Why is Suhr coveted by serious players and what makes them stand out in an overcrowded field of strat and tele guitars?
Improving the legendary models
There is an overwhelming choice in strat and tele models. Last time that we checked Fender alone offered thirteen series of stratocasters and and another twelve series in their Custom Shop. Squier which is also owned by Fender offers a whole range of more budget friendly strat and tele models. And there are hundreds of custom shop and boutique builders who offer their variations on these models. Most of the smaller builders choose to focus on the more vintage oriented side of the market.
Suhr heads for another direction and has been focussing on innovation. They do so without losing the authentic vibe of these models. They are not dwelling on the past but take these proven models as a starting point for their improvements. Thereby creating a unique place in the market for them selfs. Players looking for a stable, precise playing guitar often find them selfs attracted to Suhr. John Suhr, founder of Suhr Guitars has devoted his working life to improving and innovating on the legendary Fender models.
Where Leo Fender stopped
Leo Fender was the archetype innovator. Both the Stratocaster and Telecaster were and are genius models. It is incredible how much of the design was spot on almost right from the start. Maybe that is why the models have changed so little of the years. After Fender introduced the Stratocaster much of Fenders innovative powers were spent on improving the production proces. Fender needed to produce more and more guitars at a lower cost. Things needed to be done more efficiently. This was especially true in the CBS years, were innovation was equal to cost reduction.
John Suhr started building guitars in 1974 and even spent some time in Fenders Custom Shop. Along the way he came to the conclusion that the strat was a magical guitar but also that its design was not finished yet. He saw opportunity for improvement in many details. He decided to make that happen and Suhr Guitars was born. Looking at the Suhr Guitar series it is fair to say that where Leo Fender stopped, the work of John Suhr started. The result of this lifelong ambition is a series of guitars that ranges from vintage oriented to very modern.
The Classic series, a vintage oriented strat that works with you.
The Classic series is the most vintage oriented series of Suhr. But even on this vintage side of the spectrum Suhr builds innovative guitars. All Suhr guitars are equipped with the Silent Single Coil System. Which is an ingenius way to cancel the hum that comes with single coil pickups without altering the pickups itself. And this give Suhr is lively sound without any of the characteristic single coil hum. The Classic series has locking tuners for better tuning stability and ease of string changes. It comes with stainless steel frets and a compound radius fretboard. It runs from 9″ to 12″. which is a great improvement in playability. We could say that a Suhr is a little more cooperative that a regular strat or tele. The Classic S comes with a Gotoh 510 tremolo, a very stable system that keeps your guitar in tune even when leaning in heavy on the trem.
Trustworthy instead of reliced
Don’t expect heavy heavy reliced bodies or scraped or necks from Suhr. even on their Classic Antique models the aging is little and subtile. Some crackle in the finish is all we get. And that is how it is intended. Suhr does not aim to create the feeling of a very old worn out guitar. They aim for the feel of trustworthy, stable friend. Something that always feels right and will not let you down. The guitar feels solid. It is not overly light and this weight adds to the solid feel that you experience when you oick it up and it sits in your lap.
It feels like a very precise instrument that will accurately reproduce what you put in. The wider spacing of the Gotoh 510 trem enhances that ‘in control’ feeling. It is somewhat like driving a BWM, rock solid and yet very dynamic. The neck is round and full and slides in comfortably in your hand. The compound radius makes for effortless chord playing and fast and easy single note leads higher up the neck.
Add a little spice, the Limited Edition
Want to make things a little more exciting? Check out the Classis S Limited or Metallic. These come with gorgeous roasted maple neck. A flatter fretboard, compound radius 10″ to 14″ and jumbo frets. And that does make a difference. And compared to the regular Classic S, the Limited adds a lotta spice to it’s appearance. Suhr uses refreshing colors like Brabdy Wine, Champage and Copper Fire Mist and in 2021 they added some nice see trough finishes to the pallet.
Suhr Alt T, a refreshing thinline
Of course Suhr has T models in their collection. One of the most inspiring Suhr T models is the Alt T. It is a thinline version with two humbuckers that give you five different sounds. The thinline body feels good and is light weight as it should. En still there is that characteristic Suhr stability in the guitar. The SSV humbuckers offer five distictive sound. Positions two and four bring out a strat like sound. The other positions give you a modern transparant humbucking sound. Strangely enough this tele model gives you hints of ES 335 vibes. Unexpected but very pleasant.
For players who are looking for a reliable, modern incarnation of a classic model and who aim for top quality in building and an above average playing experience Suhr is a serious option. Check out our collection of Suhr guitars here.
Guitarist and founder of Kauffmann’s Guitar Store. I am a seasoned sessions and studio musician. For over 20 years I travelled, made music and accompanied over 200 musicians. Being a great musician is just as much about creating sound as it is about being a good guitarist. Coming up withe the right sound at the right time saved the day many times.