Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 10
With two humbuckers, a three-way toggle Switch, and coil tap, I get three distinct pickup configurations with sounds ranging from ear-piercingly sharp to a seriously mellow note with almost a hollow sound to it. My main style music is along the lines of Cat Stevens, Neil Young, and improvised blues. The Z-44 is just fine for all this. I'm running it through a 20w Mega amp. It's a small amp, but the guitar makes it sound great.
Overall Impression — 10
The Z-44 is a very flexible guitar. While I like to play blues and ballads, it certainly has the strength to match it in any rock band, and I could easily see it fitting in with jazz and the like. I've been fiddling with guitars for nearly 20 years, but very seriously for 12 months. I get together with a rhythm guitarist and a blues harp player every month or so & I aim primarily to play improvised lead, and backup. I would be happy to buy this guitar again and even pay the shop price of $655.00. I love the body style - small, compact, and not like the multitude of Strat copies. It's something different. The coil tap for variety and that honey-mellow tone in one of the positions! I hate nothing! I compared this guitar (normally $655.00) to a Cort M600 ($999.00). I played the M600 before I came across the Z-44. I'd love to have another play of the M600. While a different looking guitar to the Z-44, the M600 seemed to aim for similar features and sound, same brand of pickups, coil tap, etc, etc). There must be some differences, but the sound and quality seems to be very similar. So I'm not sure why you would pay so much more.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I see no problem with using the Z-44 on a live gig. The guitar is very solid & well made. The finish appears to be excellent. I haven't had it for long, but with most things, guitar or not, the finish gets minute scratches within days from brushing against buttons on your clothes or whatever, but it looks and feels like a very durable finish.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
When the guitar arrived, the action hadn't been set, which surprised me. When I say not set, the strings were virtually laying on the frets! But then, I'd be setting it up the way I wanted to anyway. So I spent 20 - 30 minutes setting up the bridge and intonation, and we're away. Despite it not being set up upon arrival, I'm not bothered by it since I'd be working on setting it up the way I like it anyway. The finish is great. On the front, there is two tiny flaws in the metallic finish. Looking at them, you'd think that you'd feel an unevenness, but the clearcoat over the top is perfectly smooth. When I first saw them, I wasn't too impressed. But after a day or so, I changed my mind & view them as making the guitar an individual. The humbucker pickups are quiet. When the coil tap is pulled, effectively giving you a single coil, then there's a bit of a hum. But that is what you'd expect with a single coil. The only minor hiccup I've had was the coil tap knob (which is also the tone knob) suddenly came off it's post when I pulled on it. But a dab of hot glue is holding it place fine.
Features — 10
Made in 2005, the outstanding features of this guitar, to me, include both the neck & body being made from solid mahogany; the neck being fitted into the body, rather than being bolted too (apparently better for sound quality); and the coil tap. The strings don't finish in a bridge tail but are 'string through body' which, I understand, helps to increase resonance. The finish is very nice, being metallic platinum, the only colour available in Australia. I don't know exactly what you'd call the body style, it's not your traditional Strat type. I would lean toward a more Les Paul style. It only has a lower cut-away. The Tone Pros bridge is awesome. Very fast to adjust and very firm. Controls include two volumes, a tone, and by pulling out the tone pot, you get the coil tap that splits the two humbuckers into single coils. Though it's not standard with the Cort, the business I purchased from, (www.musichotline.com) also supplied a stand. And, of course, allen keys were supplied too.