Price paid: $ 250
Purchased from: SS Music
Features — 7
Mine is a Chinese made one, not sure about the year though. It has 24 XJ frets, a rosewood neck and the body is made of Basswood and it is quite heavy and sturdy. This guitar looks similar to a Gibson SG but has a slight tilt on the right side. The scale lenghth is 24. 5 inch and it has a tuno-o-matic bridge with a stoptail and a bolt-on neck. The electronics are passive, consisting of two ESP LH pickups, a volume and a tone control. Tuners are standard ESP tuners. I got a set of Ernie Ball 10-46 and a gig bag from the shop along with the guitar.
Sound — 8
I play metal and some progressive rock kinda stuff and this guitar handles them a nicely. The heavy power from the bridge pickup gives my rhythms a punchy "chugg chugg" sound and for the cleans I keep the pick-up selector in the middle position. I use it with a Boss ME70 multi effect for live and with a Line 6 POD XT Live for studio purposes and it delivers a decent tone. Well, I don't use any kind of tube amps or "real" amps that most of the guys in western countries do, because here in India these are a bit expensive and most of the aspiring players like me cannot afford them. I use it with a small local made 20 watt practice amp at home and with a 120 watt amp from the same manufacturer in my rehearsal pad.
Well, according to me, it is more of a rhythm guitar and does not sound supercool for lead playing, but it works just good(well, I'm myself a rhythm junkie and do not play solos much).
This is not noisy at all and I can get fairly all the sounds/tones I want. It bears a basswood body, so the tone is not very bright, but a little darker and grungy. I play mostly metal and prog stuffs, which has a lot of punchy rhythms, clean arpeggios, a little bit of blues and jazz and off beat breakdowns and this piece of wood handles that decently. So in my opinion, this guitar will go with these styles well although I'll suggest it mainly for metal rather than blues or jazz.
Well in high gain settings this guitar does not take noise, which I have personally checked with a Marshall 100 watt and a Peavey Bandit 112. But sometimes when I am making tones on the ME70 or POD XT live, it takes a noise when using a high gain amp model but with the use of noise suppressor I get rid of it.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Well, when I got the first hands-on, everything was fine except the action; I lowered it a little bit for my ease. The glossy cherry red finish looked awesome, tuners were tight, bridge and the neck-joint looked sturdy and correct. The pick ups were fine for me, didn't need to adjust. The frets were placed correctly. The hardware were fine but it has been more than a year now and they have started to oxidize a little as the weather is humid here all over the year (I'll take care of it). The paintjob has chipped off in one place 'cause I dropped the guitar once.
Reliability & Durability — 7
Yes, I can definitely say that this will surely withstand live playing because I'm playing it for more than a year live on stage. Obviously I carry an Ibanez for back up, but never used it. The hardware, as I've already said, started to oxidize a little but seems that it will last for a great deal of time. The strap buttons are solid, never had to use any "straplocks." The finish is great, but due to continuous contact and friction with the pick, it has lost a little gloss over a small area just bellow the strings.
Overall Impression — 8
I play mostly metal and prog stuffs with a little bit of blues and jazz, and it does pretty well. I think it is a good match for me. I am playing more than 3 years now and I own a Ibanez GRA60 as well. But I can completely rely on this. If it is stolen/lost, I will probably save up some more money and get a LTD V-401FM. I wished it had a Seymour Duncan Invader in the bridge and string-through body and a push-pull tone knob.
Finally I would like to say that it is great thing to start off and a I would recommend for mediocre players as well. There are many western players I know, will not like this guitar, saying "it can't produce a tone to complement a tube amp" or "it doesn't sing, it farts," but believe me it is a great deal. I don't care whether it can produce a tube amp tone or not; I just make my own tones which will work nice for me and for my song. What is the point in running behind tones blindly, without any idea? My suggestion would be "start off with it, your hands and ears will go more sensitive and fluent day by day, then you can properly discriminate the difference and go for an upgrade if you want."