Price paid: $ 639
Purchased from: zZounds.com
Sound — 9
I play mostly all styles of blues, classic rock, a little alternative stuff now and then. I'm playing it through a Fender Deluxe VM 40 watt amp and have used a Boss blues driver and Dunlop Cry Baby wah pedal with it. This guitar is very hot when you want it to be. Very easy to pull off Stevie Ray Vaughan tones and the like but it isn't a one trick pony. I play mostly on the neck pickup, you can easily pull some warm rhythm tones out of it. The neck pickup gets very warm and bright Fender cleans, amazing clarity for me, I've yet to find a way to get the tone out of this guitar to sound muddy at all. The middle pickup is almost useless for me by itself but sounds good when in the 2nd and fourth position with the other pickups. It's just too bright and twangy and without any tone control of it's own it just doesn't do it for me, but when mixed with the front pickup it sounds much better, they mix very well and get a slightly brighter sound than just the neck pickup alone. When mixed with the bridge humbucker it sounds ok for slightly distorted tones, but the humbucker sounds so good by itself I feel no need for the fourth position. The humbucker sounds amazing with plenty of distortion. It nails the classic rock tones I'm going for. Sounds damn good with the blues driver in front of it but I prefer the gain channel on my amp. I don't think I'd ever use it for any clean tone but with the tone controls being very versatile it's easy to dial in great sounds. It's great distortion but you can hear what's being played behind it all, not muddy at all. Overall, if someone's looking for a very pure and classic Stratocaster tone, you might consider this guitar with a pickup swap, but I doubt you'll find any pickups that sound better, just different. Someone might have a difficult time pulling a very mellow vibe out of this guitar, but that's not really something that I care about much.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for about 10 years, have had numerous other guitars, this is the guitar for me. I could have went higher in my budget and bought something more expensive but I love strats and this guitar spoke to me. I've tried out other american strats and even the deluxes, this one just played effortlessly for me, though the others were top notch guitars also. It fits my style perfectly. I own a Fender Deluxe VM and it sounds great through this amp but I've also played through a number of other fenders at a few stores and it still gets the same great tone. If it were stolen I'd buy this exact same guitar without question. The only thing I come close to hating on this guitar is the tremolo, but I hate them all. My favorite feature would have to be the texas special pickups mixed with the greasebucket circuitry. It produces the most usable tones of any guitar I've ever played. The only thing I'll ever do is thrown in some locking tuners when I start gigging it soon, just for ease, but these tuners work great.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I placed some strap locks on this guitar just for safety reasons, I se no reason to worry about it's reliability. The strap buttons are solid but I don't trust any strap with holding any guitar worth more than a few hundred. I just wouldn't risk it. The finish I'm sure will hold up but if it wears down a little I'll probably like it even more. I haven't played a gig lately but am looking to soon and always bring a backup but not because I don't trust this guitar. The hardware seems very sturdy, but admittedly I hate tremolos. I blocked off the tremolo as soon as I got it because I never use them and haven't met one that I liked.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I bought this guitar as a blemished item and was very glad when it came in to see that the blem was a minor warp in the pickguard which I've already fixed. The action came in not so great, but I've played a few at guitar center before ordering this and they were set up great at the store. The high e snapped when I went to tune it up, worrying me about the quality of the nut, whether it might have a sharp edge, but I think it was the string acting funny cause I've had no problems since that. The strings were set a little too low with abolutely no relief in the neck, which I like a little bit of relief. I set it up to fenders standards according to their website for a guitar with this fretboard radius and whatnot, it's playing perfectly now. The action isn't very low, right where I like it, but it could go lower. I didn't have to touch the intonation, that was already perfect. It came set up with 9's which I like. The pickups were already where they needed to be and it sounded great already so I didn't do any altering to them. The finish is exactly what I would expect from an american made fender. Nice a glossy body, very shiny, very good fretwork, the neck is nice and smooth, very well done and easy to play. I can't find any flaw with it. Everything was snug and perfectly placed other than the action being low like I said. The 9.5" radius is perfect for me, I've always enjoyed a smaller radiused fretboard. The jumbo frets are something I really wanted on a strat. It increases the playability for me greatly. Some people might like a more Standard feeling neck with a 12" radius and medium jumbo frets, but if you like those features then definitely check out this guitar.
Features — 9
American made Strat with a nice back glossy finish, black three ply pickguard, three piece alder body with maple neck, rosewood fretboard. Modern C-shaped neck, 9.5" radiused fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, 25.5" scale, 1.685" nut width. Equipped with a Vintage styled 6 point tremolo and Fender brand non-locking tuners. Pickups come stock with Fender texas special pickups and an atomic humbucker in the bridge position, equipped with fender's grease bucket tone control and electronics. The only thing I don't like is that I hate tremolo's so I blocked this one off like I would do to any strat, so I won't count that against it. Some locking tuners would be nice too. It came with a Fender deluxe gig bag.