Purchased from: eBay used
Features — 9
Cannot determine the year; satin neck suggests 1990s and labelled "made in Korea." Medium jumbo frets on a Telecaster copy with standard single coil bridge and humbucker neck; coil tapped. Fender style ashtray bridge and angled brass 3-saddle arrangement. Body appears to be poplar or alder and a nicely figured maple cap. Rosewood board on maple bolt on neck with headstock trussrod adjustment. Tuners are SafTPost style and fairly stable. Volume and Tone and 3 way switch. Tone knob is for a push/pull pot for coil split of the neck humbucker. Came in a used cheap gig bag. Rating "9" as it was a 200 dollar good sounding Tele with a tapped neck HB and in quite good condition.
Sound — 8
Rating this an "8" since I have had Fralin pickups in some guitars and most all others are second best. But this Austin Tele is a good guitar with entirely adequate pickups. Into a dolled-up '73 Princeton Reverb, it sounds clear and "spanky" but with enough guts in the bridge pickup for country music. The middle and neck switch choices give a good bluesy/rock sound. A versatile set of tones. Coil tapped. The HB alone is a bit "boomy" in the bass, but cutting off 1 coil helps a lot and in switch position 2 or 3 makes it better for most playing styles. HB full on with bridge is good, but almost too strong if you set the pickups up clse to the strings as I do... then back off to remove harshness... usually in the trebles of both pups.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The setup was probably never adjusted and the neck pocket had a small poor shim, likely from the factory. Some frets needed the corners smoothed, but the fret steel is quite good. Well shot finish in a cherry burst and a satin neck with gloss body. Nut slots needed minor deepening and truss rod needed to make the neck flatter. Not a shabby and cheap import. This is closer to a good Mexico Tele for 3-4 times the price. The pickups were likely set just as the factory had them, so HB tilt and a few polepieces needed adjustment to focus certain strings (D almost always needs to be raised).
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's a solid Tele; they are rugged. This guitar will easily last a lifetime with minimal care. Strap buttons lack felt washers, but are snug and rock solid. Neck wood screws like were never removed until I did it and cleared the white powder from the pocket and shimmed it to get a low string action (at fret 12 is 1/16" off the frets to string bottom). The chrome HB cover and bridge have a bit of bubbling, but nothing bad. It's an old guitar and may have been in a guy's garage for years.
Overall Impression — 9
A versatile guitar and the Korean Austins are well made with good pickups. I have a Tele, SG, PRS, LP style and all are well made and finished. The color of the Tele is not the best (they could have used a crimson darker red), but it was well finished and assembled. Neck pocket is a perfect snug fit to the neck heel. At $200 or as low as $120 for a Korea Austin... do not hesitate. Grab it before a knowledgeable guitar guy spots it. Rated "9" since 10 is perfect and it is not that. But it is a remarkable value, solid, plays well, strong and clear pickups that are versatile and close enough to Fralins. I would not replace them with good Kent Armstrongs or Duncans because of the cost and the tone boost would not be all that great.