HSS review by Alvarez

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 10
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.8 Superb
  • Users' score: 8.5 (2 votes)
Alvarez: HSS

Price paid: $ 149.99

Purchased from: Music Go Round

Sound — 9
This guitar suits my needs with flying colors. I play a bit of everything, and the guitar doesn't have any trouble keeping up. I run the guitar through a DigiTech RP50 into a Kustom 10FX for dirt/effects, and straight into the amp for other cleans and low to medium gain settings. The hum-single-single configuration (common on most "studio" guitars) allows for a wide range of tones, while the neck/body/scale combination works it's own magic. Unplugged, the guitar has a very rich sound thanks to the dense mahogany body, maple neck/rosewood fingerboard, and 25 1/2 inch scale. The lows are warm and defined, the mid-range full, and the highs are crisp and clear with the whole sounding close to an acoustic guitar (though obviously not as loud). The guitar resonates extremely well thanks to the angled headstock, metal roller nut, solid neck joint, and vibration transfer from the vibrato (which is quite heavy). The stock pickups match perfectly with the guitar, as they were intended. The bridge humbucker has a very full sound to it with warm lows, full mids, and crisp highs. Clean, the humbucker sounds very good, easily matching or surpassing anything you can think of. Dirty, it sounds even better, great for everything from Black Sabbath to Van Halen and beyond. It can get into some metal territory, but not that much considering it is a PAF-type. The middle single coil is detailed, snappy, and bright. Set clean it begs for finger-picked arpeggios and funk rhythm, and dirty it's great for chords and gritty leads. The bridge/middle setting is undeniably "stratty" with lots of quack and clarity, perfect for "Sweet Home Alabama" and "Sultans Of Swing". This setting also brings out the acoustic quality of the guitar wonderfully as well. The neck single coil has a deep low-end, a strong mid-range, warm highs, and plenty of punch. Clean it's great for pseudo bass lines, and jazz. Dirty it sings the blues, and conjures up Stevie Ray Vaughn as well as Jimi Hendrix with ease. The neck/middle position has lots of quack, clarity, and punch. Clean I use it for some quackier jazzy rhythms, and dirty for some lead work. In addition to sounding great, the pickups are also matched. There is the same amount of output in the 1, 3, and 5 positions with a slight drop in volume on the 2 and 4. Depending on the gain and the amount there in, a drop in output could be present between the bridge and neck or middle pickups. The 2, 4, and 5 settings are quiet, with some inherent noise (60 cycle hum) on the 1 and 3 due to the nature of the pickups. There can be a bit of noise on the bridge pickup, but only as you increase the amount of gain. Combine all this with a volume pot mod, and a smooth taper tone pot, and you've got one killer setup.

Overall Impression — 9
For what I play, this guitar suits me perfectly. I've been playing for almost four years now, and I'll always continue to play this guitar. It's built like a tank, sounds great, plays great, and has plenty of room in the control cavity and on the pickguard to add a couple mini toggle switches or anoter pot if you want to mod it. If it were lost or stolen, I would definitly try to get another one if I couldn't get mine back. They're great guitars, and I wish Alvarez hadn't stopped making them.

Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar will definately withstand live playing, as I'm fairly certain the previous owner has played it in some bars, judging from the layer of soot I cleaned off of the headstock. The whole thing is very durable, seeing as almost all the parts are original and continue to work after 20 years or so of use and abuse. The finish and strap buttons are both rock solid, and you could use it without a backup (though I wouldn't tempt ol' Murphy). Everything was definately built to last, so I give this high marks.

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
When I bought the guitar almost a year ago, the action was not where I wanted it, and the vibrato was not properly leveled or intonated. I swapped out the old pots, adjusted the vibrato, set the intonation, oiled the nut, adjusted the pickup heights a bit, and gave it a thorough cleaning. All of the body routing was beautifully done, especially the routing for the control/pickup cavity. The finish is still in good shape, with only a few tiny dents and some hairline scratches on the back. The frets had been leveled and two of the tuning machines had been replaced. However, two of the original tuners have developed a slight problem as the plastic spacer next to the button has cracked (I'm going to replace the whole set of tuners in the near future). With everything properly set up, and to my liking, it plays and sounds beautifully.

Features — 8
- Made in Korea in the early 90's - Scale: 25 1/2 inch - Neck: Bolt-on; Maple with Rosewood fretboard, 22 "medium" frets, roller nut, wide-thin neck carve (think PRS-ish on neck/headstock) - Neck Radius: 12 inch - Body: Mahogany body, primarily Strat-shaped; double cut away, belly & arm contours - Body thickness: 1 1/2 inch - Weight: 10+ pounds - Tuners: Gold-plated, Alvarez; non-locking (Stock) - Bridge: Gold-plated, 2-point floating vibrato; non-locking Brass bushings/screws, steel/brass vibrato assembly; weighs roughly 1 pound (stock) - Pickguard: Plastic; black/white/black - Pickups: HSS configuration, passive, black plastic covers (stock) - Controls: 1 volume; 500k CTS with volume mod, 1 Tone; 500k CTS, 5-way switch (stock pots still worked, but switched to CTS for a smoother taper) - Came with a padded gig bag

1 comment sorted by best / new / date

    I have this exact model in a white color with gray pearloid pickguard and it is my favorite strat style guitar ever!