Price paid: € 1100
Purchased from: Thomann Online Store
Sound — 9
Low mids, baby. That's what the tone of this guitar is about. It is built to be a high gain rock guitar. The tone is not like that of a Fender Strat but more like of a Gibson SG. I play mostly various types of rock and metal and some blues too and let me tell you, it is a perfect fit. The pickups are ceramic, but more like medium than high in terms of output. I am using it with a Line 6 POD X3, usually through high gain amp models. The bridge pickup is ideal for a distinctive, meaty and thick tone. Think of the guitar sounds of Black Sabbath, Soundgarden, Mastodon, Muse, even bands like Converge. Oh and The Smashing Pumpkins. Just heavy. The neck and middle pickups work just as well with gain. On a clean channel you can tame the humbuckers a bit by rolling the volume off to 8 or so. Then you can achieve surprisingly Traditional Strat-like tones but with more body and warmth and less spank. The split positions sound very much like a Strat though, including the humming noise. You can get a picture of what the guitar and the pickups sound by watching any Smashing Pumpkins concerts since 2007 to now, as Corgan uses the model, though he has switched the neck to 21 fret ones from most of his guitars. Take into account though, that he plays through a very costly rig. Giving this a 9, not a 10, because there is a noticeable volume drop when changing to the split positions. Billy Corgan himself does not ever seem to use them, possibly due to the same reason? Personally, I use the split positions only on clean where they shine, and keep the volume pot on full for them, and balance the volume difference when switching to the humbucking positions by lowering the volume pot to 8 every time I switch.
Overall Impression — 10
I've been playing almost 4 years. This is a great rock guitar and a great step up from my old Epiphone G-400. It is, in my eyes, almost exactly as described on the Fender website, although they have removed the product page following the discontinuation of the guitar. The only thing is that the DiMarzio pickups are not really tailored for Corgan's 90's sound unlike advertised, but his recent sounds since the Smashing Pumpkins comeback in 2007. Lace Sensor pickups are a more accurate match for that time period in his career. I was aware of this before buying, and don't aim to imitate his modern tone but definitely like it. Nothing to dislike about the guitar. In my opinion, its a good value for the money. I would probably buy another in white finish, and it is a real shame the guitar is discontinued.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It would definitely be a live workhorse. The construction has such a solid feel to it. All the hardware is high quality. It's like, there is nothing on the guitar that could really break on its own. Corgan uses mostly these guitars when playing live and usually just takes a couple on tour with him for different tunings and backups. Although I would use a strap lock system of some kind, like on every guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The neck was setup very consistently with zero dead spots and very good intonation. Everything else worked perfectly as well and the body finish was shiny and fine. My only problem was with the middle pickup, which was a bit too high and was thus too loud in comparison to the others. Nothing that a quick turn of the screws could not fix, though.
Features — 9
USA made 2011 Billy Corgan Strat. Mine is black. These guitars are discontinued as of 2012, and I like to think mine is one of the last ones made. Has 22 jumbo sized frets and a modern neck which is not too slim but not a baseball, kind of a one size fits all type of solution. Made of quality alder, likely the same one they use for most USA made Fenders. The finish is a nitro finish, same as those of Highway 1 Strats. The major specialty here is the HardTail bridge. The body is not routed for a tremolo system at all unlike, most Strats. The electronics are passive. There are the 2 DiMarzio Billy Corgan pickups and a Chopper in the middle. Tone pots are for both the neck and bridge pickups, not the Chopper. Also has one volume pot. All pots on this guitar are 250 kohms, which is not usual for humbucking pickups (but works). The five way pickup switch positions are as follows: neck, inner coils of middle and neck, middle, inner coils of middle and bridge, bridge. The tuners are standard Fender Strat tuners. Includes also a high quality case worth around 100 euros, with a polishing cloth, cable, tools for turning the truss rod, etc. candies.