I collect and play Fender USA Roland Ready (RR) Strats because of their high build quality (comparable to other USA Strats of the period); they drive a great product line of devices made by one of the best instrument manufacturers; and of course, because they're pretty rare for a mainstream brand and well known model. I've even seen knowledgeable Fender collectors claim they are all forgeries and were never actually produced by Fender in the USA.
Some of the confusion stems from the fact that they are neither Fender VG Strats nor the Made in Mexico (MIM) RR Strats still made today: VG Strats have an abbreviated number of modeled sounds/tunings on board the guitar and therefore no 13-pin jack - whereas the Roland Ready models actually sport a 13 pin connector on the lower bout (facing the floor while played, in addition to the normal the 1/4 jack on the front) and have no on board sounds. All Roland Ready Strats are simply a sound source for Roland GR, GI and VG series devices, but MIM RR Strats don't offer the same features as the briefly produced USA versions.
Speaking purely technically, the USA RR Strats offered the same upgraded build quality as the normal USA Strats of those years - they play identically to USAs of the same vintage (with the exception of sacrificing one tone knob), The differences between MIMs are:
The upgrades contribute to an overall feel of improved quality, with a noticeable improvement of sustain, in particular. All Roland Ready Strats can be used to drive: VG-8; VG-88; VG-99; GI-10; GI-20; GR-20; GR-33 and the GR-55 among others, which are very well made and sound great.
- A 22nd fret (vs. 21)
- Larger cast steel bridge saddles (like other USAs)
- Upgraded tuners (?)
- Two cast string retainers on the headstock (vs. one stamped)
It's not clear why RR Strats were produced in the USA so briefly - their serial numbers appear to range only from N5 to N7 (1995 to 1997). Wikipedia does not mention RR Strats (neither the USA or MIM varieties; although VG Strats do get a brief nod), but it does offer the following information, which could explain the timing and brevity of the USA production:
"On February 11, 1994 the Fender manufacturing plant based in Ensenada, Mexico burned down. Fender President Bill Shultz decided to temporarily move production from the Mexico plant to the U.S. plant. These Fender guitars are fairly rare and can be identified by the unique serial number."However, that doesn't fully explain the design changes listed above relative to the typical MIMs - perhaps Fender simply chose not to use the MIM design while manufacturing it in the USA? Any information regarding the "unique serial number" mention in the Wikipedia article would be greatly appreciated.
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