Price paid: £ 350
Purchased from: PMT Music Stores
Sound — 9
I play rock music. Anything from 60/70/80's classic rock, to hard rock, to metal, to punk. And this guitar suits those styles perfectly. I run it through a Marshall JCM2000 DSL401, and it has a huge, beefy sound from the two stock 'buckers. One thing to note on this however is that the bridge pickup is bright, whilst the neck pickup is dark; there is no in between. I have use my amp's EQ to compensate for the extremes, and I usually play on the neck pickup with the treble fairly high, but this sounds absolutely fantastic. Unfortunately I find the guitar quite noisy. Thankfully, this is easily rectifiable as I have identified that the guitar is not grounded properly; when I touch anything metal on the guitar such as the bridge or strings, the humming decreases significantly, so when I shield the insides and ground it properly I'm sure it will clean up well. It's no biggie - just a bit of irritating extra work, that's all. The guitar can do most things. When playing through the clean channel of my amp, I find it picks out the detail on the notes fantastically, and with correct amp settings gives beautifully bright, harmonic-filled highs whilst maintaining rich lows. When I kick on the overdrive, the guitar handles this excellently and gives an awesome Angus Young-style crunch. Then, on OD2 the guitar really sings; sustain is excellent and palm-mutes notes are big and chunky, whilst solos sound monstrous through the tubes of the Marshall. I really have heard guitars twice this price sound worse than this beast.
Overall Impression — 9
Overall, this is a truly fantastic guitar. I have been playing for two and a half years now, and this is my second guitar. It is a massive step up from my last guitar - a Behringer iAxe 393. That was a great beginner guitar, but this really shows up everything I thought was good about that guitar. I've played guitars twice the price at my local music store and I'd certainly rank this among them. It's only when you really start getting into high-end ESP and Ibanez guitars, and obviously the big boys like Gibson and PRS that you really think it's worth the hassle of saving up and buying a new guitar. I play hard rock, classic rock, metal, punk, prog - any kind of rock to be honest. And this guitar handles them all fantastically. One thing I will say is that it's not great for shredding - the neck is too thick, and it's not great for jazz - the cleans are good, but... well just look at it for goodness sake, it's clearly not built for jazz playing, is it? If it were stolen I would hunt it down and tear the guy a new arsehole with a barge pole. Or failing that buy a new one... But you get it. It's awesome. When I was looking for a new guitar, I also looked at an Ibanez RG350DX, a couple of Jacksons and the Epi Les Paul. I'm really glad I went for this. The Ibanez is good for metal and such, but I feel it is fairly limited in the other styles it can play. Jacksons are the same. And the Les Paul just didn't feel right - partly down to it being ridiculously, uncomfortably heavy. I love this guitar, and would definitely recommend it to any guitarist looking for a great rock guitar at an unbelievable price.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I'm impressed with the durability of the guitar. For example, I have had several knocks (that massive bit of body sticking out the the right as you play takes getting used to!), but there are no nicks in the finish yet - just a few very light scratches. It feels solid to, and when I'm playing I can be assured it's not going to fall apart on stage! I wouldn't use it without a backup - but that's just because I'm paranoid. I probably wouldn't even use a Boss without a backup - and I'd trust their build quality more than a tank's. Two small problems. Firstly, the strap buttons come loose quite often. They're easy to tighten, obviously, but it's just annoying. Secondly, the gold finish on my bridge is coming off to to rubbing it whilst palm-muting; and also the same is happening on the edges of my pickups where I brush it with my pick. This is below what I expect of a 350 guitar, to be honest.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
When I got the guitar it was set-up perfectly to my liking - action fairly low, strings perfectly wound and the pickups adjusted well. All the hardware fits perfectly to the guitar, and I can find no production flaws, although the tone knob were slightly misaligned - obviously a trivial matter. Overall it just felt right. All the seasoned guitarists reading this will know what I mean when I say this - there's just something about the guitar that makes it really nice to play, which in my eyes is more important than any material or hardware or facts on a bit of paper are to how good the guitar is.
Features — 8
This guitar was made in 2009, in Korea as far as I'm aware. It has 22 frets on a fairly thick mahogany neck and rosewood fretboard, so particularly great for shredding, although it feels great for classic/hard rock and the like. The body is made from Korina, which has a dark sound to it; noticeably darker than the Epiphone Les Paul which is identical to it in basically every single way save for body shape and material. It has a simply beautiful ebony finish, with fantastic golden (brass) hardware and a 3-ply white-black-white scratchplate. I really think this is the best stock finish I've ever seen on a guitar, although the gold on the hardware does tend to rub off on places like the bridge where I have regular hand contact... The bridge is tune-o-matic with a stopbar, which is a fantastic bridge full of sustain and it look sway more tidy than a Standard strat-style bridge in my opinion. It comes stock with 2 "Alnico Classic Humbuckers". These are very good stock pickups for a guitar of this price range, although still aren't particularly amazing in the grand scheme of things, so I'm looking to upgrade them to Duncan JB/59s or DiMarzio Super Distortions. There is a three-way selector switch, individual volume controls for each 'bucker and 1 tone control (treble-cut). The tuners are Grover and are not just the best stock tuners I've ever played, but the best tuners full stop. They're simply fantastic; they're fantastically accurate and the guitar almost never goes out of tune.