Price paid: C$ 279
Purchased from: Steve's Music
Features — 9
I bought this one brand new at $279, a killer deal, and have no regrets. It came with sharkfin inlay 24 frets, Floyd Rose tremolo. However no box, no manual, no allen key. Just picked it up at the store. It has H-S-H passive humbuckers. The body contour is deserves to be called a feature; not as an eye-candy per se, but touch-wise and fit-wise when you hold it. The modern U shaped neck is really great, even though you may feel it's not as great as the Jackson guitar's super slim necks. But again, the neck is still comfortable.
It has coil-tap/tone control in one, even though I don't use the coil-tap, volume control which I don't use, and a 5-way selector, so pretty much standard. The pots are 500k, inline with what humbuckers require.
Sound — 1
If you are buying this guitar to play metal, or any kind of crunchy tunes, beware! Provided stock pickups are Alnico V EMG SRO OC1; and either they sucked greatly or the there was an issue with the wiring. Clean channel gave tons of bass, however with the distortion pedal it was so nasal, with the mids completely lacking, so no crunch to speak of. Again I say, beware! Every other review so far seems to say the sound is ok, but it is not. I had another guitar with stock ceramic pickups to compare this against; so the sound really sucked. Until I changed with the humbuckers with some no name dual rail Chinese high gain pickups... The guitar instantly turned into a massive-gain destroyer with an intimidating growl. So be prepared to change your pickups if you set your heart on this one... You were warned.
Another issue with it was the constant hissing which I attributed to the wiring, and it was confirmed that it was so after I changed the pickups. Plain horrible. The hiss when using the middle single humbucker is so great that you don't need to have played guitar at all to gather there is something wrong with the guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The finish on the body and headstock is simply impeccable. It is one of the reasons I truly love this guitar and will keep it as my main. The fretboard is also a uniform and very dark rosewood with no streaks, which is just superb - I guess I got lucky there, check your guitar before buying to make sure your fretboard wood is nice and uniform with no color variations. However the cheap white binding along the neck was another issue, as there were small black streaks in them. I thought it was dirt and gave it a go with pencil erasers to no avail. I ended up carefully scratching them out with an exacto knife. But for this price range, it's not big of an issue.
Factory setup was ok with no fret buzz and so-so action which is not high but definitely not low. The pickups were too low, and the bridge was too high, it was even above the level of the body. Throw in the fact that you need to (probably) change the gauge of the strings, you will have to readjust the truss rod, the floyd rose, the intonation and bridge height anyways. I don't understand why there is such a section for a review. When you buy a guitar, you need to adjust all of these. But for beginners' sake, let's say, yeah, you can pick up this guitar and play. The bridge, the nuts and frets, the neck, are all A-Ok!
However, the troubling issue was the wiring of the guitar, where I saw the pickup wires soldered as cavemanly as possible onto the pots. Even the wrapping plastic of the wires were burnt into the soldering work. And the solder was so tough, I had to give up on melting them and cut the pickup wires to remove them. I soldered the new pickups onto clean spots on the pot, and when I was done, the new pickups worked just flawlessly.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I definitely think of this guitar no less than its peers at much higher price point, when it comes to durability. The bolt-on neck is a plus as it can be changed so you won't have to write off the guitar, and the hardware is black instead of chrome or gold. Black hardware tends to last way longer, so you are covered there. The tone and volume knobs are solid and they are not wonky or feel like they'd come off. Solidly built, and a definite looker! The rest of the characters are just fillers as I need to pass the minimum five hundred characters limit so this post can be accepted. The guitar got a small scratch as I was wiping it with a soft fibercloth a few days ago. I think I will just polish it. Oh, that makes me remember, the gorgeous glossy trans finish is a finger magnet! I wish there were some guitar-protectors like smartphones.
Overall Impression — 8
I play heavy/thrash/death to the extent of my abilities as I'm still learning and improvising, and this guitar would not have been a good fit if I did not know how to change the pickups and what pickups to get. Definitely not recommended for folks who are just starting; unless you are like me, where you have more technical expertise to fix and tinker with a guitar rather than playing it. But for any experienced guitar player, I'd highly recommend this awesome diamond of a guitar at a relatively low market price, which tends to be around $600 CAD these days.