The ’80s were a golden age for electric guitars. It was the time when shredding virtuosos conquered the world stages and heavy metal entered the mainstream. Everywhere, people were modifying Stratocasters to get that heavy sound and enable those wild playing styles.
While this started with people trading components and hot-rodded guitars, various brands started making so-called Superstrats which had the iconic Stratocaster shape but more exciting features and finishes. To reclaim the market from impersonators and hot-rods, Fender created the Heavy Metal Stratocaster, or HM Strat. The 2020 model is a long-awaited throwback to the ones made between ‘88 and ‘92.
Fender Limited Edition HM Strat Physical Features
- Body material: Basswood
- Scale length: 25.1” (638 mm)
- Neck: Maple Slim C profile
- Fretboard: Ebony
- Frets: 24
- Nut width: 1.66” (42.1 mm)
- Nut material: Floyd Rose FRT 02000 locking
- Pickups: 1 HM humbucker, 2 HM single-coils
- Tuners: Gotoh cast/sealed
The new Fender Limited Edition HM Strat comes from the same factory where the original was made and has the same general specs. It's got a basswood body with a maple neck and a special scale length of 25.1 inches.
A recessed Floyd Rose Special locking bridge allows for furious whammy yanking and dive bombs without detuning the guitar. To stabilize the tuning even better, they've installed a special locking nut and Gotoh tuners.
A custom Fender HM humbucker by the bridge gives you that fat, punchy sound that’s perfect for heavy distortion. Meanwhile, the neck and middle single-coils offer a traditional Strat sound. A nice addition is the coil-split toggle, which essentially lets you turn the humbucker into another single coil for that classic Stratocaster twang.
As usual, the pickup selector has five positions and lets you use each pickup in isolation or with its neighbor. Together with the coil-split toggle, this gives you a lot of control over the sound.
The Fender Limited Edition HM Stratocaster comes in four different Day-Glo colors: Flash pink, Ice blue, Bright white, and Frozen yellow. Regardless of the body color, the hardware’s always black, and so is the headstock, where you find the iconic Strat logo. A high-gloss polyurethane finish completes the retro look. This guitar definitely makes an impression.
How the Fender Limited Edition HM Strat Plays
Unlike a normal Strat, the Fender Limited Edition HM Strat has a very flat fingerboard radius of 17 inches. This enables a faster action and makes it good for shredding while also allowing for easy bends without buzzing or slipping out.
Also, the neck has a satin finish that lets the hand move up and down without catching. Together with the moderate string spacing and slim C neck profile, these qualities make it a very player-friendly and playful guitar. And let’s not forget that the lightweight basswood makes it easier to rock out longer.
The basswood body gives the Fender Limited Edition HM Stratocaster a well-balanced and malleable tone that lends itself well to humbucking pickups and powerful distortion pedals.
The high-output pickups are a very nice upgrade that enables a more modern metal tone without sacrificing retro vibes. There’s good clarity, and the HM Strat offers rich, creamy mids that also translate to a fierce bite when you apply hard distortion. With a set of heavy strings and a fat tube amp, and you get a really mighty metal tone.
Coming in at $1,199, it’s not the most affordable HSS metal Strat, but it’s not that much when you consider the authenticity and high-quality components. If you want a classic Superstrat with better performance, it’s well worth the price.
Fender Limited Edition HM Strat VS Fender Player Stratocaster HSS
If a Fender Limited Edition HM Stratocaster sounds a bit pricey and you don’t need all the fancy features, a Fender Player HSS Stratocaster is worth considering. For about half the price, you get a versatile power Strat. It may not have the Floyd Rose bridge, shred-optimized neck, or edgy style of the HM Strat, but it’s got a good bridge humbucker and a cool overall style. So, if you want a real Strat that’s good for hard rock but doesn’t break the bank, check it out.
Pros & Cons
It’s a pretty elaborate guitar, so there’s a lot to remember. Let’s round up the strengths and weaknesses of the Fender Limited Edition HM Strat.
- Solid build quality
- Shred-friendly neck
- Great tonal variety
- Impressive whammy bridge
- Eye-catching style
It’s got all the traits of a proper hot-rod Superstrat. It’s perfect for those who want to bring back ’80s speed metal, but it’s also excellent for other subgenres of metal and hard rock.
- Very niche
- No dual-humbucker version
I wonder why Fender only made their heavy metal ax available in pastel Day-glo models. The average metalhead probably wouldn’t bring a hot pink guitar to a show. And modern metal works much better with two humbuckers than this HSS configuration. This limits the guitar somewhat, but it’s still ideal for throwback bands and virtuosos who like to stand out.
Should You Get a Fender Limited Edition HM Strat?
Fender brought back their revered HM Strat due to popular demand, and they’ve given it some great upgrades. Overall, it’s a shredder’s dream, and the visual design is very eye-catching.
The flashy colors are cool, but it would have been nice if there was a less over-the-top option as well. However, this guitar targets a specific type of guitarist, and it delivers exactly what they need: a sweet hot-rod Superstrat that doesn’t require any modifications to deliver those hot chugs and squeals.
Are you looking for other options? Check out my other electric guitar reviews to learn and compare.
Fender HM Strat Limited Edition John Holloway Rating: 5 out of 5