporary series was first revealed in 2018 at NAMM as an exciting new offering from the brand. Offering a selection of uber modern guitar and bass models, this offering takes the classic fender design and adds a number of state of the art additions.

These guitars are a good choice for intermediate players, but professionals will likely appreciate their impressive feature set as well. These instruments are especially good for players who are playing heavy genres such as metal.  The active humbuckers are good for high gain amplifiers and the "C" shaped neck offers a comfortable feel.

Key Features:

Body styles: Jazzmasters, semi-hollow Starcasters, Stratocasters, Telecasters, and Jazz Basses

Pickups: ceramic active pickups

Neck: slim “C”-shaped

Overall this model may work well for modern genres and all in a comfortable setup.

Artist Series

Like other brands Squier offers a signature model for high-profile customers called the Artist Series.  While most of the artist endorsed might use Fender there are still Squier signature instruments that are affordable versions of their guitar hero’s axe.

The Artist Series are created in collaboration with signature musicians. Some of these might be modified versions of current models.  They can include custom neck shapes, finishes, hardware, and pickups.

A popular model within this line-up includes the Jim Root Telecaster.  This guitar is a signature model from the guitar player of Slipknot.  Blackout pickup covers, high-output and C shaped neck are all appreciated for this guitar.  For alternative players they might look to the J Mascis Jazzmaster from Dinosaur Jr.

The FSR Series is where the brand creates their limited edition guitars. Like the FSR models by Fender, the Squier FSR are usually based on current models in respective catalogues.  Collectors might desire some of the uncommon features such as unique pickup configurations, finishes, and short production runs.

References:

https://www.squierwiki.com/Serial-Number-Tracking

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Squier

https://www.fender.com/en-US/squier-electric-guitars/

Additional Reading

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