Price paid: $ 274.5
Purchased from: Noteworthy Music
Sound — 7
The tone of the guitar is good, and it plays nicely. The neck is smooth and comfortable to play, something very useful when first learning guitar. I see it as a great advantage, playing electric guitar for the first time with a guitar such as this one, as it plays well, but needs some work to produce it's best tone (that isn't to say it doesn't sound good). This means that you can learn to make a good sound with an entry-level guitar before moving onto a pro-Standard one, making you that much better a player.
Overall Impression — 8
I have had this guitar for just over 3 years now, and am highly impressed with it. I bought this guitar from a local retailer for 150, and think it is fantastic value for money at that price, let alone the 89 Dolphin want for it, and would cost at least 250-300 if it was manufactured in the USA or Europe. Although the build quality may sound extremely bad from my testimony, these defects are all easily curable, for extremely little or no money, and as long as you take proper care of it, these things will not happen to you. it's simple design and layout make it a great guitar to play and will encourage you to keep at it. It produces a good, versatile, pleasing sound, although you do have to work and learn to get it to sound it's best, making this a great option for learning on. To go with this guitar, I would recommend one of the cheaper models of the Roland Cube Series amps, a low-end Vox amp, or an Orange Crush for a similar price. Whatever you do, do not buy one of the 'all-in-one' unknown brand beginners' packages, as although they are dirt cheap, they are absolutely horrible and will prevent you learning. Ones from an established brand such as Marshall or Epiphone may not be too bad, but I have no experience of them. Also stay way clear of the 'BB Blaster' amp, as it is truly awful. As an alternative, you could look at a Squier Standard Stratocaster, although I wouldn't recommend getting any with words such as 'Bullet' or 'affinity' in the name; keep to the 'Standard' model. The Yamaha Pacifica 112 is also a very good entry-level option. Essentially this guitar is brilliant for a beginner, although an advanced player would probably want more, which is why I am about to upgrade my guitar. Proof that I respect the quality of this guitar though is that I am certain that I will keep it rather than sell it, even though I am struggling to afford a new guitar! I am very glad I chose this guitar starting out; I'm sure it has helped me advance quickly, and I hope it can help you learn guitar too.
Reliability & Durability — 5
The other issue is build quality. My guitar has taken a few bumps, but hasn't been excessively bashed about, yet I've had to get out the soldering iron to fix it twice. The problem on mine is the screws holding the input jack, as they loosened and the jack fell out, making the connection between the jack and one of the wires from the pickups break, but the second time it happened, I replaced the screws with some larger, more durable ones, and that has sorted out that problem. If it happens to you, I would recommend doing that! I would also recommend tightening the screws on the strap hooks reasonably regularly, as they can loosen quite easily. The lacquer also scratches and chips reasonably easily, so be careful with the guitar in order to retain the perfect factory-new look.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The tuners could be better quality, although they do the job, and I admit that only noticed their lack of sensitivity after 3 years playing the guitar. Setting intonation is also hard due to the positioning of the screws beneath the strings, and although the intonation is sufficient, on a couple of the strings the saddle reaches it's limit before the intonation is perfectly set. It's all about personal preference, but I also dislike the fact that the knobs have no numbers or marks to gauge the level they are set to. Although they look good aesthetically, it makes life difficult for me as I play in a Jazz Band where a sound check for the guitar is not an option. I have actually drawn some markings on my guitar so I can gauge what the volume level is set to, to get around the problem!
Features — 8
Straight away you will notice how striking the guitar is visually. The cherry wood is a wonderful colour, and it works well with the matte black headstock. Good competition for the Standard Stratocaster replica design employed in most guitars aimed at beginners. Other features that make this perfect for the beginner are the Gibson-style floating bridge, without a tremolo bar, as a new player will rarely be able to use the tremolo, and doesn't usually want to (most people starting guitar I know have removed the whammy bar from their Strat-imitations). This also makes changing strings a much easier and less daunting prospect for a novice.