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Arjun_M 08-04-2012 07:35 AM

Which super-strat from the Fender group?
Six years since I started with a very cheap (a third of a regular Squier) Strat copy, I've decided to upgrade to an instrument of better quality, and hopefully a very long-term upgrade, so that I stay out of the guitar trade here, which isn't a very pleasant scene (read on)- so it could be from Level 1 to Level 4, if I can stretch it enough. I'm sticking to the Fender/Jackson brands.

Budget- I'll quote current US$ prices, as many would be familiar with them, though the amount we pay in Indian Rupees is a lot more due to exchange rates and import duties/shipping charges. I'll keep it to $449-$799.

Favourite Artists- Ritchie Blackmore, Dave Murray and Adrian Smith, Glenn Tipton and KK Downing, Chris DeGarmo and Michael Wilton, 1980s era Gary Moore, Zachary Hietala, John Norum, Frankie Sullivan, Jeff Watson, Brad Gillis, Alex Lifeson - the classic 80s metal/AOR, and also heavier progressive.

Preferences- Strat shape only, from the Fender/Jackson group. Alder body strongly preferred. Playability and comfort is most important, and I want more sustain on the high notes. Minimum of 22 frets, although a two-way trem or two more frets would be preferred (had a tough time doing the solo of REO Speedwagon's Take It On The run).

Pickups- Anything that will give me the best clean tones, but can go (classic) metal when run through the right effects. No names in particular, but I'd prefer the one with the best stock pickups. I am not sure which is better- HSS, HSH, HH (regular) or HH (blacktop)- but I want good clean tones and a decent high-gain which can rip when run through the right effects.

New or used- I don't know of used deals here in my location, so I may think of new, but the rising dollar and steep duties push guitar prices beyond reason.

Location- Mumbai, India. Not an ideal place to buy a guitar. Trust me, this is a long answer. Distributors offer you very, very limited options, based largely on prices- so affordable $499 instruments are considered poor-selling high-end ones. You don't get what you want (I want a Jackson Soloist, Fender Blacktop Strat with a Floyd, Jackson Dinky in alder) because the distributor decides what you have to buy! Fender, Jackson and Ibanez have the same distributor here, and there's a very wide variety from Ibanez. Another point to note is that you don't get to test out the instruments you're looking for, except from a single dealer, who expect you to buy from them when you test out. So if you wish to test out the DK2, AmSpec HSS and Blacktop HH, only one dealer offers a test in the warehouse, and you have to choose and buy- at that dealer's higher price. Everyone else just orders.

Current Gear- Fender Mustang-1 amplifier (all that matters now, bought it at a fantastic price at a small shop), Java EG-11 (cost as much as $90 here, want to sell it quickly), Vox AC1RV (good piece, but not so useful now)

The models I am keen on are the Blacktop Strat with a Floyd Rose, Jackson Soloist SLX/SLSXMG, which are not available here. Of the available options, I've got in mind a Fender American Special HSS stratocaster, a Fender Blacktop HH Stratocaster with vintage trem, a Jackson Dinky DK2, a Jackson Dinky DX-10D and a Jackson DXMG. Will I be better off with the most expensive, American option here? Or can I save money and opt for the Mexican hot-rod? And are those DX Dinkys much good? It's primarily between AmSpec HSS and Blacktop HH, with a chance for the DK2M. It's a choice of a refined instrument (AmSpec HSS), value-for-money package (Blacktop HH) and something in between (DK2).

Do I just use the internet and make an online, overseas purchase?

Robbgnarly 08-04-2012 08:20 AM

Jackson Soloist

Wisthekiller 08-04-2012 08:25 AM

Kramer Pacer.

beckyjc 08-04-2012 08:35 AM

If theres much of a used market in your area id investigate that first.

Generally ive had great experiance with jacksons, the DK2 is well made guitar, great neck, decent pups out the box and their QC tends to be good. And its actually a superstrat.

As far as i know the newer ones are alder.

Arjun_M 08-04-2012 09:08 AM

@RobbGnarly- The Soloist is one of my preferred instruments, but hard to reach. This model, apparently, doesn't sell here, and is high-end, so they can't stock 'em, or even order one- that also includes the X-series! An X-series Soloist is selling at a very high price on an online site here.

@Wisthekiller- I don't trust any of the Kramer guitars in our market. Not had a good time testing any, and most of them are old and poorly maintained- new ones!

@beckyjc- The DK2 is made of alder, but it isn't listed on the Jackson site. They just have the DK1 and the Phil Collen model. I wonder where these are made, though the Pro tag suggests it is made in Japan.

Robbgnarly 08-04-2012 09:46 AM

Originally Posted by Arjun_M
@RobbGnarly- The Soloist is one of my preferred instruments, but hard to reach. This model, apparently, doesn't sell here, and is high-end, so they can't stock 'em, or even order one- that also includes the X-series! An X-series Soloist is selling at a very high price on an online site here.

Well that Sucks, because they are great guitars. The DKNY would be a good alternative though.

Spaztikko 08-04-2012 07:49 PM

Have you considered buying online? ship around the world, and chances are it'll be cheaper that where you are, even with shipping.

So go in to the dealer, try them, and then order online. Can't say no to a 3 year warranty.

Wisthekiller 08-04-2012 08:30 PM

Originally Posted by Arjun_M
@Wisthekiller- I don't trust any of the Kramer guitars in our market. Not had a good time testing any, and most of them are old and poorly maintained- new ones!

They're the best guitars I've ever played if they're set up right.

Arjun_M 08-05-2012 02:13 AM

Originally Posted by Spaztikko
Have you considered buying online? ship around the world, and chances are it'll be cheaper that where you are, even with shipping.

So go in to the dealer, try them, and then order online. Can't say no to a 3 year warranty.
Are there any American sites that ship worldwide?

I don't know of ideal shipping and forwarding options. There may be these agencies that ask for an address closer to the seller, and then ship it home at a much reduced cost (like BongoUS for the United States), but before using any, I have to know more.

Trying out a Jackson without buying is a long shot here, since nobody stocks Jacksons, even the Japanese-made X-series, because they're 'high-end' guitars. Even affordable/mid-range guitars are high-end in this market!

Anyway, do I need a metal guitar to play metal, or can I just run the signal through a pedal/effects processor? My instructor has instructed against buying a guitar that's made for playing metal- and if he's talking of those brands that build for playing extreme metal (ESP/BC Rich/Schecter/Dean), he may be talking sense.

dannyalcatraz 08-05-2012 03:20 AM

Are there any American sites that ship worldwide?

You might try Sweetwater:
International Shipping:
Due to manufacturer restrictions, we are limited in what we can ship outside of the United States. Please call us to find out if the item(s) you are interested in can be shipped internationally. The following are exceptions to this policy (some restrictions apply for these destinations):

Puerto Rico
US Military addresses (i.e. APO and FPO addresses)
Locations that use a US Postal ZIP Code, such as Guam, The Virgin Islands, etc.
Call your Sweetwater Sales Engineer at (800) 222-4700 for more information.

Or Musician's Friend:

Bonus: if either does ship to your area, they have a wider variety of models to choose from- you might like the Godin guitars.

Anyway, do I need a metal guitar to play metal, or can I just run the signal through a pedal/effects processor?

Nah, you don't need a particular guitar- buy the guitar that fits you, then buy the pedals or DSP that has the effects you want.

Spaztikko 08-05-2012 05:38 AM


However, I figured since germany is closer you could try them. If pric inflation is killer I highly recommend Thomann even more so - An amp that goes here for $700 can be bought from thomann and shipped, with customs taxes for less than $550. While, no, that may not be the case for euro v. rupee, it shows that you can save a hell of a lot buying from them.

Arjun_M 08-05-2012 10:07 AM

I had emailed, but there's been no reply. The total price paid once it comes to my doorstep will decide whom I choose. I just don't wish to end up paying as much as $750 for a $500 instrument, which is what happens here for the likes of Epiphone Les Paul Standard PlusTop and ESP LTD EC-401 (when Les Paul body style was my choice). If I can get it at a good price, without using package forwarding agencies (of which I know nothing, like which ones are legit and which ones save most costs), it makes the deal.

Now let's compare the woods and woodwork of these instruments. After all, that's the core of the instrument- no amount of high-end electronics and hardware can make up for woods and woodwork not up to the mark. So here we have these, listed in order of price, and local availability-
  1. Fender Blacktop Stratocaster HH
  2. Jackson DXMG
  3. Jackson DX-10D
  4. Jackson DK2
  5. Fender American Special Stratocaster
  6. Fender Blacktop Stratocaster Floyd Rose
  7. Jackson SLX
  8. Jackson SLXT
  9. Jackson SLSXMG

Spaztikko 08-05-2012 06:34 PM

Okay. They took about two to three days to get back to me, but that could be because they need to translate, or idk. :shrug: They will get back to you, however.

Can you care to explain to me how the American Special Strat is less expensive than the MiM Blacktop? And how the Blacktop with floyd is cheaper than the Am Special?

If that really is the case, get the American Special.

Arjun_M 08-05-2012 09:08 PM

Yes, that list is a bit odd, but anything beyond the Am Spec HSS strat is not available here. Like the MiM Blacktop Strat Floyd, and any Soloist. That list may be confusing, but I felt I may have to pay more if I buy directly- on Indian eBay, a Blacktop costs as much as $900, while an online gear shop sells a Soloist SLSXMG for nearly as much as an American Soloist!

Spaztikko 08-05-2012 09:27 PM

Then scrap buying anything in India. Clearly your market is just as full of bullshit as New Zealand's. Don't even consider it. Note that I have no experience with Jacksons, and that while I own absolutely the worst gear imaginable, I have a lot of experience with many guitars. Not in building, but how they play etc.

Give me a few minutes, I'll pull up a shipping quote and the prices of fender guitars.

Have you considered Ibanez, btw?

Spaztikko 08-05-2012 10:00 PM

Okay. says that shipping for all products under 20kg is 50 Euro. Should still be a massive saving though, on what you'd pay retail. It is for me anyway.

1. The HSH MiM Blacktop, Price in Euro = 539, save 24% off RRP.

2. An HH FLOYD SPECIAL Blacktop, alnico pups is 633 Euro, saving 24% of rrp

3.HH Blacktop, just the standard version I guess, 549 Euro, save 25%

If I were you I'd get the HSH, the tele neck pup in the middle should be interesting. Note they all have 22 Frets, which is a big bonus from most fenders (I hate 21 fret necks).

Now, the American Special - 879 Euro, saving 24%.

Honestly, I'd go with a Blacktop HSH. Thomann does have a 30 day money back guarantee and 3 year warranty. I'm not an adbot. Promise.

Now, I'm not sure about Jacksons, but I can give you some Ibanez models that could interest you. I know you wanted strictly Fender Group, but I'll see if I can temp you.

Here's the search page: Here. I think you could find something Jackson-like there, and I know about Ibanez so I can help you with that too. If looking for something cheaper, the RG470AHZ-NTF is good. Nice finish, different tone wood, and a trem unit that doesnt suck ass.

If looking for something more expensive, the Ibanez RG870QMZ-RDT Could be up your alley, but is considerably more expensive. Up to you. Any questions please ask, I'll be glad to help.

Heideck 08-06-2012 12:21 AM

A used jackson DK2FS, I presently own one and I just love it, very nice guitar. they don't made it anymore so you'll need to get it used. Jackson soloist if they fit in your price range are very nice

Arjun_M 08-06-2012 12:15 PM

@Spaztikko- Fair, Thomann gave a quotation with shipping charges, but once you received the package from them, how much more did you have to pay? To the Government? And how much did you end up saving (or spending more), compared to a similarly-priced (in Germany) instrument selling in New Zealand? That's also a factor. If Thomann takes care of local duties and taxes, it saves me more cash.

I'm still confused about the choice of neck and middle pickups. Do I have to have a humbucker for high-gain metal rhythm (HH/HSH)? Do I have to have a singlecoil at the neck for the cleanest of tones (HSS/HH-with-split)? Can I get cleaner tones from the middle position with the right electronics (HSH)? Will coil-splitting give me a good signal (HH-with-split)?

I still don't know which guitar in that list has the best wood and woodwork, and since the Blacktop has (apparently) a swimming-pool route, do I have to fill the crater to get better sustain?

Spaztikko 08-06-2012 07:36 PM

Oh god. You just read thatthread.
Literally everything in that post was absolute bullshit, I'm not going to explain any further.

You still have to pay import duty on your stuff. Thankfully, a guitar is pretty light. Just, when you buy a guitar, buy a hardcase as well and ask them to slacken the strings/get ready for flight shipping, if it will be shipped by air. I can't tell you if it will or won't, you will need to inquire, sorry. Import duty generally isn't much, and I'm from NZ, so I cant tell you India's taxes. Still probably dramatically cheaper. I'm either going to get a massive bargain on my imports, or get financially raped, depending on which customs assistant I'm with.

On pickup configuration - Quite honestly, it wont matter as much as you think. You own a Mustang I. Possibly the highest build quality would go to the AmSpec, but there can be some nice MiM and real nice Ibanez out there. I myself prefer HSH - After all, you were looking at the blacktop series to start, why not have the extra versatility and possible combinations?

And, remembering that most stock pups in most guitars are shit, you may want to swap them out later anyway. INF pups are okay though.

Some Ibanez you may like: - cheaper, good, solid. swap the pups 46eb3597 - also cool, not an RG, slimmer. (but has an edge 3, which is bad) - quilted maple top goodness!

I think you should wait, and save for either the S770FM-ATF, or RG870QMZRDT.
They'll have nice quality to it, or, you save, buy the EGEN and swap the trem??

Up to you. Cleans will come from your amp - which is a modeller. It's not like you have a 6505 and want Fender amp cleans. If you further want to gear your sound towards something, buy a better amp, and then swap pups.

Arjun_M 08-07-2012 11:46 AM have still not replied. I'll consider mailing them again. Musiciansfriend, on the other hand, can only sell me something used. I know it's a steal at US$399, but it could be a lemon- all you regular online shoppers may have something to say about that concern- especially if you're not in the United States. The people at zZounds say that they cannot ship abroad, due to 'outrageous shipping costs' and 'incompatibility with non-US voltages'- which means I will need package-forwarding to deal with them. Sweetwater say they can't ship abroad on their site itself.

The Blacktop HH-FR variant comes for 639 Euros, and taking into account 10% import duty here, it works out more expensive than the same item on's Global Easy Buy here in India- which is almost US$833 when it's here (including duties, taxes and shipping)- but I am still apprehensive of buying on any eBay (Americans themselves don't recommend it). The Blacktop HSH variant, on the other hand, still works out cheaper, and comes in the colour of my choice (Titanium Silver)- but the Government will chase me once it comes.

The cheapest on, somehow, is the Jackson Soloist SLXT/SLX!

The clips on are quite useful, although it's difficult to tell a few apart from each other. They don't even indicate the pickup position used. It does, however, point out what's different between Blacktop HH/HH-FR and AmSpec HSS, or the Jackson SLXT and Fender Blacktop HSH. The clean blues lick is cleaner on the SLXT but louder on the Blacktop HSH. Can't say if one metal tone is better than the other, though- maybe someone's choice.

Maybe I'll just start with the Blacktop, and possibly mod it, or eventually upgrade to an American Stratocaster- which is anyway a little out of budget now. I'll also speak to a local guitar tech/luthier to help out on making it better.

edit- I've noticed the cheapest Blacktops coming on Global Easy Buy coming from Chicago Music Exchange. Does anyone have any comments on that shop?

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