Sound — 10
I've been playing around 13 years. Most of that was spent playing mostly Metallica and Ratt riffs and other 80's metal (hard rock to metal stuff). I grew up playing a cheap Ibanez, switched to a Schecter XXX series that took me into more Precision metal and rock, but had the humbucker coil splitter that introduced me to that top single coil tone, beautiful. I was already a well-rounded player by the time I got this guitar, but my "style" was (and still is) in the making. I had a Marshall JCM 2000 half stack that I played my Schecter through, but want a guitar to play at church that didn't have stripper ladies on the fret board, and I wanted another guitar. So to the point... My "style" instantly shifted from years of metal and rock, to smooth blues and hints of jazz when they set me up on this Strat and a full tube Marshall at the store... No lie, as soon as I held it and hit those first few clean strums and runs, I knew it was the one. So I currently use a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL 100, and a Line 6 Flextone 2 with it. The only noise I know of is a click or pop when pushing the S-1 switch, which I think is commmon and doesn't really get in the way of anything. The tone that guitar can push is amazing. It's very versitile. It is a very pure sound. Through a tube amp you can hear every little nuance. The SCN pickups are a little on the low out put side but other than that they put out a very organic sound. Then you have the typical Strat sounds with the 5 way selector. I found that the S-1 switch muddies up the tone a little much for me "style" of playing. I'll admit though that one of the best tone that I found playing live with my Marshall was the bridge and middle pickup and the S-1 engaged. It took that country twang and beef it up to almost a classic rock feel. Great for strumming full sounding chords when the volume was rolled back to around 5 or 6, and then swelling that volume back up to 10 for full gain, it was PERFECT. I played on that setting almost every time I played because the tone was just perfect. But other than that I haven't really used the S-1 much. I may start though because I'm getting into jazz guitar and I'm really excited about finding some more tones that I didn't know were there... Which is an awesome in itself to be able to say. I don't know how this guitar does with a tube amp for metal/hard rock, but on my digital Line 6 Flextone 2, I could easily hash out some death metal riffs, and lines. It dosn't compare to a full on humbucker for metal, and the sustain isn't forever, so it is what it is. I actually put a Seymour Duncan hotrail in the bridge, but felt horrible about it and put the original back in. I can make this guitar scream... I can make a Charvel scream for longer but nonetheless this guitar can have some punch with the right settings. It's not a shredder though.
Overall Impression — 10
I play metal, rock, blues, jazz, etc... This guitar with the help of some digital fx will pump out some hard core riffs and solos, but it is no shredder or scream machine. It's absolutely perfection when it comes to the other styles like jazz and blues, and I mean even rock.. It's no wimpy guitar. That setting- middle and bridge pickup/S-1 switch activated playing through my Marshall was one of the best clean (with volume rolled off to like 6) and then heavier lead when rolled back up... I can't even explain the dynamic I was using when going from a soft verse and then rolling that volume back up for the gain to go in to a bigger chorus. It's was absolutely beautiful. I've been playing for 13 years. I've owned Ibanez, Schecter, Taylors, etc... I actually didn't know what I was buying at the time of my purchase. I knew it was an American Made Strat. That's all I cared about. Turns out I got a guitar than has become priceless to me and more that I would have imagined I had the time of purchase. I played Paul Reed Smiths, Les Pauls, etc... I had a three thousand dollars on my credit card and I was going in their ready to max it out... I played the best ones I could find, believe me, and I walked out of their totally satisfied with this one. I could be vain and say that I wish I could play more metal with it, but that would be stupid. It's a Strat. I may one day abandon the S-1 switch and get me a preloaded EMG HSS pickguard maybe to get a little more versatility on that end of the tonal universe. But as of now I'm fully satisfied. One more thing. Call me and idiot, I deserve it. I actually went to trade this guitar in about a week ago at Sam Ash for an Ibanez SV. I thought that I was making the right move in getting a guitar that could play metal and the be able to split the top humbucker to get that single coil sound. IT WAS NOT THE SAME. I was gonna have to trade in my Marshall only to break even with what little money they gave me for the trade on this Strat. I took the Ibanez back, and wound up giving them 93$ to get this Strat back. Moral of the story, believe me when I say it's worth it. I gave it away and I almost cried. But I got it back, so I'm good.
Reliability & Durability — 10
That is one thing that truly amazed me about this guitar. I would play this thing for hours, jamming on it, riff after riff, solo after solo, song after song, and then realize I had not tuned it once. Then I would strum a big G chord and it was as in tune as it was when I started. No lie. But, if you mess with one string, you mess with them all. If you drop that top E to D, get ready to tune the other strings. That floating trem doesn't hold well with stuff like that. This guitar is built like a rock. I've played live with it ALOT. Sweated on it. Played the hell out of it. I mean straight up jammin... Not to mention the countless hours of practice time on my own... Finish is still good, no wear, pick guard, chrom, etc. Everythings seems to still be in good condition. I played with this guitar about 40 times without a back up. Seriously it's great.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This guitar was perfect cosmetically from the store. As far as the set up I can't remember. I have done so much tweaking to it I can't say. But it was good enough for me to fall in love with it so I guess it was good! I had to adjust the pickups to even the out put of them, which took like two minutes, no big deal.
Features — 10
This guitar was made in 2007, and is a American Made Deluxe Ash Strat. 22 Jumbo frets. Neck isn't too thick or too thin. It's right there in the middle, which I love. I got the Tobacco Sunburst which seemed to me not to bright and not too dull. Also, the pictures does not do the beauty of this guitar justice, you need to see it in person to get the full effect. 5 way switch just like all other Strats. I have the older model which comes with SCN signle coil pickups, with S-1 switch built into the volume knob (push button). Locking Fender tuners. Nice hardshell case that holds guitar perfectly.