Badwater review by AXL

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  • Sound: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 10
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.3 (16 votes)
AXL: Badwater

Price paid: $ 229

Sound — 9
This guitar really surprised me when I played it. I play a lot of hardcore punk/alternative rock, and even a little bit of metal. Coming from a "knock-off-Strat" this thing blew my socks off. The distortion is surprisingly punchy, especially on the bridge humbucker. I actually use a Metal-Muff pedal on all of my other guitars, and this thing sounds better without it. I really didn't expect this good of distortion out of such a "cheap" guitar, but these EMG designed pickups really deliver. The clean on this guitar is absolutely heavenly. I honestly could not believe my ears. There isn't much out there (and NOTHING in this price range) that will sound better clean than this guitar. Cover the name on the headstock and play it and people would think it was a $800 guitar (if not more.) There is a lot of variety as well with having the 3 pickups. Just don't expect much out of the tone knobs, which seem to be there just for looks.

Overall Impression — 9
My overall impression of this guitar is very good, especially considering the price. It is a pretty good match for my style of playing, which I honestly didn't expect at all at a first glance. I also own a Dean Dave Mustaine VMNTX, an Epi Les Paul, and a Jackson Kelly....and this is close in the running for my favorite, believe it or not. If someone stole this guitar, I would definitely buy another one. Like I said earlier, the clean on this guitar is completely unmatched. I love just about everything; from the awesome finish, to the sound it delivers, to how it feels to play (perfectly balanced, nice neck)...and there isnt anything I hate about it. I compared this to a few other guitars in this style(Washburn X-Pro, a few Squier Strats) and this was by far my favorite. Like I said earlier, the only thing I really could wish for is Grover tuners. And I don't really want to put a set on myself because they wouldn't match the awesome distressed bronze hardware. Other than that, the thing is pretty solid. I definitely recommend it to someone looking for an affordable, sweet looking (and sounding) guitar.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I have heard a lot of complaints on the reliability of these guitars, but to be honest I don't have any worries about mine. Everything seems great. The concerns I had with it staying in tune were erased after my first session on it. I played it for probably 2 hours with multiple divebombs on the whammy, and it was still in tune after it all. This was even on the garbage strings that came on it. The strap buttons are VERY solid (completely embarrasses my Epiphone in this category.) Even the nut on the input jack is tight as a drum, which is an issue I seem to have with every guitar I touch. I wouldn't play it live without a backup however, because A) I like to play all of my guitars, and B) if I were to break a string I wouldn't want to have to deal with it. But I have no doubt it would handle a live show, no problem.

Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Surprisingly, I was very happy with the set-up of this guitar when I got it. I actually didn't have to touch a thing. I have a few more expensive guitars that give me much worse headaches than this guitar. The neck was straight as an arrow, intonation was perfect, frets filed perfectly (I can't even feel that they are there,) nothing is loose at all, and if it did have any visual flaws, they blend right in with how this thing is supposed to look. Everything was PERFECT on this guitar right out of the box. A pleasant surprise.

Features — 8
The coolest feature on this guitar has to be the distressed finish. I actually own a Johnson model Badwater (same companies I guess, but mine has the Johnson logo on the headstock vs. Axl) in the Vintage white finish. The distressed bronze hardware is completely awesome, and I like the subtle touches such as the wormholes in the wood, woodburning on the headstock, and the simulated wood pickguard and back panel. The guitar comes in the popular H-S-S Strat style, with a tremolo bridge, and EMG-designed pickups. The 5-way selector and VOL-TONE-TONE knobs control the sound. All in all, this is a VERY cool looking guitar, with a lot of nice functional features you wouldn't expect in this price range. The lifetime warranty is also very nice. My only other request would be Grover tuners.

11 comments sorted by best / new / date

    cofc1021 wrote: This guitar is actually great. It has great sound and the neck has a great feel to it. I have the worn brown and it looks amazing. This guitar is great for this reason: when 6 employees from guitar center tell you that the guitar sounds better than there $2000 Gibson guitars. definitely go give the guitar a try and see what you think.
    employees from guitar center giving advice on what to buy. enough said.
    Mike Wayne 47
    I have been playing for 43 years and I own a Gibson 355 a Strat and a Tele, all great guitars. And if you set your badwater guitar up as you would any other guitar and as I have she'll play like a dream and worth every penny and then some.
    Update: I still really like this guitar and it never goes out of tune, nor has it ever broken a string. So much so I put in a set of Fender Custom Shop Texas Specials thinking it would take it to a new level. Guess what? It didn't. The original pups sounded better so after a year of Fender I put the originals back in, and they do sound better than TXS! I don't know what to make of this. The original pups sound better all round, although I mostly play bucker. Maybe it's because they have a higher output than the Fenders??? For some strange reason it developed string rattle on the bottom E. Couldn't get rid of it what ever I did. Came to the conclusion it was the Ernie Ball Slinky windings. Put on Daddarios and rattle gone!
    I bought my Badwater from gumtree (like ebay UK) for £50 in 2014 and I must say it sounds beautiful, stays in tune, looks good and in general one of my best guitars. (I look after my guitars)
    I bought mine a year ago.It is in a brown finish. First thing I did was changeing the pickups to tonerider city limits...what a difference! Although I liked the neck but changed it to a chinese made maple neck. It plays and sounds like a charm now and the best I like is that it's slightly smaler than my standard strats and way lihgter. After some hours on stage it can make a big difference.
    I can't comment on its sound (although in 30 years of playing I haven't met a 200 $ guitar with a good sound), but, judging from the pictures, it's a very ugly piece of wood. Look at the headstock! It looks like the designer wasn't decided how to put an end to it. It's quite odd to conceive a "worn" finish to a guitar that already looks like (very much) worn! And between the 9 givern by someone and the 3,2 given by somebody else, it's such a great distance! One of them must be wrong. Probably the guy with the 9.
    i give it a 7 personally, it has good sound quality and it stays in tune decently (after you tune it a couple times, but ya) i mean its nothing id gig with because the distortion isnt too great, though even that can be pretty decent if you run it through the right equipment, it sounds dam good on my practice amp.. i think i might submit a review after a couple more months of playing it, see if i find any more flaws.. oh the neck needed adjusted the day after i posted those comments earlier, but its not too bad to adjust yourself seein the necks held on my 4 screws, took me like maybe 5 minutes to figure out
    Yeah, you're absolutely right, after playing a decade or more (for me it's three of them), you begin to enjoy adjusting and modifying your guitars. But you must agree that such a problem - readjusting the neck joint - is serious, it shows a very low woodcraft and quality control, and doesn't happen to many guitars, especially when new. Not even in this price range. All cheap guitars have flows, but this one would be too much for me, because it is usually related to many other possible troubles: bad action, difficult setup, fret-buzz, frequent detuning etc. I don't think this guitar belongs to those cheap axes that can be transformed in great sound machines with a little improvement. Unfortunately...
    This guitar costs $200! what do you really expect? I've found more good reviews than bad ones on these guitars. As for the person who claims "I am more advance" your issues with it sound like operator problems not flaws.
    I agree with Mike above. I bought mine 2nd hand for $130. It's the crackle brown finish. Stays in tune perfectly. I've owned a 67 tele, a 82 gold top deluxe, I've now got a Gretsch hollow body and my badwater. I think it's a really good guitar, I ground the frets and polished them when I first got it. I really like the neck as I have big hands. I play it though an 82 MusicMan amp 130W. Good sustain and tone. As for the tone pots I've never turned them on any guitar I've owned so can't comment on that, just 10. Like the volume, mostly leave that on 10 too. I got my first electric when I was 13, I'm now 58 and have played in four bands. Whenever I hear the phrase "the guitar wont stay in tune" I think "another novice who doesn't know how to put strings on properly"! I can make any guitar stay in tune that has a truss rod.