Price paid: £ 120
Purchased from: Alan Billingtons
Features — 7
Aria Pro II made is Japan between 1977 and 1981. This is one of their stratocaster copies that followed on from their earlier Les Paul copy range. The guitar consists of a solid ash body, SP I pickups, one piece maple bolt neck, Rotomatic tuners, available in Natural and Sunburst. Mine is in the sunburst finish. This is the first electric guitar I purchased back in 1987. It has the exact same appearance as Ritchie Blackmore's guitar at the California Jam 1974 that he played a fantastic live rendition of "Mistreated" on and then smashed it to pieces by ramming it through a camera lens; as one of my degrees was in broadcasting from Ravensbourne I know those broadcast camera lens can be £100, 000. Hence why Deep Purple lost most of their performance fee to replace the damage.
The ash body has 3 single coil pickups and the strings are installed via the String-thru body system. The guitar came with a wammy arm and I purchased a curly guitar lead at the same time. Never done that since, I learnt always to buy a straight lead. Although one disadvantage of a straight lead is that they are prone to breaking wires which the curly leads don't suffer from. The look of the guitar was an incentive. Wood instead of a piece of plastic and she had some nice sustain compared to other guitars I tried.
Sound — 7
It's a stratocaster copy, and I quickly came to prefer the sound of Ibanez and Gibson, even Les Paul guitars. The coils have always given a low to medium output. There is nothing spectacular in the sound, it would be preferable as rhythm guitar and certainly not lead guitar in a metal band.
The treble setting on the 3 pole switch does have a very good metallic sound to it. It's better than many guitars in a higher price range and I believe it's superior to many Fender models. My Ibanez guitar which is superior in all other ways lacks the metallic ring of the Aria in this pole setting. Metal Hammer had an advert where more than one metal guitarist was sponsoring the Aria Pro II stratocaster copy. But they were from the commercial end of metal and I'm sure I haven't heard any of their records.
I use the Aria mainly for some blues playing for which it has a good sound on the treble setting of the 3 way pole tone switch. I found it good for soft rock music such as Fleetwood Mac's "Second Hand News." An up tempo number with guts to it and the Aria is suited to that style of music. On any of the 3 pole settings of bass, mid or treble it has a bright sound and not in anyway full or rich.
The guitar did suddenly develop a lot of noise and checking the magnets has not reduced this. I replaced the bass string with the second string of a bass guitar many years ago t o give a full bass sound making the guitar a bit like a modern vihuela. An ordinary guitar amp is able to handle the signal although its right at the bottom of its range when the bottom string is played as an open note. I use this effectively for the opening shuffle of Black Sabbath's "Children of the Grave."
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar action was already set up as it had been previously owned. However the previous owner was a lead guitarist who had smoothed down the frets to increase the speed of soloing. The bridge screws needed adjusting in order to reduce fret buzz on the first string, which was not helped by the frets being smoothed down. That the frets had rounded off has proved to be a nuisance. It was meant to increase speed on soloing but instead you need to press harder because the string isn't making a good angle when it presses against a fret. So more pressure is needed to increase contact withe fret.
Reliability & Durability — 5
The guitar is 37 years old and has been with me for 26 years. Everything is holding up well but she isn't played very often. I prefer using my other guitars or one's in the studio usually. The Aria is still used for some blues work or soft rock. The noise problems that have developed with the guitar has reduced its service, so the passive electrics have not proven to be reliable or durable, whereas the body of the guitar has. I've replaced the the sixth string with the second string of a bass guitar and down tuned it to prevent stress on the neck. That string has been on the guitar for 17 years and the guitar and machine heads are still in perfect condition. The reason for this was to turn the guitar in to an electro Vihuela able to add more bass and bottom to the guitar sound and it has served that purpose.
Overall Impression — 7
I am more intrigued in hearing one of the earlier Les Paul style models before they started copying strats. The Aria Pro II should now be a cheap guitar to buy and it's perfectly acceptable except for metal. Soft rock or pop is probably its forte. As a guitar its best feature is the metallic sounding treble pole switch setting and that it has a good sustain when played. The sound quality is not particularly good and the mid setting on the pole switch is so bland that I don't use it. I wouldn't replace this with another Aria Pro II strat. Then again I probably wouldn't sell it. It was my first and its been with me for two thirds of my life.