Price paid: $ 148
Purchased from: Second hand
Features: The guitar was introduced in 1994 and production stopped in '98. I managed to snag this guitar for dirt cheap.
-Made in 1996/1997 in the Ensenada, Mexico plant.
-Floyd Rose II locking tremolo
-HSS configuration; Standard passive pickups
-5-way pickup selector
-Standard Fender machine heads
-2 knobs (this is unusual in a Stratocaster guitar; most have 3 but I'm guessing Fender was trying to give this guitar a superstrat feel, hence the floyd rose)
I'm glad this guitar had a Floyd Rose and an HSS configuration; it provides versatility that I don't get with my Epiphone G-400. Even with the FR, this guitar has a lot of sustain. The only thing I would complain about is the lack of a 22nd fret. I took that 22nd fret for granted. Most typical Stratocaster players don't use go up that high, but wouldn't it make sense if they were trying to go for that "superstrat" feel? I don't know. It doesn't bother me too much. // 9
Sound: For some odd reason, I'm getting EXTREMELY low levels of noise from the single coils. I thought I'd have to save up my pennies for a noise gate, but this guitar's pickups are not noisy at all. It might be my amp or some other external factor, but I'm glad it's not a problem for me.
Right now I'm running this guitar into a Laney TT50-112 all tube amplifier. It's a great amp which does cleans and dirt well. Either way, it seems to like my guitar. I thought I'd need a Fender amplifier like a Twin Reverb or Princeton to reach the holy grail of single-coil tone, but this guitar really has character. A total different guitar from my humbucker-equipped SG. Speaking of humbuckers, the humbucker in this guitar is very stellar. It's not amazing, but it does the job and really makes the HSS config very effective at covering many different tones.
So far, I'm loving the SRV tone I'm getting out of this guitar and the amp, along with a DigiTech Bad Monkey which I use just to add a bit of dirt. I'm also a huge fan of Gilmour, and for that it's just as easy; the single coils work well with my Sovtek big muff.
My favorite pickup position right now is the mix of the neck and middle pickup. Great, warm, twangy tone that's just right for blues. Each of the 5 different pickup combinations sound sonically different. Given the right amplifier, I'm certain this guitar can get you whatever tone you want (remember most of your sound depends on your amplifier, not the guitar).
I really have nothing bad to say about the sound I'm getting out of this guitar. // 10
Action, Fit & Finish: When I bought the guitar second-hand, the action was set way low. Fret buzz on the G string too. Simply raising the action and setting up the FR properly eradicated all of these problems.
The pickup height was fine. The bridge and nut was secure and overall everything stayed in tune well.
Rusted pickups and an oxidized bridge were inevitable given that the guitar is 14 years old and hasn't been used very much by the owner. The white faded to a creamy white (which I LOVE) and there are a few dings. I don't think any of it can be pinned onto Fender though.
One thing I will say though is that the tuning pegs are very loose. They have way too much resistance and are too easy to turn out of place. It makes them feel cheap too. I also find upper-fret access quite difficult because of the way the neck is bolted quite deep into the body, but this is just me and my unfamiliarity with Strat guitars. // 8
Reliability & Durability: This guitar has lasted 14 years with only a few minor dings and a slightly faded white, which is nice to look at anyway. A lot of the oxidation was easy to wipe off, and left the guitar looking brand new (from a distance at least!). The guitar is pretty hefty, which is good in my books. Fret wear is minimal and for a 14-year old guitar, I could not be more pleased with the condition. // 9
Overall Impression: I play anything and almost everything, depending on my musical taste at the time. I've played blues, rock, reggae, funk and even the brootz on this guitar and they all sound great. Choose your pickup positions wisely! As long as you know which pickup configurations sound best for what you're trying to play, you're set.
When I first bought this guitar for pretty much my bubble gum money (I mean come on! $148 for a Fender stratocaster!), I planned to sell it off for a profit. Now I'm in love with this axe. I probably wouldn't buy another one unless I found another Killer deal on it, but I'd definitely know what to buy if I saved up enough money.
I think the deal breaker for this guitar is its versatility. It has humbuckers, single coils and a Floyd Rose (which stays in tune). I don't know how FRs are on the newer Fender line of strats, but I can say the one on these guitars is great. If you don't want to use it, you can always block it (I blocked mine with stacks of tissue paper!) and the problem's gone.
The only thing I wish it had is a 22nd fret... // 9