Squier’s guitar lineup includes several cool and creative series. Like the fairly new Contemporary and Paranormal ranges.
They stand out as being that bit different when compared to the likes of the Affinity or Sonic series.
But what exactly are the differences between the two collections? And how do you choose which is right for you?
Simply, the Contemporary series delivers very sleek and modern versions of classic Fender models. The Paranormal series goes the other way and resurrects obscure old Fender designs or creates new mashups. They’re aimed at different players with different tastes.
But how do they stack up against each other spec-wise? I tried the entire ranges out (although didn’t buy any – I own enough guitars!) so can give you a decent comparison on the differences and how they’re made, play, feel and look.
What are Differences Between the Squier Contemporary vs Squier Paranormal Guitars
The main differences between the Squier Contemporary and Squier Paranormal guitars are the fretboard radius, pickup configurations, fretboard wood, nut materials, nut width, bridge types and fret size.
Some of these are purely cosmetic. The fretboard and neck woods make very little difference outside of personal preference.
But a different nut width, fret size and fretboard radius will make a guitar play and feel very different. As the Contemporary series uses 12″ radius, jumbo frets and a slightly narrower nut width (1.65″) it’s more suited to faster playing.
The Paranormals more standard and vintage specs aren’t great for shredding or more modern styles.
And the pickup configurations will have a big impact on how each guitar sounds. Single coils vs humbuckers, or some variety of the two, is going to
What is the Squier Contemporary Series?
Launched in 2019, the Contemporary series features modern updates on classic Fender guitar designs. They blend classic styling with modern features.
The focus is on giving iconic models new looks and features tailored for current playing styles. For example, many Contemporary models have slim, fast-playing necks and narrow nut widths suited for playing fast and shredding. Others have unique electronics like active pickups.
Some highlights of the Contemporary series include:
- Slim, ergonomic bodies with deep double cutaways for easy upper fret access. Many models weigh less than standard Squiers for comfort.
- Sleek, eye catching finishes in metallic, transparent and solid colors.
- Thinner, lighter bodies than standard Squier models.
- Roasted maple necks on many models.
- Contemporary tremolo systems and hardtail bridges.
- 12″ fretboard radius for low, fast action and a narrow 1.65″ nut width that improves playability.
- Jumbo frets for easy bending.
- Modern pickup configurations like HSS and HH.
- Contemporary Stratocasters and Telecasters available with both tremolo bridges or hardtails.
It’s a line aimed at players who want a fresh spin on legendary Fender guitars.
It all adds up to guitars built to handle the needs of modern musical styles like rock, metal, fusion and more.
What is the Squier Paranormal Series?
Introduced in 2020, the Paranormal series is pretty much the opposite to the Contemporary. It brings back obscure and forgotten older Fender models from decades past. It also creates new “what if?” fusion guitars which are a mix of elements from different classic Fender models.
These aren’t your traditional Stratocasters and Telecasters. The Paranormal lineup includes unique instruments like:
- The Strat-O-Sonic – a mashup of a Strat and Jazzmaster.
- The Cyclone – similar to a Mustang but with its own vibe.
- The Super-Sonic – a short-scale Strat/Jazzmaster hybrid.
- The Custom Telecaster – blending Telecaster and Jazzmaster features.
Other Paranormal models revive vintage Fender designs like the Swinger (aka Musiclander) and Coronado. These are guitars you don’t see every day.
Some of the unique features:
- Short 24″ scale lengths on models like the Super-Sonic.
- Retro 9.5″ fretboard radius and vintage style hardware.
- Unique pickup configurations like the Cyclone’s three individual sliding pickups.
- Vintage style finishes in bursts and classic colors.
Whereas the Contemporary series aims for the future the Paranormal range looks to Fender’s past. You’re getting guitars with a vintage sound and vibe but modern Squier quality.
The Paranormal series appeals to players looking for something different that stands out from the crowd.
Squier Contemporary vs Paranormal Stratocaster Models
Lets start with looking at the differences between the Contemporary and Paranormal Strats and Strat types. The main differences are:
- The Contemporary Strat has a modern 12″ radius fretboard while the Paranormal Strat types have a vintage style 9.5″ radius.
- Contemporary Strat fretboards are laurel or roasted maple. Paranormal Strat types have laurel or maple boards.
- The Contemporary Strat is available with both a Floyd Rose tremolo or hardtail bridge. The Paranormal Strat-styles only come in hardtail versions.
- Contemporary Strats have graphite nuts while the Paranormal’s use synthetic bone.
- The Contemporary Strat comes in SSS, HH and HSS pickup configurations. Paranormal Strat models only offer SS or SSS configurations.
- The Contemporary Strat uses Atomic humbuckers and SQR Alnico single coils. Paranormal Strat-style models use Alnico single coils.
But we can look closer at those differences and see how they compare across each guitar.
Body and Neck Woods
Contemporary Strat bodies are made from basswood or popular, making them noticeably lightweight. Paranormal Strat-types on the other hand use okoume or nyatoh.
Contemporary Strat necks are roasted maple for a smooth and strong feel. Paranormal Strat models have regular maple necks.
Scale Lengths and Nut Widths
All Squier Contemporary and Paranormal Strat-style models share standard 25.5” scale lengths. Contemporary Strat nut widths are a more shredding friendly 1.65”. Paranormal Strats are slightly wider at 1.68”.
Fret Size and Radius
Contemporary Strats have jumbo frets for easy bending. Paranormal Strat variants use vintage style narrow frets.
Fretboard radius for the Contemporary models is a more modern 12″ while the Paranormal Strats is the usual 9.5″
Bridges and Hardware
Contemporary Stratocasters come in floating, double-locking tremolo and hardtail versions. Paranormal Strat variants are only available with hardtail bridges.
Contemporary models use modern die-cast tuners. Paranormal Strats feature vintage-style tuners and hardware.
How Do Those Differences Affect Sound and Playability
The major differences between the two is the pickup configurations and the fretboard radius. It’s the pickups that make all the difference in how the guitar sounds.
The different neck and fretboard materials may have a small impact on playability. And the differing bridges will also affect how they play.
But the flatter radius of the Contemporary allows for easier bending, lower action and faster playing. The more traditional 9.5″ of the Paranormals favors chords and higher action.
Then the humbucker options of the Contemporary make it more flexible and capable of heavier styles or music.
So the fact that the Paranormal Strats only come with single coils but the Contemporary’s have a mix of both will be the big factor affecting the tone and sound the guitar produces.
This follows the aim of the two series. The Squier Contemporary line focuses on being far more modern than the rest of the Squier lineups. So if you want a modern Stratocaster that will let you shred comfortably, play fast and is well suited to rock and metal then the Contemporary is the way to go.
The Paranormal range is very much aimed at other end of the scale. You get cool Strat-inspired alternatives that provide a throwback vibe and sound.
Squier Contemporary vs Paranormal Telecaster Models
Here’s how the Contemporary and Paranormal Tele variants main differences measure up:
- The Contemporary Tele has a 12″ radius fretboard while the Paranormal Tele types have a vintage-style 9.5″ radius.
- Contemporary Telecasters have roasted maple fretboards. Paranormal Teles use maple or laurel.
- Contemporary Teles only come in an HH configuration. Paranormal Tele models offer H, SH and HH configurations.
- The Contemporary Tele uses Atomic and Rail humbuckers. Paranormal Teles use wide-range and Alnico single-coil pickups.
- Contemporary Teles have graphite nuts. Paranormal Tele models use synthetic bone.
Body and Neck Woods
Contemporary Telecaster bodies use basswood while Paranormal Teles feature okoume or nyatoh.
Contemporary models have roasted maple necks. Paranormal Teles use standard maple.
Contemporary Teles have roasted maple fretboards. Paranormal Tele variants come with laurel or maple boards.
Scale Lengths and Nut Widths
Like the Strat models, all Contemporary and Paranormal Telecasters share 25.5” scale lengths. Nut widths remain 1.65” on Contemporary Teles and 1.68” on vintage inspired Paranormal versions.
Fret Size and Radius
Contemporary Telecasters come equipped with jumbo frets and a 12” fretboard radius. Paranormal Teles have vintage tall frets and a 9.5” radius.
Bridges and Hardware
Contemporary Telecasters feature a modern hardtail bridge and contemporary die-cast tuners. Paranormal models have vintage hardware including brass saddles.
How Do Those Differences Affect Sound and Playability
Similar to the Stratocasters the Contemporary Tele is designed for heavier styles of music compared to the vintage Paranormal Tele’s. The Paranormal Tele’s will give you a greater variety of tones though thanks to the different pickups and configurations.
The lack of pickup configurations in the Contemporary Tele will limit you somewhat. There’s nothing wrong with a dual humbucker Telecaster. But without any single coil option you won’t be able to get the traditional Tele sound and twang.
The Paranormals on the other hand come with 3 good options – the single bridge humbucker, single coil and humbuckers, and dual humbuckers. So you can really get the flexibility you need.
The fretboard radius again makes the Contemporary more suited to faster playing and lower action. But the wider nut width on the Paranormal Telecasters increases string spacing and makes playing lead and bending easier.
So it’s tricky to separate these two. The Strats were clearly more modern and more traditional, respectively. It’s less simple with the Tele’s.
Other Key Spec Comparison Points
Looking across both series here’s a quick rundown of some other significant elements that set Contemporary and Paranormal models apart:
- Contemporary models have 22 frets. Most Paranormal models have 21 or 22 frets.
- Contemporary Squiers have gloss necks while Paranormal models have satin finishes.
- The Contemporary guitars feature jumbo frets. Paranormal’s uses narrow tall frets.
- Both series offer mostly 25.5″ scale lengths, along with some short-scale models like the Paranormal Super-Sonic.
- The Contemporary models use die-cast tuners. Paranormal guitars feature vintage-style tuners.
- Contemporary guitars feature 4-point tremolo systems. Paranormal hardtails are more traditional.
- Contemporary fretboards have a compound radius. Paranormal fretboards have a vintage-style consistent radius across all frets.
- Contemporary models come in a wider range of colors including transparent and metallic hues. Paranormal finishes are more vintage inspired.
- Many Contemporary models are available left handed. There are fewer left handed Paranormal options available.
Contemporary Active Starcaster vs Paranormal Super-Sonic
Contemporary Jaguar vs Paranormal Cyclone
Who is Each Series Best Suited For?
As you’ve probably noticed – the Contemporary and Paranormal series are pretty distinct and different. And so they cater to different tastes and styles.
The Contemporary range offers modernized takes on classic Fenders. These streamlined, updated guitars fit right in with current music styles.
The Contemporary series delivers a very modern take on timeless Fender models. There’s some interesting innovations too, but mostly what your getting is a flexible and slick guitar that is well suited to contemporary rock, metal, fusion and prog.
Meanwhile the Paranormal range is perfect for those who want something a bit funky. Something different and obscure, with a vintage flavor. The selection of unique models can inspire some of out the box tones and would work well for styles like indie, alternative, psych rock and more.
So if you’re looking to play modern rock and metal then the Contemporary series is definitely going to be the better of the two. If you want something that’s a little off the beaten path then a Paranormal model may be more your speed.
Having said that there’s absolutely some crossover appeal between both lines. Like most guitars you can play any style on one. And seeing as both series are well built and good value they will attract all kinds of guitarists to either series.
Both series are interesting and different enough to make them appealing. Combined with good quality and good value it’s hard not to like them!
Which is Right For You?
I will always recommend trying a guitar in person. Even if you want to buy online to get a better deal it’s best to actually play and handle the guitar first.
As for whether to go for the Squier Contemporary or Paranormal that will come down to personal taste and what your musical needs are. It may end up being neither or these two series!
I really liked the original Fender Strat-O-Sonic so the Squier Paranormal Strat-O-Sonic was the first that caught my eye. And the Stratocaster models are going to the be the most popular. Strats are always a solid choice and won’t let you down.
But the Contemporary Stratocaster is very much a modern take on it. The radius, pickups, nut etc. are all different to a traditional Stratocaster specifications. So be sure that’s the sort of style you want.
The Paranormal Strat types are in some ways more traditional but in other ways very unique. A Paranormal Strat-O-Sonic, for example, with its two soap-bar pickups and phase switching/push-pull controls is so far removed from a classic Strat. But it’s very cool and had lots of interesting options and sounds you can get from it.
The Paranormal Custom Nashville Strat is closer to a traditional Strat, albeit it with a Telecaster body and 3 position Telecaster pickups configuration. The Strat-O-Sonic appeals more to me as a simply interesting guitar. But if I was looking for a new take on a Stratocaster the Custom Nashville would be better.
As for the Telecasters, and as someone who prefers Teles overall, I’d be looking at one of the Paranormal versions. There’s nothing wrong with the Contemporary Tele, it’s simply I like a more classic feel and the Contemporary with 2 humbuckers and bigger radius doesn’t quite float my boat.
Having said that the Paranormal Tele’s aren’t exactly 100% traditional. I like single pickup guitars so the Esquire Deluxe would be my pick, but it’s also not the real classic Telecaster we all know.
If you’ve got very small hands or short fingers then the short scale Contemporary Jaguar or Paranormal Super-Sonic and Cyclone would be worth a look. Short scale lengths aren’t for everyone but they definitely make big stretches easier. You might find their smaller bodies and necks more comfortable too.
Trying to compare some of the models is simply impossible though because they’re just too different. The Paranormal Toronado and Cyclone don’t really have equivalents in the Contemporary lineup.
Essentially if you want something that’s a Fender style but more modern, and that doesn’t break the bank, the Contemporary series is well worth a look. I tend to favor modern music and so I though I’d be drawn more towards the Contemporary’s. But I actually prefer the more interesting Paranormal models.
If you like the vintage styles or want something that stands out and is a bit quirky then the Paranormal series has a lot to offer. I’m a big fan of odd or different guitars so there are a couple of really interesting options.
Budget also plays a role. The Paranormal lineup does skew a little higher in price on average. So that needs to be kept in mind.
Either way they’re both at the higher end of the Squier range. Similar in that sense to the Classic Vibe series. The build quality and attention to detail is impressive throughout both ranges.