Price paid: £ 425
Purchased from: Thomann
Sound — 9
I play modern/Alternative Rock (quite high gain) in my band. When I am noodling at home I also play alot of blues and clean rythm/chords etc. I use a BB+ pedal for overdrive/distortion and Boss CS3 for delay amongst other Boss pedals through a Fender Deluxe Tube amp. Under alot of gain the buckers deliver a thick powerful tone - great swell and good for chugging) and amazingly enough are VERY articulate. I couldn't quite believe it when I first plugged it in. I was sure I would have to change the pickups out for some high end Dimarzios or Duncans but no, these are perfect. Fender have done well. The neck bucker isn't muddy one bit and you get a slight bit of that earthy tone that Standard single coil Strat neck pups give you too which is great and unexpected. Roll back the tone on the neck a little and you get a lovely woman lead tone that is much more articulate than you would get from a typical humbucker instrument - mahogany bodied, smaller scale guitar. The over all tone is a little dark. Probably due to the overwound pups resistance coming in at 12 - 13k. I have the treble on the amp at around 7, mids at 6.5 bass at 5 and presence at 7 and its perfect I can't seem to put it down the tones are so pleasing. The spilt coil positions 2 and 4 are great for either blues with Overdrive or for playing clean rythms or chord picking and give you a nice single coil sound. Not as magical as a true single coil obviously but what you get is VERY usable and perfect for live situations where you can go from heavy riffing to a flick of the 5 way selector and stamp on your pedal (to go clean) and ring out clean earthy chords and intricate picking patterns. All the snap, spank and bite of a Strat is there whether you are engaging the full bucker or split - Nice. It sustains very very well too. Noticably more than the Lonestar, I would say on a par with my Tele and less than my Epiphone LP. I used to use my 1996 USA Lonestar for everything until now. The Blacktop just gives me more power, as much articulation and is even more versatile.
Overall Impression — 9
This Strat is perfect for High distortion heavy rock, thick raunchy blues, clean rythm, articulated picking, Jazz and funk its just so so versatile its a real keeper. Unbelievable value for 425. I have been playing in a band for the last 13 years, my main axe was the USA Lonstar Strat. I also have a Slash sig Epiphone Les Paul which I changed the pups and added a coil split to which is a tone monster but lacks the bite of the strat, a USA Standard tele which I modded with Dimarzio's and the Blacktop is my favorite. For me its all about having an Alder bodies Strat with buckers. I have had the Blacktop for a good 2 weeks now so I'm wiring this after the honeymoon period.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Seems as solid as My USA strat, nothing is loose and the jack feels very solid too. No crackles when wiggling the lead, the controls are smooth too with an even roll off/on for tone and vol. Time will tell how it lasts on the road. A good hard case is a must.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
As soon as I tuned it up I found the bridge was quite a way up from the bridge. So I tightened up the bridge fully and put 10's on - I like the bridge flush with the body. I had to set the intonation on 2 strings but the neck was spot on so I didn't have to touch that. No rattles (My USA Strat rattles a little but this doesn't) and no buzzes. The nut is spot on and the pup height is fine. No rouch edges on any of the frets and they feel very smooth when bending strings. Very impressed. The plastic that covers the pickguard is annoying to remove but hey it protects it from scratches during transport. I was going to give it a 9 but I will mark down 1 point for the bridge not being tightened enough.
Features — 9
Body Material: Alder Neck: Maple Neck Finish: Gloss Urethane Fretboard: Rosewood Fretboard Radius: 9.5" Radius (241 mm) Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo Position Inlays: White Dots on Rosewood Scale Length: 25.5" (648 mm) Nut Width: 1.650 (42 mm) String Nut: Synthetic Bone Truss Rod Nut: 3/16" Adjustable Hex Nut Colour: Black Pickups: Hot Vintage Alnico Hum-bucking Bridge Pickup Hot Vintage Alnico Hum-bucking Neck Pickup Pickup Switching: 5-Position Blade: Position 1. Full Bridge Pickup, Position 2. Two Inside Single Coils, Position 3. Both Full Hum-bucking Pickups, Position 4. Outer Neck Single Coil, Position 5. Full Neck Pickup Controls: Master Volume, Tone 1. (Neck Pickup), Tone 2. (Bridge Pickup) Hardware: Nickel/Chrome Tuning Keys: Standard Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines Bridge: Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo Tremolo Arm: Vintage Style Tremolo Arm, Black Tip Strap Buttons: Vintage Style Strap Buttons Control Knobs: Skirted Amp Knobs Pickguard: 3-Ply Black No case included I give the features a '9' because of the coil split positions 2 & 4 adding maximum versitility, superb fretwork, Smooth tuners that keep it in tune brilliantly, the finish on the neck and excellent sounding humbuckers as standard. Its reasonibly light, its a little lighter than my USA Lonestar. Heavier than My epihone LP.