Price paid: $ 425
Purchased from: Rondo Music
Features — 9
This review is for a 2014 Agile 3101M. Guess you could say this is the set-neck version of their flagship 3200 neck-through Les Paul Clone, except this one has a very nice 3/4" solid flame maple top, rootbeer flame finish. Made in S. Korea. 24 3/4" scale, very uniform, black ebony fret board, 22 stainless steel jumbo frets. Solid mahogany back with 3/4" flame maple cap. Les Paul style, with Graph-Tech NVS2 tune-o-matic bridge and tailpiece. Alnico V humbuckers, neck and bridge. Standard 3-position pickup selector, two volume, two tone 'witches hat' type knobs. Non-locking Grover tuners, Graph-Tech Black Tusq nut. Didn't come with a case, but I spent an extra $65 for a very nice hardshell case for it (which was smart, since UPS beat the outer box to hell and back). For the type guitar it is, it has all the features you'd expect. Nothing exceptional, feature-wise, but everything is very clean and well done. Would mention the neck, though... it has a very substantial neck. Not overly bulky, but very Gibson-esque. I've played Gibsons (though I don't own one), and prefer the neck carve on the Agile. I have fairly large hands, and this neck fits me perfectly. 13.7" fretboard radius.
Sound — 7
This is the toughest category, because tone is so subjective but, at least as far as the bridge pickup, I have zero complaints. I'm playing primarily straight into a Blackstar HT40. I'm more of a hobbyist, home player, stuff like Black Sabbath, Zeppelin, AC/DC, Joe Walsh, and this guitar does those styles exceptionally well. The neck pickup is pretty muddy and kind of mushy, but it has its place... "No Quarter" sounds REALLY good with that pickup. The bridge pickup is saturated and creamy, but with nice clarity. I may eventually swap out the pickups, but the stock ones don't sound bad. I've owned another Agile (3200 Custom), and loved it, but I think this one has it beat all the way around. I feel like if you tweaked your amp settings a bit, you could play most anything with it, except maybe really heavy metal (but I have a Schecter Hellraiser Hybrid for that). Sustain is excellent, with a very smooth decay.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Guitar really shined in the action, fit, and finish area. Even after being beat to hell en route, there were no finish flaws. Guitar arrived very nearly in perfect tune. After tuning up and giving it a couple days to settle to my climate, neck was dead straight (checked with a StewMac notched straightedge), and all the frets were level and even (checked with a fret rocker). This one has stainless steel frets, which were all well polished and smooth.
Intonation was perfect. Neck exhibited zero deflection under anything but the heaviest pressure. All the binding was even and well done. Mother of pearl inlays on the fret board were well done, with zero gaps or filler to be seen. There was no binding at the nut or bridge saddles, and after installing a new set of strings (my habit... it came with new looking D'Addario .10-.46 strings), stretching them and letting them settle, haven't had to tune it for two weeks and counting now, so tuning stability is great. Tuners were smooth and precise, helped tremendously by the properly cut nut. Not sure how well I like the Graph-Tech bridge saddles in the NVS2 bridge, but all the nickel hardware seems well made. I only mention the bridge saddles from a durability standpoint, being much more used to the brass Tonepros saddles, but it sounds good, so despite my penchant to modify my guitars, I'll leave them alone until it needs it.
If I had any quibble with the action, it's that it was too low upon arrival. When I say the action was LOW on this one when I got it, I mean super low. There was no open string buzzing, but I play with a pretty heavy hand, so I had to raise the action just a bit at the bridge to get it 'just right' for me. The wood looks great, with the top well matched. All the hardware was tight and smooth. The finish looked miles deep, and I'm one of the (probably) few who prefer the more modern polyester/urethane finishes to nitro. And this finish was very well done, with no ripples, gaps, bubbles, etc. Controls and knobs are smooth and quiet, with no popping or crackling.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I don't play live yet (it's on my bucket list), so I can't intelligently answer that question, but the guitar is solid and well made. Can't imagine why it wouldn't withstand live playing. Only had it a month, but so far, no problems. I did change out the stock strap buttons for Dunlop StrapLocks, but that's primarily for ease of switching straps, not because there was anything inherently wrong with the stock ones. Merely preference. If I played live, I wouldn't play any gig without a backup. Not because I feel like the guitar would let me down, but you never can predict everything, and I like choices... different guitars for different purposes and all that.
Overall Impression — 9
For my skill level and the kind of music I enjoy playing, I honestly can't imagine a better guitar. It looks great, feels great, and sounds great. I hate to bring up the "for the price" argument, but I honestly don't think you can get more guitar for the money. But that argument aside, this is a good guitar, period... not just a good guitar for the money. I currently own 13 guitars, and have bought and sold that many more over the last couple years. This one, my Hellraiser Hybrid, and my Mockingbird are my favorites, far and away. If it were lost or stolen, I wouldn't hesitate to buy another one. Les Paul is my favorite shape, and just makes a beautiful guitar, and Agile does their clones very well. I've tried the Epiphones (about 4 different models) and although they're fine guitars, I just prefer the build quality and neck carve on the Agiles. I pretty much love everything about the guitar. There's nothing I hate. Thinking about swapping the bridge pickup for an SD Alnico II, and the neck with a Railhammer Gnarly 90, but that's just me wanting to tinker. Having owned an Agile before, I knew I would like this one, but the stainless frets probably sold this particular one to me. No guitar is perfect, but out of all the guitars I own (or have owned), this ranks as one of my two favorites.