Price paid: $ 1629
Sound — 10
I like to play a large variety of styles with tones to match. I can get anything from Eric to Stevie Ray to Andy Summers to Angus Young, Jimmy Page, Alex Lifeson, Steve Howe; the possibilities are limitless. I truly believe that it's possible to make a Strat sound like a Les Paul, but not the other way around. I play the guitar through a DigiTech GNX4 multi-effects unit into a Fender Twin Reverb '65 reissue. I have to say that the sound of the Strat straight into the Reverb is about the purest twangy/blues tone that you could ever hope to achieve. This guitar is truly alive on every fret/string. I have a nice Brian Moore I9.13 that I typically have avoided playing in the higher registers because I find the tone a little flat/muted compared to the rest of the neck. Not so with this Strat. The guitar is very bright/punchy yet warm all over the neck. The only negative is that it does have a background hum if you don't mute the strings at high volume, but this is easily controlled by the player and probably isn't noticeable to the average listener only to gearheads like me.
Overall Impression — 10
I have always wanted a Fender Strat since I was first playing, but I'm glad I have waited long enough to get this model. At first glance, it doesn't really stand out as different from other Strats, but as you play it and begin to pay attention to the subtle details, you realize that is probably the most refined, precise "players" Strat yet made. It's probably one of the best values in custom guitar available from a major guitar manufacturer. I would definitely buy another one if it was lost/stolen. I can't think of one unique feature that sets it apart. It's the sum of all the little details that make this instrument so sublime.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It's a Fender Strat, so it's obviously going to be durable. I'll probably eventually replace the strap holders with strap loks, but for now they are acceptable. I'm trying to take good care of the guitar and not scratch it up, but I know eventually it will happen and I'm not worried about it because the guitar will continue to sound great, even improving as time passes.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The guitar came ready to play, perfectly intontated and setup straight out of the box. I have been playing it for two days and have encountered no problems that needed adjusting.
Features — 10
Presumably made in 2006. Made in USA. It has a two piece alder body (a lighter wood than the typical Ash), and a maple neck with 21 jumbo frets. It is finished in very fine coating of nitrocellulose which was one of the many specific customizations that Eric Johnson required. Nitrocellulose is the best finish available to enhance the resonance of the guitar and it will only improve with age. The body is essentially the Standard Strat shape although I have read that the back and arm contours are deeper than standard for more comfort. The bridge is flush with the body and the tremolo comes stock with 5 springs so that finger bends won't make the other strings (especially open strings) go out of tune. The bridge/tremolo don't have any paint on them so they resonate more. The neck pickup is based on a 54 Strat which gives it a 50s twangy tone, the middle pickup is based on an early 60s with reverse winding to give hum cancellation in the 2nd/4th pickup positions, and the bridge pickup is based on a 50s pickup but with extra windings to make the volume equal to the other pickups. The tone controls are wired to the neck and bridge pickups. The angle of the back of the headstock is different to allow removing the string trees that are normally on strats. This removes one potential binding point from the string path and helps keep the guitar in tune. The neck design is based on Eric's '57 Strat, which gradually transitions from a shallow 'V' shape at the first fret to a wider 'C' shape at the 12th fret. The neck itself is one piece of quarter-sawn maple, so the neck grain matches the body grainthe idea is to get more resonance. The fretboard is pretty flat for a Strat [12" radius], with 21 jumbo frets, which allows you to set the action lower and stretch the strings without fretting out.