The Squier Strat by Fender (or Squier by Fender Strat or however they want to name this thing) is one of the first guitars with a built-in digital signal processor. The guitar plugs right into any computer or 30-pin iOS device (Lightning cables are not yet available) so you can play directly into any sound editor including GarageBand and Logic Pro. It’s a $200 guitar that’s designed primarily to plug into a PC or Mac and allows you to almost entirely eschew a standalone amp.
I found the quality outstanding for the price and although I found some compatibility issues, it’s a great starter guitar for folks who feel more comfortable behind a mouse than a microphone.
The Squier is an Indonesian-made solid-body electric with the standard features including pickup select, volume, and tone controls as well as a 1/4-inch guitar output. However, on the bottom is a 1/8-inch stereo headphone jack and miniUSB port that supports bi-directional audio streaming. It requires no batteries and is powered via the USB bus.
In terms of quality this is on par with any standard entry-level gitfiddle. I experienced the requisite amount of buzz that would come out of a standard unmodified factory guitar and the sound, when plugged in, was just fine. I really had no complaints in terms of playability and one of my buddies, who is a far better axeman than myself, found it to have good height and action.
To use it you simply plug in the guitar to a free USB port and select the Fender as your input and/or output. The sound comes out unadulterated and you can add effects in your audio program or record it as is. The guitar is, in short, quite fun. It’s cheap enough that you can experiment with it and it’s powerful enough for a beginning guitarist to really learn how to record and play with an electric instrument.
How, in the end, does this thing sound? The audio was excellent when plugged directly into a Mac with Garageband. I was able to record a bit of my noodlings but you must understand I’m a novice at guitar at best although I’ve been taking a few refresher lessons with my son. Don’t blame my guitar teacher, however, for the following mess.
And here is a slightly more “acoustic” sound:
Make no mistake: this Squier is a commodity guitar priced to move. It sells primarily at the Apple store for good reason – it works great with Apple audio programs and is a great experimental guitar for folks looking to wail away a little without worrying about breakout boxes or microphones. While you could get a better guitar (for more money) and a better USB interface (for more money), $199 is a great price for an entry-level axe with just enough charm to keep a seasoned player happy and just enough features to break in a novice player.
I was expecting this guitar to be a sort of messy hybrid but I’m pleased to note that Fender did a minimum of messing about to create a guitar that does a few things well. You can play it just like a traditional Strat, pinwheeling at the strings while your bandmates take down the stacks, or you can plug it into a laptop and noodle away with headphones clapped to your ears like the modern-day troubadour you are. The guitar performs admirably in both cases and is more than worth the price.