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The Elite Stratocaster is an electric solid body guitar manufactured by Fender.
The Elite Stratocaster was introduced in 1983 and discontinued in 1984. It served as a template for the Eric Clapton signature model of 1988.
Two of the few players of the Elite model are Ty Tabor of King's X, who used this guitar to record the first four albums of that band (his gear setup still retains the preamp from the guitar, now rackmounted) and blues/rock guitarist Jeff Fetterman of The Jeff Fetterman Band. Fetterman has used his Elites on stage and in studio for over 25 years now.
Some of the Elite features have been incorporated into USA-made Fender guitars and basses made after the purchase of the Fender guitar company from CBS by Bill Schultz in 1985. For example, the Eric Clapton, Richie Sambora (introduced in 1991) and Buddy Guy (introduced in 1995) signature guitars retain the TBX/MDX design from the Elite.
In late 1983, Fender Japan made their own version of the Elite Stratocaster, featuring a 22-fret fingerboard with a flat 9.5" radius and medium-jumbo fretwire. The Elite series was discontinued in 1986.
This guitar model featured an alder body, a maple neck featuring a rosewood or maple fingerboard with 21 jumbo frets, 12" radius, Schaller die-cast tuners with pearloid buttons, BiFlex truss-rod system with MicroTilt neck adjuster, Schaller Straplock Ready locking strap buttons, two hardened steel EasyGlider string trees, side-mount jack socket and a Freeflyte vibrato system, as well as three serrated "rubber insert"-style control knobs.
The Freeflyte tremolo system differs significantly from previous Stratocaster tremolo designs. All routing is done from the front of the guitar. A cavity was created where the spring system would reside, and this connected to the bottom of the tremolo unit; the result was an unwieldy, unworkable piece of hardware. The company saved money this way by performing a single, front-sided rout on the guitar to accommodate the pickups, the tremolo, the preamp and the controls.
Other features included three special-design Alnico 5 single-coil pickups with solid covers and an internal dummy coil for hum cancellation, as well as three push-push buttons for pickup selection. Controls include a master volume, a TBX treble/bass expander and an active MDX midrange booster with 12 dB of gain. The sound of the Elite Stratocaster can be described as more humbucker-like compared to a traditional single coil-equipped guitar, especially with the TBX and MDX circuits at their maximum.
A few Elite Stratocasters were manufactured with a standard 5-way switch and standard Strat knobs. Two such guitars which were custom built for Eric Clapton came with a traditional '50s era-style maple neck and a hardtail non-tremolo bridge.
Two other variants of the guitar were introduced in late 1983, the Gold Elite Stratocaster with gold plated hardware and the Walnut Elite Stratocaster featuring a solid walnut body and a stained ebony fingerboard.
2016 American Elite Series
In January 2016 Fender introduced an American Elite Stratocaster featuring "4th generation" noiseless pickups, compound C-to-D neck shape and fingerboard radius, locking tuners with shorter posts, S-1 switch and a spoke wheel truss rod system. This model is also available as an HSS version with a "Shawbucker" humbucking pickup in the bridge position and a "Passing Lane" switch. Other features include soft-touch control knobs and large pearloid fingerboard dots.
- "Fender American Elite Stratocaster". Fender. Retrieved 8 February 2016.
- "Fender American Elite Stratocaster HSS Shawbucker". Fender. Retrieved 8 February 2016.