Deluxe Strat Plus (1989 – 1999)
Model info: Based on the Strat Plus, this upgraded version originally featured an ash top and back over an alder body with 2 Silver (neck and middle position) and a Blue Lace Sensor single coil pickups, but, see article below for more information.
The Stratocaster Plus Deluxe Series, by Jeff Reich*
The Strat Plus Deluxe Series had some crossover with the Standard Plus. For instance, some of the DX models came with the American Standard two-point floating bridge while others came with the Fender Floyd Rose locking bridge. Some have solid colors on alder while others used a beautiful transparent color, often with a burst around the edge, on ash. Some, but not all, had an ash-laminated front and back on alder, thus the burst edging on some transparent colors. Also, some of the Deluxe models came with a pop-in chrome tremolo bar while others had the screw-in type with the white tip. The pop-in type were most common between 1989-1993.
I have seen people get in endless arguments about what a Plus is or isn’t but the truth is, they vary. Remember, with Fender inconsistency is the rule of thumb.
One thing is for sure—even though they vary, all Plus guitars had: locking tuners; a roller nut (which means the headstock will not have string trees); and, Lace Sensor pickups. (I have seen American Standard Strats with Lace Sensors that people try to pawn off as a Plus).
This 1987 Gun Metal Blue Metallic Plus DX model was one of the very first to come off the Fender production line. (I will talk about the supposed 1984 serial numbers in a few moments). From 1987 to 1989, the DXs came with two Silver Lace pickups (neck and middle) and a Blue Lace in the bridge position as seen in this model above.
In 1990, Fender changed over most of the DX models to a Blue, Silver and Red Lace Sensor pickup combination, which I will talk more about in a moment. Many, but not all of the DX models had a pearloid pickguard. The early models, like from 1987 through 1990/91 came with a plain white pickguard. The guitar above was changed to a pearloid.
And then in 1997: Candy Apple Red, Inca Silver, Sonic Blue, and Vintage White finishes were introduced; Arctic White, Black Pearl Dust, Blue Pearl Dust, Caribbean Mist, Lipstick Red, Midnight Blue, and Midnight Wine finishes were supposedly discontinued. Many of the Plus DX models also came in: Antique Burst, Black, Blue Burst, Crimson Burst, Mystic Black, Natural Ash, and Shoreline Gold finishes.
Where is Olympic White? I have owned 3 of these. How about the Gun Metal Blue above (had a couple of those too), and the Red Burst (not the Crimson Burst with silver around the edges). I love Fender, but you have to say they’re inconsistent.
In the next picture you can see the Blue, Silver, and Red Lace Sensor pickup combination. (Some came with a Gold Lace in the middle too, as seen in some of the early ’90s models. It is not common but they are floating around.) The Lace Sensor pickup family has a unique radiant field barrier system that surrounds both the coil and the magnets, eliminating the annoying 60-cycle hum common to single coil pickups. The Lace Micro Matrix Combs replaces the traditional bobbins, yeilding a wider tonal range and better string balance than traditional pickups. The picture on the left are later replacement Lace Sensors as they do not have the word Fender on them.
The Blue Lace Sensor has increased output compared to the Gold Lace and has a warmer P-90 Gibson flavor to it. I like to use it on a clean amp setting for a powerful, rich, smooth blues or jazz sound. With distortion, it can be silky smooth with no raspy edges.
The Silver Lace Sensor gives a fatter vintage ’70s Strat sound with a little increased output and more midrange. This pickup works great in switch positions #2 and #4 and produces those out-of-phase sounds Strats are famous for.
The Red Lace Sensor is the hottest output of the Lace series, and gives a fat, punchy humbucker sound. It has lots of bite and is most often used in the bridge. Some of the Tele Plus’ and the Strat Ultras used the Red Lace in a dually configuration, often with a switch to split one of the two pickups off.
A note about early serial numbers: Some of the first Plus DXs will have an E4XXXXX serial number, which might lead you to think they are from 1984. Truth is, they are 1987s, as production for the Plus Series started in 1987. The photo (below left) of the nut with the “E4” serial number is off the Gun Metal Blue Metallic Strat Plus DX that was shown ealier above.
The early Plus and the Plus DX models used a Wilkinson type “roller nut”. As you can see the photo above on the left, the top 3 strings float while the other had to feed through an upper pin. This type was used for only a short time in 1987. The other photo (above) shows the Wilkinson nuts that had all the strings feed through an upper “roller” pin that the string rested on, while it went down under a second pin. These were a problem if you wanted to use heavier gauge strings and feeding them through the two pins was a real hassle.
Also, it is interesting that even though these aren the DX Strat Plus, they do not have serial numbers that start with a “D” for Deluxe. That was commonly seen on the Deluxe American Strats, but the prefix was not used on the Deluxe Plus Series.
The Wilkinson nuts were inferior to later LSR Roller nuts (above) that started to appear mid-1993. These made string changes much easier, as each string rode on top of a set of roller bearings—really a great improvement over the Wilkinson nuts. The idea behind the roller nut was to improve tuning while using the tremolo. The Plus DX necks were made from maple with either a rosewood or maple cap and usually had 22 medium-jumbo frets. All had the skunk-stripe down the back, with a nice C Radius, as well as the Bi-flex truss rod, which was a good improvment over the older straight truss rods.
Above you can see a beautiful 1997 Transparent Crimson Red Silver Burst Strat Plus DX on an ash body. Notice the Floyd Rose II bridge. You cut off the end off your string and place the end into a hole on the bridge which tightens down on the string by the means of an Allen screw. There is no need to feed the strings through the back of the body, thus the back cover is solid. It is a nice system and prevents undue scratching of the body by the whole process of feeding the strings through the body, but the bridge is heavier and may cut down on the sustain of the string some. They also are harder to adjust for intonation and string height as it is done on the underside of the bridge.
The above pictures show the Fender Floyd Rose locking bridge a little better. Many of the transparent models were made from ash, making them a little heavier in weight.
Above are shown 2 of my Sunburst Strat Plus DX models all with ash bodies. On he left is a 1990, which has a pop-in tremolo bar rather than the screw-in type. You will notice that it even came with a plain pickguard and maple neck. On the right is a 1997 with a rosewood fret board. The Strat Plus Series were quite a bargain compared to guitars made from Fender’s Custom Shop. For those looking for the genuine Stratocaster tone but also desiring modern improvements such as low pickup noise and added tuning stability, Fender’s Stratocaster Plus series should be looked at with serious consideration.
*The above article and images are © Jeff Reich and are presented here with the author’s express permission. For more Strat Plus and similar model information, please visit www.xhefriguitars.com.