The Squier Affinity and Squier Contemporary series are two of Squier’s most popular guitar ranges. They offer good quality guitars for a reasonable price.
But how do they compare in terms of build quality, sound and value for money?
Having owned an Affinity Strat and tried some of the Contemporary’s I’ve got a good idea how they match up. So I’ll take a look at the differences between the Squier Affinity and Squier Contemporary Stratocasters, Telecasters and other models.
The Main Differences Between the Squier Affinity vs Squier Contemporary
As background, here are some of the main differences between the Squier Affinity and Contemporary series:
- The Contemporary series features more modern parts like roasted maple necks, flatter fretboard radius and larger frets.
- The Contemporary models have more contemporary pickup configurations compared to the traditional setups on the Affinity series.
- The Contemporary series is positioned as a more premium Squier range, with higher quality woods, hardware and electronics.
- There are some unique Contemporary models like the Cabronita Thinline Tele that have no direct Affinity equivalent.
The Affinity series is both more affordable and more “traditional” than the Contemporary. The Affinity models are essentially budget versions of classic Fenders – Stratocasters, Telecasters, Jazzmasters etc.
The Contemporary however is is modern update on the traditional Fender designs. Hence the name ‘Contemporary’. You get an affordable guitar that’s based on a classic vintage Fender but with things like a more modern neck radius, scale length, pickups etc.
This is better demonstrated by comparing the Affinity and Contemporary models specifically.
Squier Affinity vs Squier Contemporary Stratocasters
The Stratocaster is arguably the most iconic Fender guitar shape. Both the Affinity and Contemporary Strats aim to deliver that quintessential Strat tone. But they take different approaches.
Some of the key differences between the Squier Affinity and Contemporary Strat models:
- Neck wood: The Contemporary Strat uses a roasted maple neck which brings stability and brighter tones, while the Affinity Strat has a traditional maple neck.
- Fretboard radius: The Contemporary Strat has a flatter 12″ radius vs. the Affinity’s 9.5″ vintage-style radius. This makes bending notes and playing faster easier on the Contemporary.
- Frets: The Contemporary Strat comes with larger jumbo frets compared to the Affinity’s medium jumbos.
- Nut: The Contemporary uses a graphite nut which helps with tuning stability compared to the Affinity’s synthetic bone nut.
- Bridge: The Contemporary Strat’s hardtail bridge is a modern 6-saddle design while the Affinity uses a 6-saddle vintage-style synchronized tremolo.
- Pickups: The Contemporary Strat uses Atomic humbuckers compared to the Affinity’s ceramic single-coils. This gives the Contemporary a hotter output and is better for heavier styles of music.
- Controls: The Contemporary Strat has a single master volume and tone control setup while the Affinity Strat has individual volume and tones to shape each pickup.
A quick example to really show the differences:
The Squier Contemporary Stratocaster HH FR comes with a double-locking Floyd Rose tremolo, roasted maple neck and fingerboard, 12″ radius and Atomic humbuckers.
The Squier Affinity Stratocaster HSS has a vintage 6-saddle tremolo, maple neck, 9.5” radius and ceramic single-coils and humbucker.
They may both be Stratocasters but they’re very different. So, which is better?
Well it really depends on what you want.
The Contemporary is overall a better guitar. Better parts used and higher quality all over. But that doesn’t mean it’s going to be right for you.
As we’ve touched on the Affinity Stratocaster is far more traditional. If you want a Strat that’s as close to the real thing as possible then the Affinity will be the better of the two. Especially if you want to play pop, rock, country etc.
The Contemporary Stratocaster is well suited for heavier styles of music – metal, harder rock – and for more technical and faster playing. The flatter radius, bigger frets and higher output pickups are all going to suit those styles more than the Affinity.
If you’re a beginner with an interest in heavy music, or you’re looking for an alternative to Ibanez, Schecter etc. for metal guitars the Contemporary Strat is the way to go.
If you’re a beginner who isn’t particularly keen on heavy music or you simply want a good backup Strat type guitar then the Affinity will be perfect.
Here is a comparison table for the Squier Affinity Stratocaster vs Squier Contemporary Stratocaster:
Squier Affinity vs Squier Contemporary Telecasters
The Telecaster is right behind the Stratocaster as one to the most iconic guitars. It’s known for a bright tone and synonymous with rock, pop and country
Let’s take a look at how the Affinity and Contemporary models compare:
- Neck wood: The Contemporary Tele uses a roasted maple neck while the Affinity has a traditional maple neck.
- Fretboard radius: The Contemporary Tele has a flatter 12″ radius vs. the Affinity’s 9.5” vintage-style radius for easier bending.
- Frets: The Contemporary Tele comes with larger jumbo stainless steel frets while the Affinity has classic medium jumbos.
- Nut: The Contemporary uses a graphite nut for better tuning stability compared to the Affinity’s synthetic bone.
- Pickups: The Contemporary Tele uses hot Atomic humbuckers while the Affinity has vintage-voiced ceramic single-coils.
- Controls: The Contemporary Tele is simple with 1 master volume and tone while the Affinity offers 2 volumes and 2 tones for detail shaping.
Using select models as examples:
The Squier Contemporary Active Telecaster HH ST has a roasted maple neck, 12” radius, humbuckers and active electronics.
The Squier Affinity Telecaster mimics vintage specs like maple neck, 9.5” radius, single-coil pickups and 4-way switching.
The differences are almost identical to the Affinity and Contemporary Stratocasters.
The Contemporary Telecaster with it’s modern neck radius, jumbo frets and high output pickups is better for modern and heavier music. The traditional Affinity Tele is going to be much better for regular rock, pop, country and so on.
Other Squier Affinity vs Contemporary Comparisons
Beyond Stratocasters and Telecasters here are some other comparisons between Affinity and Contemporary models:
- The Contemporary Active Jazzmaster has an active preamp and humbuckers while the Affinity Jazzmaster is passive with single-coils.
- The Contemporary Jaguar has hot Atomic humbuckers compared to the Affinity Jaguar’s vintage-style single-coils.
- The Contemporary Jazz Bass V has a slim, fast-playing “C”-shaped maple neck while the Affinity Jazz Bass has a thicker “C” neck.
- The Contemporary Active Precision Bass has an active preamp and hum-cancelling J pickups while the Affinity P Bass is passive with standard split-coil pickup.
- The Contemporary series also has a Starcaster that have no direct Affinity equivalent.
The common theme is the Contemporary models offer modernized specs that aren’t found on the traditional Affinity lineup.
How the Prices Compare
Considering the different parts used and the build quality between the two there’s understandably a piece difference too.
The current prices for each model are :
- Squier Affinity Series: $129-$299
- Squier Contemporary Series: $299-$549
- Squier Affinity Stratocaster: $199-$279
- Squier Contemporary Stratocaster: $399-$449
- Squier Affinity Telecaster: $199-$299
- Squier Contemporary Telecaster: $399-$429
You’re generally paying an extra $100-200 for the contemporary features found on the Squier Contemporary series.
But the Affinity models are great value for the quality you get. Beginners can pick up a fantastic starter Stratocaster or Telecaster for around $200.
It’s what I started with! I’ve still got my Affinity Stratocaster and really dig it’s super thin neck. So I’d definitely recommend one for beginners.
Sound and Playability
Beyond just the specs how do the Affinity and Contemporary models compare in terms of actual sound and playability?
While they are different, and we’ll get into how, I’ll begin by saying they both sound and play fine. As Squiers they won’t be as good as higher priced guitars but they’re more than good enough.
In terms of the their individual qualities, the Affinity series has that traditional Strat vibe. The classic single coil pickups get you closer to the Strats signature sound.
The Contemporary with it’s Alnico humbuckers give greater responsiveness and clarity. But the higher output makes it much hotter sounding than a regular Strat.
For playability the Contemporary models feature flatter fretboard radius and larger frets for fast playing. The Affinity models still play very smoothly right out of the box but will feel different because of the narrower frets and smaller radius.
As the Contemporary series come with better nuts (graphite is an improvement over the Affinities synthetic bone), tuners and bridges they have better tuning stability. Basically the higher quality parts mentioned help keep the guitar in tune better.
Having said that my Affinity Strat never had any issues with tuning. So while the parts may be an upgrade in the Contemporary it doesn’t mean the Affinity will have problems.
For those on a tight budget Squier does offer a couple beginner series that are less expensive than even the Affinity range:
- Squier Sonic Series: The most affordable Squier Strats and Teles in the $129-$179 range. See this guide fit how the Squier Sonics compare to other Squier series.
- Squier Mini Series: Short-scale models for kids priced from $129-$179. See this guide for how the Squier Mini Strat matches up to the full size Strat.
Both offer no-frills Fender-style guitars with tuners, pickups and hardware a tier below the Affinity series. But even with those limitations they can be great starter instruments on a budget.
I’d recommend saving up for at least an Affinity model if possible though. The improved materials, quality control and attention to detail are worth the small extra investment.
The Contemporary models are nice, and technically nicer than the Affinity, but they are very much aimed at guitarists who want a modern style guitar. If that’s you then they’ll be great. But for a lot of people it’s the traditional Stratocaster that pulls them in, and that means the Affinity will be the best choice.
Squier Contemporary vs Fender Player Series
If you’ve got a bit more money to spend then there are some higher end options. The Contemporary series sits right below Fender’s Player series models price wise.
For example the Squier Contemporary Stratocaster and Telecaster are $399-$449 while the Fender Player equivalents run $674-$749.
Is that jump in price worth it? You definitely get the attention to detail and fit and finish of USA made Fenders, albeit it with import parts and wood. But the Player series are a really strong and reliable mid range guitars
The Contemporary models compete well on sound and playability given the significant price gap. What you’re paying more for is that craftsmanship and refinement in the Fender Players.
Whether that’s with it is down to you. As I always like to say – play any guitar you’re considering buying in person first. So it’s a good idea to try out any of the guitars – Affinity, Contemporary and Player series – before making a decision.
The main considerations when deciding between the Squier Affinity and Squier Contemporary series is going to be your own preference and budget.
For those looking for their very first guitar I think the Squier Affinity series is incredibly tough to beat. I started on an Affinity Stratocaster and found it a good guitar to learn on.
And the Affinity Telecasters, Jazzmasters and Jaguars provide great quality for the a very affordable $200-300 price tag.
If you’re an intermediate player who wants modern features – roasted maple, flatter radius etc. – then what the Contemporary series has to offer will definitely appeal.
But if you want the traditional and classic tone and feel of a Fender then again the Affinity options will be more appealing.
You really can’t go wrong either way. Both the Affinity and Contemporary series provide fantastic bang-for-buck instruments. Squier are doing some of their best work at the moment both interns of quality and interesting guitars. Entry level guitars have never been better and Squier are exceeding expectations with both of these series.