Sound — 9
I know a lot of people don't rate EMGs highly but personally, I like them. Yes, it's true that they aren't as versatile as other pickups on the market, but they aren't just for metal. I play through a Fender Super Sonic 60 Combo, and with a Boss SD1 and GE7 you can get some really dirty, hard rock and grunge tones without it becoming a pile of mud. When buying this guitar you have to bear in mind that this is a guitar with a specific focus so if you have hair down to your ass and a black t-shirt, this is the guitar for you, if you have a cowboy hat and Garth Brooks t-shirt, not so much. People tend to forget that EMGs can produce a great clean tone, especially with the epic Vibrolux setting on my Fender, the tone is like glass. Throw in a Cry Baby, and you could almost play a funk set with this. Having said that, the EMG 60 in the neck position isn't my first choice, an 85 would have a bit and suit my uses better.
Overall Impression — 9
Apart from a few problems with the toggle, volume knob and finish, these aren't disqualifying faults for me. The guitar suits my metal needs perfectly without looking to stereotypically metal. The EMG tone is just what I was looking for, they handle Thrash, Metalcore, Puck and RATM equally well. Over all I love this guitar and it will probably be my main guitar for some time to come.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Apart from the toggle switch, this guitar is highly durable and could take a huge amount of abuse. The back finish is already starting to get the early signs of buckle rash, however I actually like that beat-up look so it doesn't bother me much. The hardware is solid, high quality stuff. The tuners will last for ages, however the nut that holds the first volume knob in place was slightly loose and the knob came off a few times which is kinda annoying.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar came set up with a pretty low action which is perfect for me and very comfortable. The intonation was spot on and the neck was set correctly with a tiny amount of relief. The only niggle I have is that the toggle Switch tends to turn when used heavily (ie. the Morello-esque techniques described earlier). The Flame maple top is great, however I would like to be able to see it, the finish is a bit too thick and doesn't show off the top as much as I would like.
Features — 9
This guitar is basically a modern/metal oriented take on the traditional LP style guitar, thus it features a belly cut contour, a contour on the back of the cutaway, a super-slim neck profile, EMG 81 (brg) and 60 (nck) pickups, and a thinner than Standard mahogany body. All this adds up to make this guitar highly playable and comfortable. The grover tuners are fantastic, they feel really solid and are highly accurate. The Flame maple top is beautiful with nice tight figuring. The Tune-o-matic Bridge with stop tail piece provide perfect intonation, however they are a sort of dark grey colour which isn't really to my taste but that's just me nit-picking. In terms of controls the 401 FM features two volume controls, a master tone and toggle switch. This configuration is useful for those Morello-esque effects, turning one pickup down completely and using the toggle as a pseudo killswitch. Over-all these features suit my Metal/Hard Rock needs, I'm not much of a Floyd guy so its absence doesn't really bother me and the EMG pups are a great addition at this price point.