American vs. Japanese Fender's: What’s the Difference?

Many Stratocaster and Telecaster players will tell you that Japanese-built Fender guitars are inferior to American-made guitars. Many insist that the overall build quality and materials used make them Superior in comparison. But how true are these accusations?

There are quite a few differences between American and Japanese made Guitars. Admittedly, i have come across my fair share of Mij/Cij Fender's. It would be easy to be overwhelmed with an abundance of information on the web Right now. How many of us how have really compared the two, Who's opinion holds truth and value?

let's focus on some key Differences and explore how much those differences matter in your personal search for the right guitar.


Any comparison/contrast probably should start with the pickups and there is a lot of confusion surrounding MIJ/CIJ pickups, even from those very people who set out to reissue them.

According to pickup guru Curtis Novak, who offers many traditional and nontraditional replacement options, the Japanese and American pickups sound nothing alike. Conventional wisdom used to be that for the cost of upgrading a Japanese model — with new pickups, electronics and hardware — it made more sense to buy a USA model, which had the correct original specs.However, according to Novak, in recent years great improvements have been made not only to the Japanese guitars but also to the Mexican and various Squier models.

“If you have the opportunity to sit in a room with a lot of them, play them unplugged and you’ll hear that some of them sound considerably better than others,” Novak said. “That’s because of the wood. Find a good one, upgrade the pickups and electronics, and you’ll have a very nice guitar on your hands.”


For starters, Japanese and American Fenders are very comparable in quality. But the main differences are the quality of the materials being used.

John "Woody" Woodland is a legend in the jazzmaster/Stratocaster circles, having invented the Mastery Bridge, which is an extremely popular upgrade for Jazzmaster guitars, solving age-old tuning-stability and string-tension problems associated with the original Fender design.

However, Woodland also is an accomplished luthier who knows the model inside and out.

“Overall construction of the U.S. models is just better,” Woodland says. “The fret wire, nut and hardware are higher quality. The main thing I tell people is, whether it’s a U.S. or CIJ model, you always have to start with playability.”


Well-known Guitar modifier Michael Adams, of Seattle’s Mike & Mike’s Guitars Bar, insists that, along with pickup replacement, the most important major improvement you can make to your Japanese-built Jazzmaster is the electronics.

“People forget that the wiring and pots in those guitars are cheap and noisy, unlike in the U.S models,” Adams says. “It’s so inexpensive to replace those components with quality stuff, though. The most useful feature of the guitar is the tone circuit, so putting in a quality capacitor will change things dramatically. While you’re in there, line the cavity with shielding tape, which is cheap.


If you are in love with the classic Fender sound, your best bet is to invest in an USA guitar if you can afford it. However, starting with a Japanese model and upgrading the electronics and hardware to meet, or even exceed, current U.S. spec is a great choice too.

“It’s really so simple: a good guitar is a good guitar and a bad guitar is a bad guitar,” Adams says. “You’ll know when you have the right one.”