Price paid: £ 230
Purchased from: Private seller
Features: As a lefty, I needed (wanted) a P90 equipped SG look-alike but couldn't afford a US-made Gibson SG and I just can't live with the Epiphone SGs (total tripe!). This came up for sale and I bought it on sight.
It's an Asian-made model, left handed with 2 x H90 Hagstrom pickups, master volume and tone controls, Hagstrom's own floating tremolo system, solid mahogany body and the weird "resonator wood" fretboard. It has a Gibson scale length with medium/fat frets and appears to combine, in a rather pleasing combination and compromise, the attributes of both Fender and Gibson guitars. The neck is glued and is accurate. Overall, it's well made and plays well with a few reservations about which I will elaborate later. The tuners are very pretty but inconsistent. Overall, they hold tune reasonably well but the low E tuner feels too light in comparison with the others and, oddly enough, it's the low E string that suffers most tuning problems.
I've never been a fan of tremolo systems so I have, to an extent, blocked this one off with an extra spring. When well set up, the trem is light and sensitive but even the gentlest of trem wobbles knocks of the tuning. This would be expected with most guitars but this one is equipped with a Graph Tech nut which is supposed to virtually eliminate this kind of nonsense. Patently, it doesn't. As to the overall appearance of the guitar, it's pleasant but a little strange. The headstock is ornate with the binding, inlay and tuners but the body and neck are really plain. Also, the cream body colour is at odds with the cream colour of the knobs and pickups covers. I changed those parts to black ones which look much cooler. // 7
Sound: I swapped out the H90 pickups to Tonerider's Vintage 90s (Alnico II Magnets) as the Hagstrom pickups (alnico V magnets) were too muddy, especially on high distortion settings. Also, I swapped over the tone pot to a 500ohm model to brighten up the tone. Now, I have a guitar that will do sweet, warm cleans and gritty, dirty, classic rock and blues. At a pinch, it will do metal through a Blackstar HT Stage 100 head though that's not really my bag. Very versatile tones indeed which will suit most players. If you've never tried P90 pickups, you need to remedy that sooner rather than later. They have bright, Fender-like tones but avoid the high-end harshness. Added into the mix is a humbucker-like snarl when pushed through a good tube amp. The pots work well no crackles or pops. Oddly enough, Hagstrom's standard pots have very long spindles which in this guitar, is not necessary. I suspect it's a standard fitment in their whole guitar range. I've given a score of 7 as I've had to alter the original equipment but the refitted guitar is capable of versatile tones. // 7
Action, Fit & Finish: It plays really well but the resonator board is a strange feeling nothing like a rosewood or maple one. It's very dark in colour, like an ebony board but has a tactile sensation that is quite unnatural. It is a fast, slim neck and well put together however. Frets are smooth and the neck stability is awesome. As already described, the nut needed a little fettling and the tremolo system was stiffened up to virtually eliminate movement. For your interest, when I used the trem, one would notice a noise when rapidly returning the trem to its parked position. This noise was caused by the back of the bridge thumping against the bodywork and starting to chip the paintwork so I had to insert a strip of sticky-backed felt to protect the body and eliminate the noise. The bridge is a stable unit but making any adjustments is a right royal pain as you have to loosen an Allen nut to allow any adjustment. I'm not convinced that the stability was improved any more over a conventional bridge arrangement for the penalty of the extra hassle and time. // 7
Reliability & Durability: This is a very consistent guitar that has been 100% reliable. As to using any guitar without a backup, I would never risk it. Also, I believe that no one guitar will fulfil every role tonally. If I was only playing a few songs or guesting with friends, this would fit the bill without question. It gets very positive remarks from guitarists and non-guitarists regarding its appearance. The finish on mine is very resilient. The previous owner(s) had managed to avoid scratching the paint work and so have I despite much use. Tough guitar indeed! I swapped over the strap buttons to strap locks which I prefer though the originals were oversized buttons which worked well. // 9
Overall Impression: I like this guitar. It knocks the socks off my MIM Fender Telecaster regarding fit and finish. There is no comparison there. The Tele is, for the money, poorly made with dull sounding pickups, a monstrously thick coat of paint and a maple fretboard which marks very easily. Suffice to say that I'm not in love with my Tele though, despite being a better made guitar, I have to say I'm not in love with the F200P either. It's a very good little guitar but it has only become a good guitar with upgrades and work. Out of the box, this may disappoint. If one was to buy a different F200 model with a fixed bridge and humbuckers, the score would definitely be higher as the problems I've described would be much less obvious. Played beside my Gibson Les Paul, the shortcomings are even more obvious and if I could rewind certain events of my life, I would have foregone the F200P and saved much harder for that Gibson SG. // 6