Other Guitars

NGD American Elite Stratocaster … Review


I got this guitar over the weekend on 9/15/18. I was in the Guitar Center looking at a new Gibson SG, and came home with this instead. It has a compound radius fretboard, 9.5" to 12", that just feels amazing. I got the HSS pick up configuration, with a Tim Shaw Humbucker. The Elite series have a nitro finish, I've always preferred nitro to polly.

I'm in the process of replacing some instruments and other gear that were stolen a few years ago. I lost my very first electric guitar, a 68 Stratocaster, that I bought with money I earned from a paper route, when I was a boy. It looked very similar to this guitar. Also stolen were a 70's Fender P bass, a 100 watt TNT bass amp with a JBL speaker, a Fender 4x12 cabinet, a couple of good acoustic guitars, my Nady wireless, about 12 Japanese Boss foot pedals, and other miscellaneous gear.

I'm very fortunate that they left several Gibson and other guitars behind. They also left my Fender 75 combo tube amp and a couple of smaller Fender amps behind.

Getting burglarized is a very helpless feeling, it happened while I was in a lengthy hospitalization. I believe that there is a special place in Hell for musical instrument thieves!


Nice looking Strat, enjoy. I definitely agree with you on musical instrument theives. Maybe they should be treated like horse theives used to be treated. Just saying.


That looks like fun! Congrats on the new Strat! Enjoy!


That's a great Strat! Congratulations. I'm happy you're able to replace some of your lost treasures.


Good looking guitar. Congrats


The sonic options with the switching blade and S1 switch are not exactly intuitive, but there's a ton of tones (!) in there! I have a white one which is extremely comfortable to play and the bucker gives even more options. Enjoy!


I really like the Elite series Strats, especially with the 2017-18 Shaw pups. Very well made and fun to play, great choice!


That thing looks sweet. Nice specs too.

Sorry to hear you got burgled.


Thanks fellows, I appreciate your comments. I've been playing the Strat for the past several days and I'm really digging it. I can now give a good review of how it plays, compared to the 1968 Strat that I bought in 1974 and owned for 41 years. This is one instance where a Fender guitar actually cost more ($500 more) than a Gibson (2018 SG standard) guitar I was looking to buy last Saturday. I saw the 2018 Elite Strat hanging on the wall and it was so similar visually to my 68, that I had to check it out. The build quality and versatility of this Strat is tremendously better than the the Gibson SG, IMHO. I still may eventually get the SG, for tonal reasons.

It has been about 4 years since the 68 was stolen, and since it was my first electric guitar, I had to complete the majority of the grieving process, before even considering acquiring a new one. I had replacement cost homeowners insurance, but you certainly can't replace sentiment.

Although this guitar and my 68 Strat look very similar, it pretty much ends there, they are vastly different. First off, this Strat is absolutely noise free compared to the 68. I've tested the the 4th generation noiseless single coil pickups with lighting and power lines, they remain surprisingly noiseless, even at high gain. It's difficult for me to compare the tone of the newer designed single coils against the 68, because 4 years has passed, I don't have them side by side, and I don't have a single coil in the bridge position of the new guitar. However, they do sound remarkably familiar, but I seem to remember the single coil pickups in the 68 as having more clarity, despite buzzing like a rattle snake around lighting and power sources. In any case, these noiseless single coils do sound good, and any perceivable tone differences is a more than acceptable tradeoff, since they don't BUZZ!

The Shawbucker is perfectly balanced with the single coil pickups. The engineering of this Humbucker is nothing short of spectacular. It maintains the traditional voice and spank, that are singular to a genuine Fender Stratocaster, and offers additional overdrive characteristics above and beyond the ability of a single coil pickup. It has relatively low output, compared to PAF type pickups, and has more treble and dynamic expression.

I also really like the Passing Lane button, it bypasses the volume and tone pot's taking them completely out of the circuit, for straight up Shawbucker output. I like the Passing Lane because I have a tendency, when I play a Strat, to frequently hit the the volume knob with my pinky. This has always been my only real annoyance with playing a Stratocaster.

You're right about the S1and 5way switch options Thomas, the array of possibilities and trying to remember them, is somewhat overwhelming at first. There was a card in the accessories compartment, showing all of the switch configurations, ten different tone settings is more than enough to satisfy anyone.

The compound radius neck and fretboard is totally new to me, and I dig it! I'm thinking "where has this been all my life". The neck transforms from a C shape at the nut, gradually becoming a D shape. The fretboard graduates from a 9.5" radius at the nut, to a 14" radius at the 21st fret. It's a vast improvement over the 9.5" whole fretboard radius of the 68. It seems to allows lower string action and is definitely easier bending strings in the upper register. The flatter radius higher up, means that the arch profile of the bridge, can be set to the 14" radius, and the adjacent string doesn't interfere during big string bends. This was always a problem on the 68, on upper register string bending. The lower corner of the neck/body joint has also finally been rounded, for more comfort.

I absolutely love the feel of the satin finish on the back of the neck. The neck and Maple fretboard are very slick and fast. It's super easy to slide up and down into chords and licks. The short post locking tuners are a nice addition, I put on a new set of strings lickity split.

I personally don't find the new wheel truss rod adjuster visually objectionable, as some people apparently do. I think that it's just keeping up with the times, Music Man, Peavey and a lot of other guitar manufacturers have incorporated this type of wheel truss rod adjuster years ago. It makes truss rod adjustments quick and easy, without needing to have a specific Allen key. I had to actually remove the neck on the 68 Strat to adjust the truss rod, man, talk about inconvenient! Consequently, I didn't adjust it very often on the 68, at first I was too young (13 years old) to have the courage to attempt it myself. When I was older, and learned how to do it myself, I just always used the same guage of strings. I only adjusted the truss rod when I moved to a new geographical location, and then only after it had settled in for a couple of months and if it needed adjusting. Luckily, Strat necks are pretty stable, and it takes a lot to move them out of true.

The two stud floating bridge, three spring, vibrato systems is much more fluid than the 68's, and holds far better return tuning after use. I'm sure the highly polished real bone nut has added to the tuning stability. Still, a locking nut would be the only real way to get complete stability. The vibrato arm is not threaded, like every other non-Elite Strats vibrato arm. Instead it is plugged in, and held under an adequate tension so it stays in position, but is easily moved out of the way.

I'd also like to note that the body is made from a single piece of Alder, which shows beautiful woodgrain under the high gloss finish, in the 3 color sunburst model. Also noted, a high quality hard shell locking case came with the guitar, as seen in the photo above.

This guitar came with some very nice Case Candy. A high quality Fender black leather strap with the Fender strap lock system, a large quality made leather 9"x6" zippered pouch for storing small items, Allan keys for the vibrato system and a large Allan key to insert into the round holes on the wheel truss rod adjuster, a felt polishing cloth, a small bag of assorted Fender picks, keys for the case lock, manuals and warranty cards, and several Fender logo stickers.

I apologize for the lengthy review, but there are so many differences between the 1968 and the 2018 Elite Stratocaster, that it required a lengthy review. This is IMHO, the pinnacle achievement in a Fender Stratocaster, it is an absolute joy to own and play.

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