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1979 Fender Antigua Stratocaster Review

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1979 Fender Antigua Stratocaster Review

I’ve always loved the sound of a Fender Stratocaster. Years before I even started to learn to play the guitar, most of the artists and bands I listened to just so happened to play a Strat (not that I realised at the time). In fact one of my earliest memories is opening a present on my 5th or 6th birthday to receive my first album, Cliff Richard’s “Rock ‘n’ Roll Juvenile”. Seeing Cliff posing with a Strat-style guitar on the front cover made me think he was the coolest person in the world! Maybe I shouldn’t admit that but who cares, we all have a “first album” story and my guess is yours is as equally cringe worthy!

I’ve been fortunate to own a couple of Stratocasters over the past few years. When I first started to play the guitar I purchased a really nice Mexican sunburst Fender Stratocaster, then upgraded to a USA Standard but sold that to finance a car when my kids were born.

Features:

OK, let’s get one thing out of the way – the Antigua paint job. A bit like Marmite I guess, where you either love it or hate it. I have to confess that around a year ago, due to the lack of interest in sales at my local guitar store, they had the guitar professionally re-sprayed to an “all black” ’79 Fender paint finish. I can already hear Strat purists wincing at this but I’m a sucker for an all black Strat and if (a big IF) the guitar is still playable over the next few decades I should see some natural Antigua begin to fade through the black which could look quite interesting.

The rest of the guitar is typical of a late 70’s Fender; large headstock, hard-tail bridge, 3-screw bolt on maple neck, maple fret board (with nice signs of wear), 5-way pickup selector.

Ease of use:

The action is good, currently set up with a set of 10’s (I would prefer 11’s but I’m a bit reluctant to change at the moment). It’s a very easy & comfortable guitar to play.

Sound quality:

This is where this guitar shines and the reason why I purchased it. All the pickups sound good but it’s the tone from the bridge pickup and the “in-between” pickup option of the neck/middle that really sold me this guitar. The “quack” position is AWESOME! The best I’ve heard on a Strat in ages and “quackier” than the USA Standard I previously owned.

Using the Low Dynamic Range setting on my Marshall Vintage/Modern I can get a good clean/edge of break up tone and it really makes you want to dig into chords and get the Hendrix/RHCP vibe going on. The Vintage/Modern (with the Celestion Greenbacks) has proven to be a great combination with this guitar.

The bridge pickup isn’t wired to the tone control so I have limited influence over the EQ. Regardless of this – and this may sound a bit weird – but when I’m playing using the bridge pickup it really sounds like the “Strat tone in my head” which my old USA Standard never really achieved.

This guitar is reasonable with heavy overdrive but I’ve found with this model, the cleaner the drive the better. Maybe the ’79 pickups are slightly weaker than modern equivalents.

Reliability:

So far so good, the guitar seems to be in really good condition. I’m not aware of the history of the instrument but as far as I can tell it looks good (especially the neck), the guitar feels good and everything looks fine under the scratch plate.

Overall rating:

I like this guitar for a number of reasons but it’s the tone available from the bridge and the neck/middle positions that really sold it to me.

Do I miss the fact the guitar isn’t displaying its original Antigua colour? Well sometimes, if I’m honest. That’s if I’m thinking financially for the long-term investment aspect of owning an old Fender and due to the re-spray, this model will be worth far less money in direct comparison to an un-touched ’79 Antigua model.

But forgetting about the long-term financial benefits, it’s always nice to own a Strat and this time it’s a model that looks and sounds “like the Strat in my head”. Does that sound weird?

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About the author:

Sam is passionate about talking all things guitar related and started GuitarJar.co.uk to help encourage all guitarists in their guitar playing journey.

2 Comments

  • i own one too!
    there are some messed up marks on it, and i dont have the original bridge pickup.
    the fretboard is dark wood (jacaranda) – may be a replace neck?
    all the Antiquas i see have maple necks

  • I was 17 years old when I ordered mine in the spring of 79 after seeing and playing one in Shearers of Leeds (England) and fell in love with the colour. I had to wait until September before it arrived from USA having worked through the summer break in a factory (and missing Zeppelin at Knebworth in the process!) to pay for it – £820 (including case).

    Played it and gigged it heavily over the next 10 years or so until other priorities took over my life. Have continued to play it occasionally and it now is in pride of place in my music room at home along with my original gigging back line of a 78 50W Marshall 2 x 12 Combo and 100W 4 x 12 Marshall cab (my neighbours must love me !).

    It is completely original except for a volume pot that gave up the ghost a few years back. It really needs a re fret as they are all flatted off and almost down to the neck in places, but hell, it is still the best guitar I have ever played, heard or seen.

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