MIJ Strats, you like 'em?

Uncle Vinnie

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There a quite a few nice ones for sale on Reverb and elsewhere.

Any of you who own one or have played one what do you think … and not in comparison to a USA-made Strat, but quality, sound of the pups, neck size & shape? Would you recommend one?
 

Mowgli5555

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I have always liked them for bridging the gap to AVRI strats. Though, prices have gone up a little bit over the years.
Currently there are a couple MIJ Strats sitting around my place, but they are Extrad type Fenders, with vintage type specs.

As much as I personally prefer them, I hardly see any reason to go MIJ over MIM, or even Classic Vibes, unless you are weird like me.
Electronics, and pickups can be a weaker point, unless you get a model with USA pickups/electronics, or something that has been upgraded.

Most stuff I see in the USA, are models that were imported here.
Although, you can find some Japan domestic models occasionally.

I like Fender Japan necks, especially due to the vintage radius, and fret size. The V shape is my favorite.
The bodies usually are found with basswood, but you can find alder, or ash, etc. on higher spec guitars.
Finish is usually a urethane type finish, which is acceptable, and preferable to some. Although they did use lacquer for higher grades.
 
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integra evan

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I had a Daybreak 60's Traditional MIJ Stratocaster for a bit recently. It was a nice strat....very well put together, great fretwork, pickups were ceramic but they sounded good.
Would definitely recommend
Nicer than MIM stuff and some MIA stuff too.
 

jimmyjames

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I scored a '93 ST-62 with Alder body, fitted my 57/62-loaded 'guard. Good axe with vintage routing, but a partser I got last year kills it. AmStd body with swimming pool rout, AmStd pups except for mystery bridge, and a perfect MIM Hector Montes maple neck. Medium Jumbo frets offer better playability than the '62spec too. Bottom two of course :thumb:
 

Uncle Vinnie

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Those are all yummy. I may have to take the plunge.
 

scott 351 wins

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I'm not a big Strat player but I do own a 60's Squire Classic Vibe. It is actually a decent guitar.

I've been thinking about buying a vintage Tokai Springy Sound Strat ST80 or higher model.


My Squire
Screenshot_20200220-074937_Gallery.jpg
 

Zungle

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There a quite a few nice ones for sale on Reverb and elsewhere.

Any of you who own one or have played one what do you think … and not in comparison to a USA-made Strat, but quality, sound of the pups, neck size & shape? Would you recommend one?
Honestly I feel like "Made in Japan" was more mythical hype than substance.....

Not saying their bad guitars or anything, but I haven't really found anything about them any more magical than a decent MIM strat........

I owned a couple of the mythical MIK Pro Tone Squier and found them even more under whelming ......in comparison to their legend....

I've been looking around to add another single coil Strat as I only have 1 right now...Warmoth SS w/floyd

I'd like to find an SVK Vintage model but their very very hard to find....
 

dro

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Had a MIJ Contemporary Ver III in the 80's. I thought it had great tone from what I remember. Wish I still had it. Pearl White w/Black guard, Black headstock. Band mate turned Druggie got away with it." Lesson learned."
 

Bend'n'Slide

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I have three. I love them.

I've previously written about them in various threads around here but I'll save you the time hunting for them and give you a quick summary. All of the MIJ Fenders are nicely built but there is definitely a spectrum in terms of woods, finishes and electronics so you have to bear that in mind and take the time to research the background a little. It's worth getting to know them before taking the plunge. The key thing is that there is much mythos about these and the interweb often doesn't help in that respect. Ultimately, remember that these were guitars built to a budget in order to directly meet competition from other Japanese brands that were making (often very good) knock-off copies of classic Fender guitars.

The fact that Fender had effectively ramped up MIJ production in the early '80s, just as there was a hiatus in the building of US-made Fender guitars around the time of the management buy-out from CBS, meant that there was a brief period where the Jap Fenders were all that was available. Some had locally-made electronics, some were fitted with US electronics that had been shipped out there when no building was happening in the US. Fender quickly realised that re-branding from the newly revived "Squier" name to simply using the "Fender" brand would enable them to charge more. Some were undoubtedly exceptional and do deserve their reputation as being some of the best reproductions of early Fender guitars but it's worth remembering that at the time they were generally thought of as being amazing for their price point rather than simply being true '57 Strats re-born (or whatever).

The models mere named according to the instruments they were based on: e.g. TL52 for a 1952 Telecaster, ST57 for a 1957 Stratocaster and so on. The number after this represented the price point (at the time) in Japanese Yen: e.g. in 1990, ST54-500 was a 1954-style Strat with a list price of 50,000 Yen and ST62-900 was a 1962-style Strat with a list price of 90,000 Yen. The more expensive guitars had US-made pickups, ash or alder bodies, steel trem blocks and sometimes lacquer rather than poly finishes. The cheaper guitars had basswood bodies, locally-made pickups, die-cast trem blocks and polyester finishes. They are still very good guitars for what they are, but you have to keep that context in mind! Those in the middle of the range had a mixture of these features, often something like US-pups and better bodies but standard finishes. Any potential buyer needs to need to keep an eye out for these things. The early Japanese pups used plastic bobbins but were still decent wire wound around individual pole-piece magnets and did a pretty good job of sounding like Strats or Teles. I have these in all of mine; I've thought about upgrading them and the pots many, many times over the years but as they seemed to keep on doing the job, I've never bothered...!

By the mid-90s, many of the exported MIJ guitars were becoming more obviously built to a very tight budget; the pickups became cheap ceramic units, the finish QC wasn't as good and so on (and Squier production had moved to Korea). With the resurgence of Fender and the introduction of MIM there was less need for Fender Japan to be the budget producer and they sort of went back to doing their own thing in the last decade or more. Clearly, there is quite a range given that we have nearly forty years' worth of these products, so you can't think of them all in the same way; they do change over time! It's also worth noting that Fender eventually moved production away from the legendary Fujigen factory that was originally their Japanese contractor, and which was responsible for the famed early- to mid-80s MIJ Fenders.

There are lots of sites that go into a lot of detail about the background to this so I won't bother to repeat it all here -- in fact, I'll coma back and add links to some of the better webpages on this subject.

Perhaps he most important thing to understand is that the MIJ guitars were NOT exacting "re-issues" in the same way as the American Vintage series and the Custom Shop re-issues. If that's what you're looking for then you will inevitably be disappointed. Having said that, they are mostly very, very nicely made electric guitars. There are some unashamedly "modern" styled and kitted MIJs but the bulk are based on classic vintage Californian-made Fender instruments of the '50s and '60s. The body and neck carves are often as good as or better than some of their US-made contemporaries and even if the electronics were budget-limited, they can be a fabulous base for an upgrade project and that happened to quite a lot of them! A good neck and body ripe for stripping of parts and the addition of player's preferred pups / pots / caps / switches etc.


My MIJ stable. These are all over 30 years old now and they have all got multiple battle scars. They are all keepers; no chance of me flipping these.


1. ST54 Candy Apple Red. c.1989-90
Pronounced V-profile neck but it works for me. All-original. I can't remember exactly what model it was but I know at the time I bought it (1991) I was a college student with a very tight budget. I suspect that my local music store didn't list it with the Japanese designation but it would have been at the cheaper end o the range, so likely ST54-500 with basswood body.


2. ST62 Sonic Blue. 1986
Acquired this one in about 1992. Slimmer '60s neck with a fabulous slab rosewood fingerboard and amazing tone. Has aged and yellowed to almost Surf Green, especially around the edges. This one is an absolute stunner to play, sounds very different to the maple-board Strats; still has the plastic-bobbin Jap pups but you'd never know to hear it. The tuners had been changed to staggered height, precision-geared Schecter tuners and the string tree removed. Keep thinking about changing them back to get the proper vintage look but these work real well and are part of this instrument's character and history so, again, have never bothered.


3. ST57 Sunburst. 1987
A more recent eBay gamble that paid-off nicely. Much chunkier oval-shaped neck compared to the ST54 but great to play. Same MIJ pups but big, fat 50s Strat sound. I suspect this one was a bit higher up the range but can't be sure; don't care as it's a fab Strat to play and sounds great!


4. TL52 Butterscotch Blonde. 1987
Another recent eBay gamble. Big, fat '52 Tele neck in lovely flame maple. Absolutely nails the early Tele sound. Neck pup upgraded to a Don Mare pup at some point but the bridge looks original. The switch on this one is getting dodgy and needs replacing. The back of the neck had a fair few dings and dints in it when it arrived but none too deep, so I took a chance and sanded off the poly on the whole of the back of the neck and went with an oiled finish. It's awesome!


A few pics:

















 
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Uncle Vinnie

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Love the brochures. Thanks!

I have noticed that the rosewood used on the MIJs seems darker than U.S. made. What species? Indian?
 

Bend'n'Slide

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A few background articles. These are written from a UK perspective but are quite helpful in understanding the earlier MIJ guitars.

As with all internet resources, be slightly wary -- although the information here is measured and, if anything, the author tends to puncture some of the hyperbole around the early MIJ Fender guitars, preferring to think of them as being good in the context of what they were meant to be, rather than the legend that surround them. The details also tie up pretty well with multiple other online sources that I'm aware of (and I will also post links to those as I rediscover them!).

Early 1980s Squier Strats

MIJ '57 Strats

MIJ '62 Strats

MIJ Fender range c. 1990

Later 1990s "50s" and "60s" Strats

Late-'80s to early-'90s MIJ strat pickups
 

Pop1655

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I just know I’m two for two.
I definitely think they’re a cut above.
 

judson

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I have three. I love them.

I've previously written about them in various threads around here but I'll save you the time hunting for them and give you a quick summary. All of the MIJ Fenders are nicely built but there is definitely a spectrum in terms of woods, finishes and electronics so you have to bear that in mind and take the time to research the background a little. It's worth getting to know them before taking the plunge. The key thing is that there is much mythos about these and the interweb often doesn't help in that respect. Ultimately, remember that these were guitars built to a budget in order to directly meet competition from other Japanese brands that were making (often very good) knock-off copies of classic Fender guitars.

The fact that Fender had effectively ramped up MIJ production in the early '80s, just as there was a hiatus in the building of US-made Fender guitars around the time of the management buy-out from CBS, meant that there was a brief period where the Jap Fenders were all that was available. Some had locally-made electronics, some were fitted with US electronics that had been shipped out there when no building was happening in the US. Fender quickly realised that re-branding from the newly revived "Squier" name to simply using the "Fender" brand would enable them to charge more. Some were undoubtedly exceptional and do deserve their reputation as being some of the best reproductions of early Fender guitars but it's worth remembering that at the time they were generally thought of as being amazing for their price point rather than simply being true '57 Strats re-born (or whatever).

The models mere named according to the instruments they were based on: e.g. TL52 for a 1952 Telecaster, ST57 for a 1957 Stratocaster and so on. The number after this represented the price point (at the time) in Japanese Yen: e.g. in 1990, ST54-500 was a 1954-style Strat with a list price of 50,000 Yen and ST62-900 was a 1962-style Strat with a list price of 90,000 Yen. The more expensive guitars had US-made pickups, ash or alder bodies, steel trem blocks and sometimes lacquer rather than poly finishes. The cheaper guitars had basswood bodies, locally-made pickups, die-cast trem blocks and polyester finishes. They are still very good guitars for what they are, but you have to keep that context in mind! Those in the middle of the range had a mixture of these features, often something like US-pups and better bodies but standard finishes. Any potential buyer needs to need to keep an eye out for these things. The early Japanese pups used plastic bobbins but were still decent wire wound around individual pole-piece magnets and did a pretty good job of sounding like Strats or Teles. I have these in all of mine; I've thought about upgrading them and the pots many, many times over the years but as they seemed to keep on doing the job, I've never bothered...!

By the mid-90s, many of the exported MIJ guitars were becoming more obviously built to a very tight budget; the pickups became cheap ceramic units, the finish QC wasn't as good and so on (and Squier production had moved to Korea). With the resurgence of Fender and the introduction of MIM there was less need for Fender Japan to be the budget producer and they sort of went back to doing their own thing in the last decade or more. Clearly, there is quite a range given that we have nearly forty years' worth of these products, so you can't think of them all in the same way; they do change over time! It's also worth noting that Fender eventually moved production away from the legendary Fujigen factory that was originally their Japanese contractor, and which was responsible for the famed early- to mid-80s MIJ Fenders.

There are lots of sites that go into a lot of detail about the background to this so I won't bother to repeat it all here -- in fact, I'll coma back and add links to some of the better webpages on this subject.

Perhaps he most important thing to understand is that the MIJ guitars were NOT exacting "re-issues" in the same way as the American Vintage series and the Custom Shop re-issues. If that's what you're looking for then you will inevitably be disappointed. Having said that, they are mostly very, very nicely made electric guitars. There are some unashamedly "modern" styled and kitted MIJs but the bulk are based on classic vintage Californian-made Fender instruments of the '50s and '60s. The body and neck carves are often as good as or better than some of their US-made contemporaries and even if the electronics were budget-limited, they can be a fabulous base for an upgrade project and that happened to quite a lot of them! A good neck and body ripe for stripping of parts and the addition of player's preferred pups / pots / caps / switches etc.


My MIJ stable. These are all over 30 years old now and they have all got multiple battle scars. They are all keepers; no chance of me flipping these.


1. ST54 Candy Apple Red. c.1989-90
Pronounced V-profile neck but it works for me. All-original. I can't remember exactly what model it was but I know at the time I bought it (1991) I was a college student with a very tight budget. I suspect that my local music store didn't list it with the Japanese designation but it would have been at the cheaper end o the range, so likely ST54-500 with basswood body.


2. ST62 Sonic Blue. 1986
Acquired this one in about 1992. Slimmer '60s neck with a fabulous slab rosewood fingerboard and amazing tone. Has aged and yellowed to almost Surf Green, especially around the edges. This one is an absolute stunner to play, sounds very different to the maple-board Strats; still has the plastic-bobbin Jap pups but you'd never know to hear it. The tuners had been changed to staggered height, precision-geared Schecter tuners and the string tree removed. Keep thinking about changing them back to get the proper vintage look but these work real well and are part of this instrument's character and history so, again, have never bothered.


3. ST57 Sunburst. 1987
A more recent eBay gamble that paid-off nicely. Much chunkier oval-shaped neck compared to the ST54 but great to play. Same MIJ pups but big, fat 50s Strat sound. I suspect this one was a bit higher up the range but can't be sure; don't care as it's a fab Strat to play and sounds great!


4. TL52 Butterscotch Blonde. 1987
Another recent eBay gamble. Big, fat '52 Tele neck in lovely flame maple. Absolutely nails the early Tele sound. Neck pup upgraded to a Don Mare pup at some point but the bridge looks original. The switch on this one is getting dodgy and needs replacing. The back of the neck had a fair few dings and dints in it when it arrived but none too deep, so I took a chance and sanded off the poly on the whole of the back of the neck and went with an oiled finish. It's awesome!


A few pics:

















thanks for taking the time to post that info..

had a 72 strat back in the day but about 4 years back started looking for a cheap strat and stumbled onto a 1992 CN series MIK with the silver Fender logo, small squire decal at end of head stock...they play great for me but i dont put alot of faith in the electronics and replace and experiment with them often....some i leave alone as they are what they are and good enough for my need.

since then i have sought them out and bought 3 more at ridiculous low prices but they are tough to find these days.

i thought maybe i should start looking at the upper end of American, Mexican or Japan made strats but really i dont know how much of an improvement i will be getting over my Korean strats.

your post made me think to just sit tight maybe.

but i will admit i have been toying with the idea of a vintage 60's fiesta red with rosewood board and then forget gassing for anything else....i should have done that with my Gibson LP gas...just go straight to the big boy table...lol

thanks again for that informative post....and nice collection btw :h5:
 

jc2000

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I have played both and If I were buying I would go with the MIM over the MIJ.. JMO!
 




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