Price paid: $ 30
Purchased from: Garage sale in 2010
Sound — 4
I prefer the old sounds that made the Strat famous. (yes, I'm old-school... Not to mention old!) My thing is pre-1975 R'n'R. Single-coil pups are noisy by nature; you can't expect any Strat to be quiet. This is why Seth Lover invented the humbucking pickup.. And why I modded this guitar to use them. (greatly helped the sound) Stock, you get some noise reduction in the 2nd and 4th switch positions because of the RW/RP center pup combining with the bridge (or neck) pup to form a humbucking pup. This goes for any modern Strat with single coils, assuming it isn't made to the Vintage spec. Sound, because of the soft body wood, is mellow. Don't expect it to produce heavy-metal tones without a god-awful amount of treble-boost and gain! (and increased noise from the boost) You need harder woods for this. If you stick to basic electric blues, as-is the pickups should be fine... Assuming of course that you put work into it. Be advised that the required replacement parts alone will easily exceed the purchase price! In some ways, the guitar reminds me sound-wise of a Tele-Star brand instrument I had as a kid. To me, it isn't bad... But others might not like it. YMMV, usual disclaimers. My rating here is based on stock; after I got finished with my fixes/mods, I'd up-rate it to a "7".
Overall Impression — 2
My style (if you can call it that) is old-school R'n'R. The stuff I like is typically pre-1975, where the original artists are either dead or post-graduate students of drug rehab. I've personally played on-and-off for too many years. Truthfully, I'm much more of a guitar tech than a guitar player. I have plenty of Vintage amps with the famous names... Vox, Fender, etc. My effects are old-school as well, though I have one aging Zoom rig that can be fun at times. I also build my own amps and effects in the old tradition. What did I wish I had asked before I bought this at the garage sale? "How much did your son hack this guitar up before deciding it was a lost-cause and selling it for whatever he could get?" I bought the guitar on a whim, and figured I could get it playing reasonably well with a fair amount of effort. I did, but it was a lot of work. I didn't expect to have to re-build the neck pocket! If it were stolen/lost/trashed, I'd just replace it with another parts-monster... Though this time I'd more than likely buy a $50 body and a $50 neck and take my chances with them. What do I like about it? After I did all the work on it, it isn't a bad instrument in the least. Sound is ok and it is very workable for what I like. Remember: this was a $30 instrument! Even in the early 1970s, a cheap Jap-made (Kawai) Tele-Star with a cheesy solid-state amp would have set you back $75. $30 in 2010? WTF do you expect? Side note: Asian imports have *zero* quality control; *you*, the end-user, are the QC inspector. If you *must* have one of these, pick through several of them until you find one that plays and sounds good. The quality will be extremely variable. Used examples are probably hacked-up in an effort to get them workable. My main complaint is the body; the routs were done all wrong at the factory, and the wood is very soft. The whammy was garbage too; that could be replaced... But without a lot of work to the stock body, it wouldn't work that much better. Fret work on my example was sad, but the wood was good enough in that it could be re-fretted. (I do my own fretting, but be aware that a proper fret job will set you back far more than what the guitar is worth!) Again, do all of the work and it could be a "7"; don't do it and it will be a "2".
Reliability & Durability — 3
Like with most Asian imports, the hardware is low-grade. Plan on replacing it if you want to use this guitar seriously. The whammy stunk on dry ice, the selector switch was garbage, the frets were done wrong (which is why everyone here is having trouble past the 12th fret), and the body wood is extremely soft. I wouldn't trust the stock strap buttons... And if replacing these, I strongly suggest you dip the strap mounting screws in epoxy before replacing them with the new strap buttons/strap lock. The wood is really soft, and the threads will pull out like they are made of butter. If you bang it around much, the body finish will look terrible in no time. Using it at a show without a backup... Depends on if you put all of the aforementioned work into it. (if you did, it would be fine) The basic Strat design is the most reliable of all electric guitars. Generally speaking, you really have to *try* to break it. Bone-stock Bridgecraft? I doubt the example I had would hold up to more than a week of hard gigging, and that is optimistic. There are too many build flaws. On the up-side, if you put some work into it, you could take it to shows that you know have rough customers & not feel so bad when it gets smashed. Heck, you might be able to pretend you are Pete Townshend and smash it on purpose for a show.
Action, Fit & Finish — 2
Flaws... On this guitar...? (cue: uproarious laughter!) Whammy bar - Saddles are ok, sustain block is a horrid POS undersized cast mess, and the base plate was machined wrong where the fulcrum point is located. They cheaped-out and did only one mill pass with the fulcrum point behind the screws. This will never return to tune simply because that fulcrum point should be right through the diameter of the bridge pivot screws. If you want this guitar to play in tune, plan on replacing the bridge with a Guitar Fetish whammy that has a machined steel sustain block. Note that the pivot screws appear to have been drilled with a hand drill, rather than a drill press as they should be! That made for some really funky screw angles that virtually assure that no whammy will ever work right on this body. I just made it into a HardTail variation by blocking the whammy (after installing a big steel sustain block) and putting in huge screws to hold the bridge firmly in place. *IF* I were to put a proper whammy on this, I would have to fill the original holes with dowels and re-drill them straight. Nothing else would fix this issue. Neck - Some variation of a Strat headstock that was easily cut to the Vintage Fender style by yours-truly. I also modified the neck profile a tad to better suit my hand. Overall, the wood seemed good for the shaft, though I'm sure that the fretboard wood is isn't a real rosewood sub-species. Frets were pretty sad past the 12th fret. Looks like they didn't bend them properly when installing them, nor did they cut them to size properly. Tangs jut out past the lower edge, and only the top side was notched. Quick-and-dirty comes to mind here. I will be re-fretting this neck in the near future. Otherwise, the neck was ok. (I'm generally happy with good wood since I can fix the annoying stuff.) Truss rod adjusts at the headstock; this is a welcome change from the heel-adjust on Vintage models. Makes life easier. Body - Pathetic. Made from a very light wood that is extremely soft. (can't be sure of the wood species, but I guarantee you it isn't alder or ash!) Mind you, the paint is much harder than the wood, and I'd guess the finish is some kind of polyurethane. Dings go alarmingly deep. Interior routs removed far too much wood; Strat bodies aren't supposed to see-through to the trem springs! Internal config is routed H-S-H. The original owner was a foolhardy tinkerer, so I had to correct a lot of his damage, which included a hacked-up neck pocket! It also appears that he tried to carve out more body wood to add in something like a 9V battery. Really stupid! Neck screws were also improperly drilled, and didn't even line up with the neck plate! Were I not wishing for a test of my abilities, I would have ditched this body for a $50 Guitar Fetish body and went from there. Would have saved a lot of time! Pickguard - the shape was a little off on this specimen, so I replaced it to take advantage of the H-S-H routs. Pickups - Seems like most folks here don't like them. Are they anything special? Not by Strat standards. Still, they are relatively wide-range (as typically-dull-sounding Asian pickups go) and they work. I kept the center pickup as it was RW/RP and would work with the Asian cheapie Strat-spaced 'buckers I got for cheap on eBone. (there is no sense putting a $300 set of pups in here.) Nut - this was just plain worn. It was some cheesy plastic, so I knocked it out and replaced it with a graphite nut. Easy fix. Pickup selector - Cheesy. Switch lever was made out of a very soft metal and would bend over with little pressure. I replaced this right off the bat. Pots - this came with dime-sized mini-pots installed. They weren't noisy and still worked, but since I was changing out the bridge and neck pups to 'buckers, I had to change them to 500K units; originals are 250K. Tuners - They work ok, but were installed on the neck crooked! I had to pull them off, fill in the locating holes (not the peg holes, thankfully) and re-mount them so they looked straight. The tuners themselves hold tune pretty well. Beats the strip tuners I remember on student guitars from decades ago.
Features — 5
Made in China, no doubt. 21-fret neck maple/"rosewood" with a fairly comfortable profile. Solid-body (like any Strat-variant). Frets are modern-size; not the small vintage-style frets. Color is red metallic, and looks surprisingly good. On the positive side, the weight is very low and it wouldn't pull your shoulder out playing three sets. Bridge is a Strat whammy. Passive electronics, just like a Strat. Pups are no-name Asian ceramic-magnet Strat single-coil variants, with the modern concession of a RW/RP center pup. Tuners appear to be sealed units; non-locking. When I got the instrument, it had no accessories... But then, I got it in a garage sale for $30.00!