Price paid: C$ 299
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 5
The sound at best is livable without any effect and just run clean, beyond that there's no definition and muddies up quickly with any kind of gain, and no amount of eq can save the day. In short the pickups are horrible. The set neck and bridge provide great sustain and you can feel the ring throughout the body when played. A Gibson 490/498 combo in gold hardware would make an invisible replacement providing much better tonal quality with an accompanying upgrade in the pots and capacitors.
Overall Impression — 9
I play blues and classic rock, and while the shape of the guitar is not exactly user friendly (a belly cut would be nice) it does sit across the knees well. For what I play, a smart choice in pickups is all that's needed for this to match whatever I do. I've been playing 35yrs and I've always wanted an Explorer so this was an early Christmas gift. I've compared it to the other guitars I currently have including Gibson Les Paul BFG Gary Moore, Fender American Special Tele, 94 Fender MIM Strat with Vintage noiseless pups, Squier Showmaster, Washburn OE-30, Gibson Les Paul Standard goldtop with P-90s, and an Epiphone Les Paul Standard. So it went up against some good benchmarks. Plain and simple, Explorers are dead sexy ROCK guitars and with a little work make a keeper axe. Would I buy another... Definitely. They can be picked up reasonably cheap and made to play and sound comparable to the Gibson namesake without the hefty price tag.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Of course it would stand up to live playing with a little elbow grease. Most notably strap locks, some good setup work, and PICKUPS. Once the electrics are swapped out I would definitely rely on it. It's built like a tank and weighs like one too but is perfectly balanced.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The fit and finish of the guitar is quite impressive and one of the better imports as far as craftsmanship goes. Alignment and setup of the stop bar and bridge in relationship to the neck were quite nice although the tune-o-matic definitely needs some help as you run out of room trying to intonate the guitar. Will be replacing that with a Schaller gold plated roller bridge in the near future. I found the stock .010 nut setup was cut improperly and could use some sanding and some lip balm (cheap nut grease) A quick twiddle of the bridge and the action settled down nicely and allowed for comfortable playing. Fret finish is very acceptable, no fret runout or sharp edges.
Features — 9
Finished in ebony (black), mine is a 2004 Korean manufactured one. A set neck model with dual Alnico 2 humbuckers, twin volume, single tone control and 3 way switch and black speed knobs. Gold hardware with mini grovers and tuna sandwich bridge... A stock 58 Korina reissue basically.