Price paid: € 999
Purchased from: Guitar shop
Sound — 9
I play lot's of stuff, but mostly rock and symphonic rock. The guitar works really well for this application. Mated with some stompboxes and my simple Jet City 20 tube amp (modded) it is more versatile than any standard strat. Even though you do lose a bit of the "bell like chime" you gain a guitar that can do a convincing SRV or Jimi Hendrix tone but can also chug some heavy stuff in dropped D tuning.
Overall Impression — 9
I own (and have owned) about 5 Les Paul-esque guitars, an Ibanez S470, and a TCS Strat copy. I've been playing for almost 16 years and think that with the Fender American Special HSS and a Les Paul, you really have all the sounds you can possibly need for (blues)rock, progressive rock and rock-like music. The American special HSS will however not be the ultimate blues or SRV guitar, its versatility is it's fort and you can't have it all (just look at the Strat lovers that own 5+ guitars that all nail ONE sound). I love the fact that you can see and feel that this IS an American made instrument. It's fit and finish is much better than any MIM or Epiphone will ever be. At this pricepoint I think that is a big achievement. YOU MUST HAVE THIS GUITAR SET UP PROPERLY, BEFORE JUDGING IT!
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar and its hardware will withstand live playing just like any other US made Fender has for the last 50 (?) years. I was surprised by the quality of the hardware (especially the bridge and bridge-block) when compared to any guitar in the same price range. I do strongly recommend to change the tuners to locking Fender tuners, I have a feeling the tuners that came with the guitar are built to a lower spec than they where a couple of decades ago.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The guitar's finish is perfectly done, nice high gloss urethane paint, perfectly alligned screws, just what you would expect from a U.S made instrument when compared to Taiwanese or Mexican guitars. The factory setup, however, was crap. If you buy one of these, have it setup by a luthier or do it yourself, but only if you have the experience to do this properly (anyone can hold a screwdriver, but that does not mean anything)! The frets are nice and level, tremolo is dead on perfect. I think that the bad setup was the fault of the Fender dealer, not the factory. When you ship a guitar halfway across the world, it will lose it's setup completely. It is the retailers job to set it up correctly. Since the dealer is a Fender representative, the rating is lowered a bit.
Features — 9
Built in 2011. Alder body with gloss urethane finish, 9.5-inch-radius maple neck, rosewood fretboard, 22 jumbo frets, Texas Special middle and neck pickups, an Atomic humbucking bridge pickup, and vintage-style synchronized tremolo. It came with a gigbag and some basic tools. It scored a 9 because American made instruments are real expensive in Europe. I think that for the equivalent of $1300, - us European overpayers deserve a nice hardcase in stead of the flimsy gigbag.