The Squier Mini Strat is gaining in popularity even beyond kids and beginners. This page will outline the specifications of this versatile little electric guitar.
So what are the differences between the Squier Mini and a full size? Here is a run-down:
Smaller, obviously but how much? Guitars this size are commonly referred to as "3/4 size", which technically is a misnomer. The guitar is actually 7/8-size more or less, with the following physical dimensions:
The body of the four Squier Minis I have are all made of plywood, probably luan or other inexpensive wood common in South-East Asia. I have heard reports of Minis being made of solid wood, but that is something I've never seen. It seems possible the tobacco burst version would be solid due to the fading translucent finish, but that stands unconfirmed. For comparison, all but the cheapest full-size Squier Strats have bodies made from solid wood.
Necks are maple and fingerboards rosewood. There is no Mini that I'm aware of with maple fingerboard.
Aside from size, the most obvious difference comparing the Mini to a full-size Strat is the knobs. The Mini only has a volume and tone, just like a Tele, whereas a full size Strat has volume and two tone knobs.
What is less obvious is where the neck meets the body. On a full-size Stratocaster the neck and body meets at the 16th fret, whereas on the Mini it is on the 14th. The reason is a part technical and part aesthetics. As designed, the proportions and the location of the bridge makes it look right while at the same time being able to utilize a standard size neck plate.
The astute observer will also notice that the Squier Mini doesn't come with a tremolo, which is standard on a full-size Strat.
The Squier Mini only come in a handful of colors, and it seems to change over the years. Up until a few years ago there were only red and black. Currently they are available in black, red, pink, dark blue, white and tobacco Burst.
Red and black are the most common, but it seems the red is slightly more popular on the second hand market. Tobacco burst is the least common color option. The other colors falls somewhere in between. The quality of the finish is great.
The Squier Mini has been released with a Hello Kitty theme. I have seen two versions. The first is pink with the Kitty's face and "Hello Kitty" in white along the top of the body, just above the pickguard. The second version is black with the Kitty and text in the same location. However, the "Hello Kitty" is written out in letters of different fonts and every other letter has a contrasting silk-screened rectangle as a background. Doesn't look very tidy.
These guitars are otherwise identical in appearance to the standard Mini. There is a full-size Hello Kitty Squier Stratocaster not to be confused with the Mini. The full-size guitars are highly collectible, the Minis are really not.
Fender Starcaster "Mini Strat"
Not to be confused with previous Squier or Fender guitars named "Starcaster". This guitar is essentially a black Squier Mini with a single humbucker bridge pickup and a single black volume knob. It has no pickguard and the peghead has "Starcaster" silkscreened onto it. All electronics is accessed from the back through a plastic cover.
Squier Mini Type PR755
Similar to the Starcaster in that it has a single humbucker, but this guitar has a volume and tone knob, plus a built in amp and speaker.
The standard pickguard is single ply, white. Sometimes you can find guitars with gold colored pickguards. The white pickguard turns yellow over time if exposed to sunlight. On the second hand market those Minis with yellowed pickguards seem to go for more.
The Squier Mini has three single coil pickups wired to a 5-position switch, just like a full-size Stratocaster. The middle pickup is opposite wound for hum cancelling in position two and four. Compared to other much more expensive single-coil guitars I have, the Mini Strat is remarkably quiet in the non-hum canceling positions. A great surprise.
As mentioned earlier, the guitar has a single volume and a single tone control, unlike the full-size guitar that has two tone knobs.
The worst part on the guitar is the output jack. All four guitars I own, and bought used, have had a loose nut on the output jack - tells me it is a common issue. To top it off, the jack is of very low quality, unfortunately.
The pots are "minis". Mini pots (or potentiometers) are considered by many players to be of lower grade than the full size version. From my experience, these pots seem to work just fine in the four Minis I have owned.
The neck is bolt-on design just like all other solidbody Fenders. I have seen two different species of wood used for the necks. Most are made with flat-sawn hard maple, just like a full-size Squier or Fender. I have seen a couple, and I happen to own one, with a different wood I'm not entirely familiar with. It could be Natoh or some other exotic wood. I do however suspect this could be a counterfeit product. More about that elsewhere.
The neck of the Mini has 20 frets, compared to the full size having 21 or 22. All fingerboards are Rosewood and frets are your typical Jumbos. The nut is cheap plastic of unknown type.
The neck has a truss rod, which is nice. Not all "3/4 size" guitars have one. The Harmony for instance does not. Necks without extra reinforcement tend to take a set after some time due to the string tension. The result is that the action becomes high and the guitar becomes more difficult to play.
With an adjustable truss rod the bow can be counteracted. One may think that a short scale instrument like the Mini wouldn't suffer too bad, but it does. Especially if heavier gauge strings are being used.
The tuners are as you would expect from a $100 instrument - not that great. Having said that, they do an adequate job of keeping the instrument in tune, if the tuners are in reasonable shape.
The biggest problem with the tuners is that they are not terribly robust. The internal construction is mostly of sheet metal. When they get dinged the structural components inside get bent easilly. As a result, the tuning machine shafts feel loose and wobbly. Still works, most of the time, but not a great feel.
While adequate when new, it is a good idea to replace the tuners eventually with something more robust.
The bridge is a no-frills top-loaded hardtail. While it looks cheap, it actually works quite well. The saddles look to be made of machined steel and the bridge bracket of bent-up sheet metal - all bright chrome plated. The bridge is attached to the body with five flat head screws.
Each of the saddles are adjustable in height - aiding in setting the action, and front-to-back, aiding in setting the intonation.
No Mini Strat comes with a tremolo.
Just like the full-size, the Mini has a front mounted output jack in a "dish". This works well and is such a staple for a Stratocaster you would barely recognize the guitar without it.
The jack itself can cause problems as it has a propensity to come loose. The jack is a low quality unit, and ought to be replaced with a quality Switchcraft jack. A highly recommended mod.