Price paid: C$ 999
Purchased from: Long & McQuade
Sound — 9
Perfectly suited to most of the stuff I play - classic rock / country / blues, with a smattering of harder and lighter mixed in from time to time. For this genre, I honestly think the Strat is hard to beat. I've owned or at least spent good time with most every brand and style out there and the Strats fit ME best. While I can definitely agree there are others that suit specific players better, I don't think there's a more versatile machine on the market for sound. I play everything from Clapton to SRV to The Who to Beck to Eagles to Zeppelin to newer country to older metal and more, and this guitar can do it all pretty darn well. However, nothing to me beats a clean setting for this guitar, maybe with a little compression and very light chorus, reverb or delay. The natural sound is so crisp and sweet I could play it all day. The US pickups are surprisingly less noisy than Mexican Strat pickups I've owned, but still offer the immediate crisp sound that some of the noiseless ones maybe don't, without feeding back and humming the way cheaper ones can under heavy distortion. It's still a Strat though, so don't expect open strings won't offer a little buzz under power. The nice tradeoff is solo-ing can provide very nice natural feedback and harmonic sounds are terrific. To sum up, I doubt there's a better guitar around for being able to do a little of everything very well, and unbeatable for many of the sounds I enjoy.
Overall Impression — 10
As much as I hate reviews that rave and give unrealistic claims of greatness to equipment, this is one piece I'm not afraid to come off a little giddy over. I've played on-and-off for over a quarter century (holy smokes I'm gettin' old I guess), owned a whole lot of guitars, and am not a brand-snob. This guitar is a perfect fit for me. I love the body, the hardware and electronics, the build and finish quality, and the resulting sounds. I will say that because I own other guitars and even other Strats, I'm a little spoiled. I have a Deluxe Player with Vintage noiseless pickups that offers me a different sound when I need it. However, if I'm stranded on an island and could only ask for one guitar, this would have to be it. I can't say this about many guitars I've owned, but I expect to have this one with me forever.
Reliability & Durability — 10
Only had the guitar for a few weeks, so I'll go easy with claims here, however I've owned many Strats that all held up beautifully, even to occasional minor abuse that tends to happen with my guitars. I expect this one to only be better. There's no fluke though that people expect and get a lot of life from US Fenders. This one is built so well and the formula has been perfected over many years of the company building Strats. The quality of finish and assembly on this guitar is the best I've owned.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Well, I'll simply say that I've never played another guitar out of the box in 25 years that was set up so well out of the box. Action was very low - maybe even a hair too low for my tastes - but no fret buzz to speak of whatsoever. I am not sure I'll even bother with the free pro setup at Long & McQuade it's that good. Finish is outstanding, and particularly the neck, which is easily the nicest neck I've laid my left hand over. The fret edges are incredibly smooth, and the gloss finish is amazing. I've played Deluxe and Vintage custom necks that I liked, but this one suits me very well. The only minor issue I had was a slightly sticky tone knob which has since loosened up nicely. The standard strings are good, and for whatever reason needed far less break-in than previous new guitars I've owned. The tremolo is much nicer than a Mexican Strat, although to be honest I'm not a heavy user anyway. Everything was very good out of the box. I'll dock one mark for the sticky knob.
Features — 10
Everyone knows the basic specs by now I'm sure... Made in Corona California (mine's a spankin' new 2012), alder body, 22-fret 25.5" 9.5" radius maple neck (mine with maple fretboard with an incredible gloss finish), medium-jumbo rolled edge frets, 3 single-coil US staggered pickups, 4-bolt micro-adjust neck tilt, 5-way switching, 2-point synch trem, single volume and two tone (1 no-load)... Etc etc. It's become the Standard for a reason. Comes with a locking SKB hardshell case, Fender strap, cord, polishing cloth, and papers. Really there are so many Strats available on the market you pick the combination of sounds, styles, level of parts quality, and price point you're after and you'll find the one for you. Mine is olympic white with a white pickguard a la Jimmy Hendrix. This was the one I was after, and I knew full well what I was getting. Hard to dock any marks here.