Tom Morello is one of those famous guitarists whose way of playing is far from traditional. And when he joined Audioslave, he wanted a new guitar customized for that project. The result was his now-iconic Soul Power, a hot-rodded Designer Series Stratocaster with very distinct features. In 2020, Fender started selling remakes of this guitar. So, how good are they?
Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster Physical Features
- Body Material: Alder
- Neck: Maple C-profile
- Fretboard: Rosewood
- Frets: 22
- Nut Width: 1.65” (41.9mm)
- Nut Material: Floyd Rose FRT 02000 locking
- Pickups: 1 humbucker, 2 noiseless single-coils
- Tuners: Deluxe cast/sealed locking
Morello's custom Soul Power strat had few distinct features that contributed to its legendary status. This remake offers all those functions in a more professional package.
The foundation is a bound-top alder body with a 22-fret bolt-on neck. It’s a “deep C” profile maple neck with a rosewood fingerboard. To get that modern player-friendly feel, they’ve given it a 9.5 to 14-inch compound radius.
Of course, the main attractions are the special features. First, we’ve got the double-locking Floyd Rose bridge and locking tuners. This is what lets you make those wild whammy dives and whinnies while also staying in tune longer.
Next, there’s the killswitch. Pressing it cuts the sound out, and that’s how Tom makes those crazy stuttered leads that set him apart from other guitarists back in the day. Run the guitar through a good distortion pedal and push the switch like a jackhammer, and you’ve nailed the sound.
In the pickup department, there are three high-performance pickups in an HSS configuration. In the bridge position, you’ll find a legendary Seymour Duncan Hot Rails humbucker. The neck and middle pickups are updated Fender Noiseless single-coils, which do live up to their name.
In the typical Stratocaster fashion, there’s a master volume knob, a bridge tone knob, and a tone knob for the other two pickups. A 5-position blade switch lets you use either pickup in isolation or together with its neighbor. All settings produce a crisp and clear sound. Even under heavy overdrive, the Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster is pretty much noise-free.
As for the killswitch, it’s a proper one that causes complete silence as long as you hold it down and returns the sound as you release it. There’s none of that “suddenly unplugged cable” noise that some cheaper killswitch circuits cause.
The Tom Morello Stratocaster has a black polyester gloss finish. What immediately stands out from similar models is the mirrored chrome pickguard. Overall, it looks just like the original Soul Power. Plus, you get a decal with the iconic Soul Power logo in case you want the exact look.
How the Tom Morello Stratocaster Plays
So, it’s a stylish and elaborate guitar, but does the playability back it up? This is where Fender has made some noticeable improvements.
The neck has a modern C profile, which is quite deep and designed for versatile comfort. Taking this further, the compound-radius fretboard is a nice addition. Basically, it’s rounder toward the headstock and flatter toward the pickups. This results in an easier time playing open chords while optimizing the higher frets for fast runs without slips and fret buzz.
Since the frets are medium-jumbo and the nut width is a moderate 1.65 inches (41.9 millimeters,) the Tom Morello Stratocaster should be comfortable and highly playable for most hands. I’m sure this is part of the reason why proper Fender Strats are among the most popular guitars.
The string action is balanced. Plus, the double-action truss rod lets you adjust it to your ideal setting.
That timeless Stratocaster tone is a great foundation, and the modern electronics give the Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster a strong and refined timbre. It’s clear and balanced with a very dimensional sound that should work well for all music styles except the very heaviest ones.
Beyond the classic Audioslave-era sound, you get a lot of room for playful experimentation. Due to the noiseless and locking designs, it can handle wild playing without compromising the sound.
A list price of $1,399 isn’t bad for an HSS Fender Strat made in North America. While there might be similar guitars available at lower prices, it doesn’t seem like there are direct competitors with the same features built to a consistent standard. So, I’d say it’s a good value offer.
Fender Tom Morello Strat VS Fender Player Stratocaster HSS
If you like a good HSS strat with versatile features but aren’t quite sold on the details of the Tom Morello Stratocaster or don’t need a killswitch, here’s an option worth considering. It’s got the same general proportions, but the fingerboard has a normal 9.5-inch radius. Also, it has ordinary Strat pickups and a normal tremolo bridge. Overall, it’s a solid HSS Stratocaster, and it only costs about half as much as the Tom Morello edition.
Pros & Cons
There’s a lot to say about the Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster. Here’s a quick summary.
- Versatile Superstrat design
- Locking, floating tremolo
- Designed with comfort in mind
- High sound quality
Overall, it’s a neat, heavily modified Stratocaster with many fun features. If you’re an Audioslave fan or just like to experiment with playing styles, it’s an excellent choice.
- Not quite authentic
- May be too specific
Nitpicky Morello fans may have noticed that some details aren’t the exact same. Understandably, Fender wouldn’t want to use an Ibanez trem, for example. However, they’ve replaced these features with better stuff, so it shouldn’t be a problem.
Should You Get a Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster?
The Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster isn’t just for fans who want to replicate the Audioslave sound. If you’re into elaborate hot-rod Strats but don’t want to make all the modifications or don’t trust the quality of home-made upgrades, this is a worthy choice.
Interested in other alternatives? Check out my other electric guitar reviews.
Fender Tom Morello Stratocaster John Holloway Rating: 5 out of 5