Price paid: $ 350
Purchased from: Nara, Japan
Sound — 9
I play almost all kinds of music; but, I tend to go back to blues and classic rock, a lot. The 57/62 + Fender tube amps define the Strat tone, an opinion. This is the model you will use if somebody asked for the classic Strat sound, through a Fender tube/valve amp, of course. The trebles and basses on the '62 RI's configuration are so well-balanced that the neck and middle PUs will provide the Fender growl when attacked. The MIJ models came Standard with the 3-position switches but they also came with a 5-position spare, nice touch! I installed the 5-position just because. There are a lot of people Who complain about the electronics on MIJs and I don't understand it. The Japanese are well-known and highly-regarded in: you guessed right, Electronics. It's easy and straightforward to go with MIA electronics but I've never felt the need. MusiciansFriend and Guitar Center carries the MIA Fender-branded electronics if you're inclined and believe they will "improve" your tone. The stock '57/'62 PUs is all I need to play it clean or dirty and cranked. The well-balanced Mid and Neck PUs provide a very substantial and raunchy growl when over-driven. Think of the cleanest Blues all the way to Deep Purple/Richie Blackmore or Alice In Chains. I have access to an actual '60 Strat (based on the SN 491XX) and in comparison, the '62 RI has an edge (my perception): the notes were clearer with a bit more punch. The original '60 Strat with the 48-year old PUs and electronics were "softer and tended to break up earlier. Of course, some tone chasers prefer this, so it's all preferences. As far as the SC hum, it's there when you're not playing; however, once you're performing, it's no longer there or not noticeable. Is it an annoying hum when you're not playing? Only if you set it in front of your amp and you allow yourself to get annoyed with it. This is a non-issue, really.
Overall Impression — 9
I play all kinds of music; mostly Rock, but I also like Jazz. This Strat will play both and anything in between. I've been playing seriously for the last 3 years and to-date, I've accumulated a lot of stuff, just like any gearhead and tone chaser. Although I love my SGs and LPs, there will always be this pull from Strats. The MIJ '62 RIs are a worthy competitor to the MIA AV '62 RIs for about 60-75% of the price. I wasn't disappointed and I can't see how anybody would be as long as: you do your research (know what exactly you're getting); play the guitar for several hours (instead of a few minutes) on the same amp that you have or plan to buy; are able to compare it with similar models (MIA AV '62 series or an original, good luck); you know what a set of 57/62 PUs sound compared to Fender Lace Golds or Texas Specials or SCNs, etc. I love the combination of features (PUs, electronics, body and neck woods, finish, and hardware) that provide the definitive Strat tone. I've compared this to the '57 RI Strat, both the Japanese and the American AV Series. The '62 RI definitely has the edge since the Rosewood fretboard tames the "brightness" one gets from a maple/maple neck. The only option that I wish they offered is a Variable V neck profile. This is easily remedied though; AllParts, the Japanese manufacturer of licensed Fender necks, offers this neck profile. All parts also happens to supply the Fender Japan necks for Teles, Strats, and the P and J Basses.
Reliability & Durability — 10
These guitars feel indestructible and are very solid. It provides the peace of mind that nothing will go wrong when you're performing in front of a crowd. The MIJ hardware should out-last me. I've never trusted the stock strap buttons on any guitar; so, I've installed straplocks. No matter how Bullet-proof a guitar feels, one should always have a back-up when performing, even if it's just a school talent show. It doesn't matter what guitar you have, you need a backup! My future grandkids would be happy when they get into guitars. I've always been very careful and always maintain my guitars; so, I'll probably won't see this guitar in a reliced state. These will look like NOS (new old stock) 50 years down the road.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
As with most MIJ Strats, the action was set at Medium with no buzz. Still, I adjusted the PU height, replaced the medium tremolo springs with harder ones, replaced the Standard .010s with .011s, adjusted the truss rod just a teenie bit. If you're not familiar with truss rod adjustments, don't even try it, go to a pro. I could've left it as is; however, I tweak everything to derive maximum performance. They now play perfectly and the newer '57/'62 PUs are a bit tamed and closer to the originals. The tremolo block is the usual hefty, full-sized one. For those Who care, you can go with the boutique Callaham block. That baby weighs a solid 1 pound! It's a minor tweak but it pays off when you play it dirty and need the sustain. Is it necessary, maybe not. I really appreciated the very nicely-dressed frets and superior neck feel. Even before the tweaks, there weren't any dead spots or fret buzz. I enjoy Mexican Strats but the differences and the higher quality and craftsmanship of the Japanese Fenders are immediately noticeable. I give this a 9, only because the usual, perfect set-ups on the Fender Custom Shops can rate a 10 here.
Features — 10
Nobody has done a review of this model so I want to share my findings. I have 3 Made in Japan (MIJ) '62 Re-Issues: Burst, Pink, and Fiesta Red. I bought these guitars new in 2007 in Nara and Hamamatsu, Japan. They were designated as Premium; meaning, Alder body, instead of the Basswood on some models and they came with Fender 57/62 PUs, instead of the more commonly available Texas Specials (no offense but yuck). The neck is Maple with a Rosewood fretboard. The finishes on these MIJ models are as beautiful as their American Vintage '62 (AV Series) counterparts. The MIJ has Nitro over a Polyurethane base, very smart and makes it almost Bullet-proof. If you're fussy about appearances, which I am, you can view the guitar from all angles with maximum lighting, go through every square inch, inspect the routing, the neck pocket, and not find anything worth criticizing. These guitars are very well-made. The curious thing is that two came with the traditional 7.25 radius and one had the 9.5 radius. The 9.5 mirrored the MIA models back when people complained about bending on the 7.25 and Fender accommodated with the flatter 9.5 fretboard radius. I could bend all day on the 7.25 and not complain. The neck is U-shaped, which makes it a bit chunkier than the C. The Rosewood fretboard doesn't disappoint and on the Red and Burst ones, quite dark.