Sound — 7
My style is pretty versatile and it suits it pretty well. I play anything from jazz, to blues, to classic rock, and even some metal. It does it all pretty well even with the stock pickups. One gripe I have is how it handles cleans. The pickups have way too much bite to get a good clean sound. Even on the neck pickup it's hard to get a clean sound with this guitar that isn't muddy. However, for metal and even classic rock the stock pickups just sing. The pickups are pretty much noisless and they sound pretty good in all 3 positions it's really just a matter of what you're looking for. For metal go with the bridge. For more jazzy and classic rock stuff the neck or middle position will do fine. I've played this thing through various different amps. Some of these include Vox AC30, Marshall JCM800, Behringer GMX212, Line 6 Flextone, and a Fender Hot Rod Deluxe. It sounded pretty good with all of these amps but the Flextone was getting bad feedback at about half volume (could be the amp). I would say if you want cleans then stay away from this one unless you plan on putting a clean oriented pickup in there. However if rock/classic rock/metal is your thing this will do nicely.
Overall Impression — 8
Like I said I play a good variety. Anything from classic rock, blues, jazz, psychedelic, hard rock, some metal. It can do all of them with the exception of clean jazz and blues pretty well because the pickup gets too muddy. However if you want that "dirt" in your tone then it will work. I've been playing about 4 years and some of my other gear includes a Fender Eric Clapton Stratocaster, Behringer GMX212 Amp, EHX Big Muff (NYC made), Dunlop Crybaby, ODV-2 Overdrive, OTV-2 Octaver, PAS-2 Phaser, an Arion Stage Tuner, and a Korg G3 effects processor. If it were stolen I would probably save up and get a PRS because this doesn't quite have the cleans I'm looking for (although a pickup change could fix that. However if I was limited to this price range then yes, I would buy this again. The things I love most about this guitar would have to be the slim fast playing neck, the awesome finish, and the sounds I can get for rock, classic rock, and metal. I dislike the clean sounds that I get from this guitar. My favorite feature is probably the Original Floyd Rose system because it does a great job of keeping in tune even when you use the whammy bar. A couple things that would make this better would be better pickups and more appealing inlays (trapezoid or block would be nice). But for a guitar in that price range that's not going to happen. Overall I would say it's probably one of the best guitars I have played for under $500. Definitely a keeper.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Yeah I would gig with this guitar any day. All the hardware seems good except for the tuning heads. They seem a little cheap compared to the rest of the guitar. I put a DiMarzio Clicklock strap on mine when I got it so I don't have experience with the stock strap buttons. I would never gig without a backup however If I had no choice then yes, I feel that this guitar is durable enough to gig without a backup guitar. I have played this gutiar almost every day since I've owned it and everything seems to be like it was the day I got it. The finish hasn't worn off at all but there is the occasional light pick scratches (which any guitar without a pickguard will get).
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Out of the box the guitar was basically flawless. The action did need to be lowered a bit for my personal tastes but everything else was just top notch. I was really surprised at the quality of the instrument especially after seeing the price tag. The pickups were also set a little high and they were uneven.
Features — 9
I picked this little gem up in a small music store in Oregon on my way back from Cali 2 years ago. Built quality is excellent for a guitar that was assembled in Japan and finished in the US. The fretboard consists of 24 medium frets on a maple neck with Standard Dot inlays. It has a solid basswood body with a beautiful quilted maple top. The neck is a bolt on and is one piece maple. The finish on mine in particular is a transparent glossy red and the quilted maple shows through making it look stunning. It is equipped with an original Floyd Rose tremolo system which holds it's tune great and has a locking nut. The stock dual humbucking pickups for this guitar are nothing special (designed by Carlson). It has Standard non-locking tuners and also features a 3 way Switch and inset volume and tone knobs.