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?
Last edited by Arjun_M at Aug 4, 2012,
Jackson Soloist
2002 PRS CE22
2013 G&L ASAT Deluxe
2009 Epiphone G-400 (SH-4)
Marshall JCM2000 DSL100
Krank 1980 Jr 20watt
Krank Rev 4x12 (eminence V12)
GFS Greenie/Digitech Bad Monkey
Morley Bad Horsie 2
MXR Smart Gate
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.
@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.
Quote 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.
2002 PRS CE22
2013 G&L ASAT Deluxe
2009 Epiphone G-400 (SH-4)
Marshall JCM2000 DSL100
Krank 1980 Jr 20watt
Krank Rev 4x12 (eminence V12)
GFS Greenie/Digitech Bad Monkey
Morley Bad Horsie 2
MXR Smart Gate
Have you considered buying online? Thomann.de 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.
Quote 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.
Quote by Spaztikko
Have you considered buying online? Thomann.de 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.
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.
Sturgeon's 2nd Law, a.k.a. Sturgeon's Revelation: “Ninety percent of everything is crap.”

Why, yes, I am a lawyer- thanks for asking!

Log off and play yer guitar!

Strap on, tune up, rock out!
Last edited by dannyalcatraz at Aug 5, 2012,

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.
I had emailed Thomann.de, 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-
  • Fender Blacktop Stratocaster HH
  • Jackson DXMG
  • Jackson DX-10D
  • Jackson DK2
  • Fender American Special Stratocaster
  • Fender Blacktop Stratocaster Floyd Rose
  • Jackson SLX
  • Jackson SLXT
  • Jackson SLSXMG
Okay. They took about two to three days to get back to me, but that could be because they need to translate, or idk. 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.
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!
Last edited by Arjun_M at Aug 5, 2012,
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?
Okay. Thomann.de 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.
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
@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?
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:

http://www.thomann.de/gb/ibanez_rg470ahzntf.htm - cheaper, good, solid. swap the pups
http://www.thomann.de/gb/ibanez_s770fm_atf.htm?sid=fe85b8c027f31f8f88d0455446eb3597 - also cool, not an RG, slimmer.
http://www.thomann.de/gb/ibanez_egen8plb.htm (but has an edge 3, which is bad)
http://www.thomann.de/gb/ibanez_rg870qmzrdt.htm - 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.
Thomann.de 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 eBay.in'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 Thomann.de, somehow, is the Jackson Soloist SLXT/SLX!

The clips on Thomann.de 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 eBay.in Global Easy Buy coming from Chicago Music Exchange. Does anyone have any comments on that shop?
Last edited by Arjun_M at Aug 7, 2012,
I've never purchased any instrument online, since I am skeptical about what I will receive. I believe in trying it out before buying. How has your experience been buying online?
Gear : ESP LTD-M-50, Roland Micro Cube.
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Thomann has a 30-Day money back worldwide guarantee and a 3 year warranty. Can't see whats wrong with that. TS, I'd still go with either the RG470AHZNTF, thats my first choice. If not, go for the Blacktop HSH.

I really can't help you anymore, sorry.
Fair. Just tell me how you bought from Thomann.de, how was the experience, and what would be your checklist for ordering abroad- and what to do if you get a lemon. That's all I need to know before buying, when I am more or less sure about what I want.
So it may just be the Fender Blacktop Strat HSH. I'm not too keen on an Ibanez as I wasn't impressed with the sound on clean, compared to a Strat. All the Strats I tested- Blacktop HH, MexStd SSS, AmSpec HSS, AmDX HSS- sound better on a clean channel. Ibanez would be good as a second guitar, but I want a Strat first.

Now the whole selling point of the HSH variant- maximum tonal variety. How does this setting give more than, say, HSS or HH with splitting? Besides, will I get a better clean/neck/rhythm tone with a singlecoil or coil-split at the neck?

Then mods, if any. Would there be any needed? Like fitting a N3 or Fat-50 or Texas Special in the middle, with a Diamondback humbucker on either side?

The shop most likely to make the sale will be the small shop that sold me the Mustang-1. They say they can cover more Fender products than the big chain who call themselves direct importers from Fender. Hopefully they'll beat the Global Best Buy price and sell it to me with the case. I'd prefer to avoid the customs folks altogether, and buy it at an appropriate price.
The availability of the Jackson DK2M in the distributor's stock opens up another option. It saves me a lot of money on the American Special Strat HSS (available cheap at a local shop) and is likely to come sooner than the Blacktop of my choice (HSH) and is more refined than any Blacktop. But there's a catch- this is a discontinued/withdrawn product. As we know, the Japanese Jacksons were withdrawn when the plant shut down. Yet, the price has gone up with a hike in the dollar rate.

Yes, the apparently discontinued DK2/DK2M is sold as a current product in India.

It costs nearly US$599-649 (it would cost that much if still sold in the US) at present. For something rather old. The Blacktop is a current product, and will hold its US$499 price, and so will the AmSpec Strat HSS in the shop, at US$799. The DK2M comes with a hard case.

Is that the right price for the DK2M? I tried to get the price down, but the distributor said that they can't do anything about the price, due to high dollar, increased duties and taxes. The DK2M would be the best choice, but for the possibility of getting ripped off, and if the AmSpec Strat HSS is ideal, I may opt for that- at least it's a new product. Again, it's the same small shop with big discounts.

How does the DK2M or DK2 fare in comparison with the AmSpec Strat HSS?
Hmmm. I'm sorry for leaving you dry for a while. Life caught up and I forgot.

Its fair enough you don't want to go through customs. I watch exchange rates intently, and I'm waiting to maximise on a possible even higher NZD to USD conversion, but thats pretty irrelevant.

Ultimately, when it comes to pickups, its dependent on both your amp and what kind of sound you want to achieve, and 99% of the time a new amp is in order, rather than new pups. Luckily for me, there is a thread on the fender forums comparing the blacktop, DK2M and the AmSpec HSS.

If it were me, I'd buy the Jackson, but thats opinion. Looking at it objectively, there isn't much improvement from the Blacktop and the AmSpec, there really isn't, in terms of quality of parts etc, I just like Dinkys. And its made in japan, so chances are its a much higher quality than mexico, but thats also a rash generalisation.

Go and play them. I'd say the Jackson.

And hah, the guy on the fender forum is you. Read what they say as well.
I ordered an ESP LTD V-500 from Thomann a few years ago, and I couldn't have been happier with their service. They advised me of their returns policy and the guitar arrived in 2 days (Germany to Scotland) when they had estimated 4+ days for delivery.
Ibanez RG1570 w/ Bareknuckle Pickups
Ibanez RG655
PRS SE Fredrik Åkesson Singlecut
Blackstar HT-5
Harley Benton G212 Vintage
MXR M-108
Digitech Bad Monkey
And, if you're super far away and shit breaks down, generally they'll not even ask for it back.
@Spaztikko - thanks for following up!

I'm still awaiting your checklist on importing a guitar, and what you did when you bought from Thomann, from placing an online order to the arrival at your doorstep. When customs get so greedy, and outright unhelpful, we're forced to chase the best prices online - even if it means buying from that custom shop located in Nevada. A clear checklist will help someone new to purchasing online.

Here's how both options stack up. The DK2M, waiting time and all, would be a smart choice, but that deal on an American Special Strat is tempting.

Fender American Special Strat HSS-
  • Made in USA. Not so much the lustre of that tag, but also an assurance of the best wood and woodwork.
  • Plenty of tones in one instrument- easy to switch styles- and great for cleans.
  • The lowest-priced American guitar in the market, and a very new model.
  • The shop has a few units in the warehouse, and one in the shop loft itself.

Jackson Dinky DK2M-
You can EASILY get a used American Standard HSS for the price of that Special.
Quote by Dunning~Kruger
Yes I was rude, and I was aggressive and I was offending a large group of people. But I was civlized about it.

Taylor 414CE
Not in this market. I can spot just one used American Standard, and it's SSS. It sells for more than the Special, and the seller will make a profit from the sale, on the rising dollar-rupee multiplier.

If I have to get a better instrument used at a better price, I'll have to order online.

Or just order a Stratocaster neck, electronics, hardware and SD pickups, and have a luthier locally build the body and assemble the Strat.

Nick, the GC at Plano has a used Fender American Strat in Candy Apple Red at $649. Is it a fair price? And the instrument in good condition? USA-1997, though, is a bit of a hitch, as I'm not sure if they mixed poplar into the guitar wood. There's also a DKMG in blue, but I'm not keen on EMGs or any active pickup at all.
Ok, dude. I was going to buy stuff from thomann, but then I could, as in spot check could be charged 15%, and then 5-10% on top of that, so I didn't, because despite the savings I have, I didn't have THAT much. I still have shit gear.

In my case, it would've been - pay thomann, get it shipped, and wait for a ginormous customs bill, and pickup from the airport/ shipped to my house, depending on whether I get taxed.

Honestly, I'd go with the Jackson DK2M. If buying that from thomann, then buy a hard case with it and tell them to prep it for flight (ie slacken strings so neck doesnt warp). I like metal, and that'd be my choice, being presented with the two.
I had more or less decided on the DK2M from Japan, and thought of replacing the 3-way switch with a 5-way Mega-switch or Super-switch, with a pattern similar to the Blacktop or Big Apple Strat, which would cost a wee bit. And also settle with the JT-580 LFR. Until a change of job, I'd settle with this, and then collect some money for an imported used ($599) Am Std Strat.

Then this happens- Jackson introduces the new Pro series, which includes two variants of the DK2M- one with a quilted maple top. They've got genuine Duncans too (SH-4b JB, SH-1n 59- hang on, I'd prefer the SH-2n Jazz) and an authentic Floyd Rose, and they come packaged with the Big Apple switching I want in a DK2M from the last Japanese batch. Cost expected is $600-700, and they appear to be made in Mexico (there will be some pro-series Soloists coming from Indonesia as well) since Japan's factory closed down.

Is this new batch worth the wait? Or do I just buy the last batch DK2M and add the switch? Jacksons are slow movers in the Indian market, anyway.
Buy the Japanese one - pups and switching can be done yourself, at anytime, and aren't needed if you like how it sounds already.

Generally japanese crafted guitars are also better made than mexico in terms of quality of wood and shit, but that could just be opinion as there are some nice mim out there.
Disappointing news- the distributor cannot locate any units anywhere. The DK2M is as good as out of reach, so I opted for the Blacktop with Floyd Rose, but I'm getting no update on that either. I don't know what's the snag here. The dealer, on the other hand, has offered to pick up what I want from the United States using a forwarder, to save my cash if I'm importing. He tells me not to wait for the distributor. That opens up some more options.

I thought of the odd HM Strat by Fender, and had more or less decided on one dark red model, but before Guitar Center could tell me anything, it got sold. There are two more at Akron, Ohio, and I'm particularly interested in the grey model. There's an obnoxious bubblegum-pink model (I swear I'll have it repainted if I'm stuck with it- or any other colour I don't like- black included) at $499, and on eBay, there's a weird sky blue HM Strat with HhH configuration.

Then there's something very, very enticing- the Jackson USA SDK1. At under $500, it is quite a steal. But is there a catch to it?

Then the Highway One Showmasters, wherever they sell. I'm keen on a USA Showmaster only, not something from Korea (there's a chance Cor-Tek made them and I don't wish to buy from that factory), and there's a Highway One with some paint damage (covered up with black stickers) selling under $500.

So it's a used HM Strat HSS, used Jackson SDK-1 and used Showmaster Highway-1 to choose from, apart from a new Blacktop HH-FR. The SDK-1 seems most enticing, but there may be a catch to it, and the HM Strats are difficult to catch, so are USA Showmasters.