Price paid: $ 1149
Purchased from: Guitar Center Manhattan
Sound — 10
I play mostly rock and metal, varying from traditional, progressive, and some doom metal to classic, alternative and Indie rock, using a Peavey Delta Blues 115. Obviously, out of the box a Strat is more suited to classic rock, alt-rock, and blues, having much brighter and livelier clean tones than my Schecter Hellraiser, which is exactly why I bought the Strat, but tonally the humbucker in the bridge gives it a bit more variety. With the stock pickups, putting the Switch to the bridge/neck single-coil position gives a gorgeous clean tone that sounds almost like an Acoustic guitar, and either single-coil alone can get pretty close to the classic "Strat" tones: think the first Pearl Jam album, Stevie Ray Vaughan, John Frusciante, and folks like that. It's not very hard to dial a good tone in with this guitar, whether it's a mildly distorted blues-rock sound like Pearl Jam's "Alive" solo or a bright, crisp clean. Unless you're using either the bridge/middle or middle/neck pickup positions, the guitar's noisier than the Schecter's EMGs, even when using the humbucker, though that's still quieter than the single coils. On the flipside, the Strat's passive electronics seem a lot better at taking effects like a wah or similar pedals than active electronics. It's not the greatest for metal straight out of the box and with my amp, but with a different humbucker, a good distortion pedal, and a proper amp I don't see any reason why you couldn't get a good traditional metal tone like Iron Maiden's or someone similar. It's a great, versatile guitar, but if you're going to be playing mainly shred or heavier styles of metal, you should probably look somewhere else.
Overall Impression — 9
I've been playing for about seven years now, and this is probably the nicest guitar I've owned (not the nicest I've played but that's nitpicking). The tone it gets is a lot nicer than my Schecter's, but Schecters are designed for a somewhat different kind of music than what I play nowadays. It'll probably be perfect after I swap out the humbocker and maybe install locking tuners. For the price, it's an excellent, versatile instrument - I'd definitely look into a replacement as soon as possible if it was broken, stolen or lost, since it's a very high-quality instrument for under $1,300. If you play mostly "lighter" styles of music like blues, alternative rock, or classic rock, I'd definitely recommend looking at and trying out Stratocasters. My only qualm at all with it is the string noise, so the Strat gets a 9/10.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I switched out the strap buttons for DiMarzio Cliplocks as soon as I got it, but the rest of the guitar just feels right. It's comfortable to play on, though I've had to get used to the tremolo bridge. It stays in tune pretty well, even though my Schecter is a little better with that, but it was designed with lower-tuned music in mind, so I'll give the Strat a 9 in this department. It's very good, but I don't see anything amazingly outstanding that makes me think it's perfect in all regards - locking tuners might've been nice.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
The setup on my Strat is a bit flawed, unfortunately. It gets some string noise on the lower 3 strings, moreso than my Schecter ever has, and the problem only gets worse when you downtune. I typically only use standard, E-flat tuning, and D Standard tunings, and rarely go to D-flat or below, but the type of music that needs Db Standard or something lower isn't the type of music you're probably going to want a Strat for, honestly. I haven't taken it to a pro to get it set up yet, but at least the string noise is inaudible when you actually plug in. Aside that problem, the guitar is beautiful - string bending is much easier than on any other guitar I've owned, and I like the feel of both the satin back of the maple neck and the rosewood fingerboard a lot more than I like my Schecter's finished neck and ebony fretboard. The finish really lets the grain of the swamp ash Shine through, and you can see that the wood the body was made from is a really great piece of wood. The rest of the setup and build of the guitar is great, but the string buzz annoys me considering how much the axe cost, so I'm giving it a 7 here.
Features — 9
Even after 57 years of production, the Stratocaster has remained pretty similar to what it debuted as; if you're a guitarist, you have a very good idea what it's going to be like. My particular Strat is a 2010 American Standard with a passive, Fender-designed humbucker/single/single pickup configuration with one volume control and two tone controls - one for the humbucker and another that controls each single coil pickup. It has a swamp ash body with the Sienna Sunburst finish, 22 frets, 25.5" scale length, and a maple neck with rosewood fingerboard. It's a fairly thin and pretty easy-to-play on neck, though obviously not a superfast shredder's guitar. If there's any one word I could use to describe this guitar, it's moderation. The HSS setup gives it a bit more versatility than the iconic SSS pickup configuration, though it won't get high-gain metal tones without replacing the humbucker and possibly using a distortion pedal, but since Iron Maiden and Yngwie play Strats, it can be done; it may not be an optimal black or death metal axe, but it's a versatile instrument that can handle a nice range of styles without any sort of modification.