Purchased from: Welch Music Twin Falls
Features — 8
I purchased this guitar brand new off the hanger in '03, but I cannot recall for the life of me what I paid for it. I was 21 and uh... probably recovering from some self-inflicted ailment. I would assume it was produced in Korea within a year or two of purchase, as I did get it on some closeout.
The guitar itself is loaded out pretty well. The Stratocloner (is it really a clone if it looks BETTER?) mahogany body is topped with figured flamed maple and stocked with passive Duncan Designed humbuckers wired into a 5-position selector that allowed coil-splitting. The maple through-neck has a rosewood fingerboard and 24 XJ frets, built to a 25.5" scale. ESP standard issue tuners anchor the strings at one end, and a no-frills tune-o-matic bridge. For sound control you get one volume and one tone, and you shut up and like it. This model has a trans-red finish and black hardware. No frills, nothin' fancy, and she went out the door with new strings on and nothing else.
Compared to today's Asian-built guitars, this one seems a touch feature-light. By 2003 standards... well, to get that assessment, you'd have to find someone who remembers 2003 better than I do.
Sound — 8
First things first, I ENT VURY GUD. No really, I'm pretty mediocre, and at my prime I might have gauged myself a "strong average." I can't remember scales, I suck at improvising. As a rhythm player, I do okay, but nothing fancy comes out of this dude.
I play a lot of rock and metal of various genres... or I try, when a song is within range of my meager talent (I often feel like the guy on "Role Models" trying to play "Kumbaya" during the camping trip). But while I sitting around jamming the dozen or so chords I know, this guitar seems to do it just fine. I'll switch from Neil Young to Foo Fighters to Iron Maiden, and it manages them all. I play though a late 90s Peavey Bandit 112 TransTube, and the LTD provides bright, clear highs and mids as well and strong lows. The neck pickup is great for clean channel playing, adding a lot of warmth. Both pups running is awesome with some moderate distortion is good for classic rock, or if you crank up the gain, sounds decent playing grunge. Bridge position gives you a nice metal vibe. For distortion I use a Boss MT-2 Metal Zone and a DOD FX50-B Overdrive Plus, as well as the Bandit's gain channel.
Playing distorted through the Peavey, distorted sound is -okay-. But it's a Peavey, and Peaveys are always -okay- at everything, while maybe excelling at one thing. That's a different review though. However, I've also played this through a Bugera halfstack and a Fender DeVille 2x12 combo and impressive results. I really liked the tone, though many have claimed the Duncan Designed pups are junk for distorted tone. It's possibly because I don't know any better, but I think this guitar does it just fine, and a quality amp really makes it shine.
The split-coil pickup feature was laughable. I found no useable tones from the function, and to this day wonder if that "feature" is something I paid for.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The action's pretty good, though some would argue a little bit high. No complaints here. I bought it when Welch Music had a guitar tech on staff (you kicked a-s, Sal), and he set it up really well. I'm not a fast player, really, so the speed of the neck isn't something I can comment on with any authority. But transitions are smooth as silk, and there is very little effort in fretwork on this guitar.
The pickup selector was a little twitchy from day 1. Not a big deal, because I usually played on the bridge pickup anyway. As time went on, it got twitchier. At first I'd get a little crackle when you moved the selector. Then it got a li'l Rice Krispies on me (snap-crackle-pop), and finally, a couple years ago it started cutting out when I moved it. Got bad enough the switch couldn't be touched.
I took her downtown to the "real" music store (I generally refer to Guitar Center as the AutoZone of music stores, and the place where I'd bought the guitar had long since downsized their guitar showroom to make more space for pianos on which little old ladies could practice "Hold Your Head Up High" and "Canon in D Minor" for church) where I had a new 3-position pickup selector wired in, eliminating the split-coil "feature." It is not missed. The thing was a work of art when I bought it home, not a single flaw in the finish for fitment of any of the hardware.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Okay... 12 years. 12 years I've owned this guitar, and much of that time it's been my only electric. How's it held up? The finish has held up okay. I have had the guitar a long time, and she's taken some bumps and bruises. Nothing major, thankfully. The finish is hard enough to resist scratching from picks (a plus on a guitar with a pickguard), and is a touch brittle as evinced in the chips on some of the corners. The original strap buttons were losers for sure... This guitar hit the floor once, and I thought, "fluke." Hit the floor twice, and I went and bought Dunlop StrapLoks for it. Enough of that.
Other than the pickup selector, which was wonky when it came from Korea, nothing else has ever needed repair or replacement. I pick up, I play it a bit, it sounds good, I'm happy. I've never gigged as a guitarist. I've filled the role during practice a time or two, but playing bass is what gets me paid. However, I would trust this guitar on stage all night. It's not prone to string-breaking, and it's simple hardware leaves few opportunities for failures.
Overall Impression — 9
This guitar was an emotional purchase if there ever were one. I thought it was red and pretty and it played real nice and I was 21 with some money in my pocket. I had to have it. I do not regret the decision at all, obviously, seeing I still own it. This is a pretty versatile guitar, and I can't really think of any features that would improve it significantly, outside of some higher-end pickups. Everything about is just solid, and she's served me well for many years. Hell, I wish they still made them, because I would certainly buy another if this one was lost. It's like an old friend.