Price paid: £ 150
Purchased from: e-bay
Features: The guitar being reviewed here is a Vintage AV6 Advance. It is a Stratocaster copy with a few design variations. Here is the spec:
- Body: American Alder
- Neck: Maple/Bubinga Bolt On
- Fingerboard: Rosewood
- Top Nut: Ivory/Graphite
- Tuners: Wilkinson WJ05 E-Z-Lok
- Bridge: Wilkinson WV6SB (Steel Block)
- Scale: 25.5/648mm
- Frets: 22 Medium Jumbo
- Pickups: 3 x Wilkinson P90 Stacked Humbuckers
- Controls: 1 x Volume, 1 x Tone, 1 x Roll Control' (Humbucker to Single Coil), 5-Way Selector
- Hardware: Nickel
- Pickup Selector Switch
Please note that single coil versions of this guitar are increasingly common these days. My comments do not apply to these model. // 9
Sound: The AV 6 is extremely versatile. It features 3 Wilkinson P90 stacked humbuckers and a standard 5 way pick-up selector switch. It also features a roll control coil tap that is built into one of the tone pots. This apparently turns the stacked humbucker in to a single coil. This combination of pickups and coil tap gives a huge variety of sounds. As with many guitars, some of these sounds are great while others are not. So be prepared to hunt around for a sound that you like. With this AV 6 the out-of- phase positions sound fantastic: the guitar really does produce an authentic clucky Strat bell-tone, and at times I think it sounds more like a Strat than a my strat! The P90s are capable of producing nice clean tones as well as dirty sustained overdrive. When over-driven, the P90's can produce feedback on demand which is fun in a live situation. I'm not convinced that the roll control makes a huge difference to the tone although it definitely bucks the hum in positions 2 and 4. Overall rating 7/10 in single pick-up positions (1, 3 and 5). 10/10 in out of phase positions (2 and 4). // 9
Action, Fit & Finish: As seems to be the case with many Vintage guitars, the set-up was not ideal when the guitar arrived in the post. It came with gauge 10 strings and the action was quite high. Intonation was slightly out. I sorted these issues and put on a set of 9s and it felt great. So be prepared to set up the guitar yourself. Overall mark for set up: 6/10 rising to 9/10 after a bit of work.
The guitar is fitted with Wilkinson EZ lock tuners. These work wonderfully and hold the guitar in tune without the need for a locking nut/bridge and allen key. The tuning is extremely stable, even after abusing the tremolo. The stability of the tuning is helped by the design of the tuning pegs which feature 2 holes rather than 1. This simple design clearly work although it is slightly cumbersome when changing strings.
The tremolo system is also a Wilkinson design and it works a treat. Again there's no allen key or screw threads - the arm simply pops in and out of the guitar body. This is a real bonus when setting up before a gig. The tuning remains extremely stable when the tremolo is used. On the down side, the tremolo arm does not lock in the way it is meant to so it spins around a bit during gigs which is slightly annoying. There's also a slightly annoying bump when the tremolo returns to the normal position.
The guitar is a joy to play. The neck is slightly fatter than what I was used to, and the frets a bit chunkier. After a couple of minutes however, the guitar feels great. The neck has a slightly rough texture. This was strange at first to my left hand. However, I've come to realise that during a HOT gig, when left-hand sweat can be problematic, a slightly rougher neck can actually be quite useful as it gives a bit more grip than a polished finish. So I've come to appreciate the slightly less smooth finish on the AV6. The action is a touch higher than I would like. // 8
Reliability & Durability: I bought my AV6 as a back up / 2nd guitar. It cost me 150 new. I paid over 1000 for my main guitar (a US deluxe Strat) and much as I love it, I was not prepared to pay that sort of money for a back up guitar. Previous back-ups include a Tokai Strat, Squire Strat, Yamaha Pacifica and Ibanez GRX. All these guitars however came and went for one reason or another. Having now owned the AV6 for 6 months, I think it will be my back up guitar for a long time in fact it is now jostling for pole position with the Strat. The AV6 is a superb guitar especially for the price.
I've had the AV6 for 6 months now during which time it's done about 20 gigs. I also use it increasingly for studio rehearsals. It never lets me down. No snapped strings and no out of tune strings. I even use it as a first choice from time to time and let the 1000 Strat play 2nd fiddle. Much as this feels wrong on my wallet, I can't help thinking that in many respects, the AV6 is just as good as the Strat and in some ways it's actually better particularly in the out of phase positions and in the AV6's ability to sustain and over-drive my amp into feedback. For a budget Strat type guitar, I don't think you'll find anything better than the AV6 it sounds great and plays great and it is 100% reliable. What more could you want for 150? I think it will be with me for many years. // 10
Overall Impression: I currently play in 2 bands - an 80's new wave rivalist band and a ska/reggae band. I've been playing for over 20 years and I own a variety of guitars including a deluxe US Strat which the AV6 has been compared to here. I play through a Line 6 Flextone III.
If I lost this guitar I would buy another - for 150 you can't go wrong. I love the out-of-phase positions and the guitars ability to overdrive my amp and produce feedback on demand. I also love the stability of the tuning. I don't like the a slightly annoying "bump" which can be felt when the tremolo returns to the normal position. The bridge pick-up can also sound a bit bright and harsh - but can be easily sorted with the tone control. // 9