Updated: October 7, 2020 by Richard Cole
Ever since Fender Stratocaster first came out, it was pretty much an instant success.
Following the popularity of Telecaster, Fender had no problem positioning a whole new model on the market.
Especially if that new model turned out to be an awesome guitar by itself.
If there is one thing that makes a Strat easy to recognize, it’s the configuration of its pickups. The three single coils have become somewhat of a Stratocaster signature feature, that is for sure.
As you probably know by now, Fender has been releasing signature models every now and then for decades. A lot of famous guitarists got their own Stratocaster. Most of them were solid guitars, but were still within the frame of what a regular Stratocaster was all about.
One that broke pretty much every rule in the book is the subject of our review today. We are talking about Tom DeLonge Strat. As you’re about to find out, this guitar is something completely different.
On a grand scale of things, Tom DeLonge is probably not as popular as some other guitarists who cooperated with Fender to produce signature model guitars. He is best know for his stint in the Blink 182, but has also been involved in other successful projects.
This type of outlook on things is exactly what gave birth to the Tom DeLonge Strat. Tom worked with Fender to completely flip the standard Strat on its head, and create a guitar which many Fender purists consider to be complete heresy. However, there are always two sides to every debate. Let’s take a look at this guitar, and show you exactly what’s the reason behind all the drama.
When you look at this guitar from afar, it looks like your regular Stratocaster. The only immediate difference you can spot from that distance is the choice of colors. Tom DeLonge went with a variety of colors which also dictated the color of the pickups.
Seafoam Green is arguably the most popular choice for this signature Strat. The body is your standard Alder from Fender, with a Maple neck that sports a Rosewood fretboard. So far nothing unusual. However, once you take a look at the pickups, you’re in for a shock.
We will preface this by saying that seeing a humbucker on a Stratocaster is not all that unusual. There are many models of this great guitar that feature one or more humbuckers. However, these humbuckers are always accompanied by at least one or two single coil pickups. Not the Tom DeLonge Strat. This one brings a completely different story.
Instead of going for two humbuckers, or one humbucker and two single coils, Tom DeLonge wanted to have only one humbucker at the bridge position.
That’s right, this guitar comes with a single humbucker. The pickup is controlled by one volume knob, and that is it. There’s no tone knob, no pickup select switch (obviously), none of that.
Just a single humbucker and a single volume knob. Speaking of which, the humbucker of choice was the Seymour Duncan Invader. It came in a black and white configuration, but that depended on the color scheme of the guitar.
The bridge was originally the American 2-Point tremolo unit, which was later replaced by a standard hard tail bridge. Tuning pegs came in form of Ping’s tuners, although the guitar Fender made for DeLonge himself featured a set of Sperzel locking tuners.
Lastly, it’s worth mentioning that all of the Tom DeLonge signature Strats were made in Mexico. There was even a Squier series of guitars which were inspired by this model, but never a true American made Fender Strat.
One of the biggest reasons why people bought Fender Stratocasters was the sound. That single coil configuration combined with an awesome Alder body gave you the type of tonal range that was hard to reproduce outside of the Fender family. So what happens when you take all that away and put a single Seymour Duncan humbucker instead? Well, it definitely sounds different.
Having one humbucker at the bridge position made this guitar great for driving rhythms. The pickup handled distortion well, and could produce the type of tone you’d rarely hear from a Stratocaster. If you’re aiming for that Blink 182 sound, this Strat will get you plenty of that. However, it has its limitations. Being a guitar with just a single humbucker, you know it’s not going to give you much of a tonal range.
If you want to play various music genres, or even styles, it’s going to be an issue. It lends itself well to rock and some harder stuff, but you definitely won’t be playing jazz on this guitar. In many ways, you can appreciate the simplicity of form and the sheer lightweight idea behind this Strat, but it definitely isn’t a multi-purpose guitar.
In terms of playability, things are great. It’s a Strat after all, and if you have ever played one, you pretty much played them all. The neck is smooth, and the fretboard is pretty fast considering it’s a Rosewood one. If this guitar came with a lacquered Maple fretboard, it would probably be even better.
What we like
There are several things we really need to give praise on this particular Strat. First of all, it’s one of the weirdest Stratocasters ever produced by Fender. It’s unique electronics setup, choice of colors, and just the sound it delivered really put it into a category of its own. If you’re a serious Stratocaster fan, and you want to have something that goes against the grain, this is the one you’re looking for.
What we don’t like
No matter how bold of a move it was to put a single humbucker on a Strat, it’s just as detrimental as it is interesting. In a way, depriving this guitar from a second pickup completely limits the range of tones you can get. Some will be fine with this, especially if they are Blink 182 fans, but it’s not for everyone.
The monotony of tone gets to you after a while, and you realize that your guitar is limiting you in ways that can seriously impact your will to play. If it had one more pickup, any kind of pickup, it would be a different story.
Tom DeLonge Strat is definitely an unusual guitar. It’s a niche model which will be interesting to a handful of hardcore fans, but it just doesn’t offer much to the regular user. It’s a novelty item for fans of Blink 182 and Strat collectors. A lot of people will probably disagree with this conclusion, but we strongly feel that’s the case. He basically took all the finesse which defined the Stratocaster lineage, and replaced it with a simple yet crude design. How that panned out is up for debate.
For the most part, it all comes down to the type of music you are going to play with this guitar. On top of that, the style of playing also plays an important part.
If you’re planning on using this Strat for rhythm guitar in a rock band, you will find it great. However, if you want to go and play solos, or get involved with genres of music where subtle changes to the tone matter, this is not the guitar for you.
This Strat is a hammer – a blunt tool which you definitely don’t want to use for delicate surgery. That is probably the best way to describe it.