Tuesday, 21 August 2012

Spot the Mexican in this line up of Fender American Roland Ready Strats

Todd writes:
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:
  • 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)
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.

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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  1. Its either the far right, or second to last on the left...im betting on sunburst second to last on the left

    1. It's #5 according to the article. Still they all seem more or less the same.

    2. Blk w/ rosewood fretboard

  2. Well, it'd have to be the second from the right because of what it says about the string retainers right?

  3. Its got to be the black one with the rosewood fingerboard: only one string tree and has fewest frets of the bunch.

  4. Black second from the right.

  5. It's the Black one 2nd from right

  6. How are we supposed to tell? None of them are wearing sombreros.!? A 5th of Jose` might have been a hint?

    Well, what ABOUT the 90's wasn't better? At least there was still a belief the electric guitar could mount a mainstream comeback, beyond the specialty/niche/collector market we see today. In the 90's we were all going to be RICH ( remember? ) so anything was possible!

    How has the collector value fared, vice non-Roland rank & file Strats? Seems these pop up on Craigslist etc. w/ regularity. How large were the prod. runs? For fun I'll say the 2nd from right.

  7. I have a 96 American RR Strat (50th anniversary). I tried out a few Mexican RR models on plenty of occasions. They were very much inferior to the American version. They just didn't feel right or look right. Perhaps I'm just used to my guitar too much...

    In person, it was easy for me to see and feel the difference... In this picture I can't see any difference difference btw the Mex and Ameri though...

    But you seem to have more experience with using the Mex, so your experience is perhaps more valuable when judging btw the M&A...

    Anyway... I just play this guitar as a straight up strat... I briefly used the MIDI function when I first got it... The guitar, as a Standard Strat is even superior to most of the American made strats. Maybe this is a matter of habit, but maybe not... I make sure I try out new, used and custom shop strats in guitar shops... A few custom and vintage strats may have been in the same league...

    My question to you;

    1. You said that a lot of the American ones are just fake Mexican models. Who is your source on this really? If you're going to say something like that, back it up a bit. From my expedience with the Mex and Ameri versions, this statement is ridiculous... Because you can see and feel the difference.

    2. I got rid of my synth controller (gr-33 was the model name, i think), a few years ago. Really, I used it like 2 or 3 times because my patience for the cumbersome MIDI controls was really low. But I wanted to focus more on the synth sounds lately... Is the '96 gk-1 (I think thats the correct model name, not sure...) pickup compatible with the newer vg-99 or GR-55? Are you sure?

    I'm glad to find another RR Strat lover out there. These are very underrated guitars.

  8. Oh yea. My '96 has 22 frets. You stated that the American ones had only 21. Certainly untrue.

  9. What are the US RR Strat's going for?

  10. I'm thinking of getting a used MIM RR Strat, how would you rate them compared to the us version?

  11. How does the MIM stand up to the US one?

  12. I have the third from left, cream body and rosewood fingerboard.
    serial number indicates U.S. made.
    Corona Plant (Fender), USA
    in the Year(s): 1995 - 1996
    I was going to replace the neck
    but if it's a 'rare bird'
    I'd like to sell it intact.
    Please contact me if interested.

  13. It's been a long time since this article was written. I'm sure Todd has new information about possible MIA serial numbers, and maybe more on the RR MIM years and differences. I'm a RR purist and don't care at all about the VG, G-5, G-5A's. I have 2 MIM RR's (1998 and 2003) but would like to add a 95,96, or 97 RR MIA to my collection.



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