Price paid: $ 823.5
Purchased from: Reidys.com
Sound — 8
I heard someone say once, that 'A Gibson is a true musical instrument, whereas a Fender is a Tool', and that's exactly what this is. Because of the different pickups available, you can make almost any sound you care to imagine, from Clapton style electric blues, through country and Indie, all the way to hard rock sounds like T-rex and Queen. With the combination of a decent FX unit, anything is possible. I don't have enough space for an amp at uni, so I use my Creative X-Fi to pump the sound through my computer (you can connect a Standard guitar lead through the front panel) and the Standard software offers various distortion, reverb and wah effects, which are sufficient until I can afford a decent Boss effect unit!
Overall Impression — 9
I'm not going to claim that I'm a guitar expert, as I've only been playing for about 2 years or so, but I do know a lot of people Who are far better than I am, and they all fall in love with this guitar (this includes someone Who has owned les pauls and a red special which he is selling to buy one of these). It is so easy to play and is great for messing around at a jamming session or experimenting with, and If you are looking for an introduction to the Fender brand on a budget, and don't like the Mexico Strats (which is exactly what I was looking for), then this the guitar for you.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Despite being the cheapest of the US made strats, it still feels durable. I can't see me needing to repair or replace it for a long time yet, and even if I do, I would probably be tempted by another Highway because of the great value for money. If you feel like doing some Townsend/Hendrix smashing after a gig, then this is the guitar for you, although it may require some effort to really break it, it's reasonalby cheap to replace given it's great sound and playability.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I didn't have to make any changes to the guitar when it was delivered. Everything was pretty much spot on, and a credit to the Fender US factory. The action itself is so quick and easy, it constantly surprises me. The massive frets promote a relaxed and easy style of playing, and I would recommend this to any novice, as it can make you sound pretty awesome and is a great confidence booster.
Features — 9
This is the cheapest of the US made Strats available, but don't let this put you off. The Highway series pays tribute to the custom guitars of the 80s, and it certainly has that kind of feel to it. I have the recently released '06 upgrade model H/S/S version. It has 22 enormous frets attached to a maple neck, and an alder body with a glorious satin black finish. All of the controls and pickups are also in black which makes them stand out against the white pickguard. It has two different types of pickups, an Atomic humbucker at the bridge and Alinco 3 pickups at the middle and neck, connected to a set of 'Greasebucket' electronics. These are controlled via a 5-way selector Switch, two tone and a volume control. The Vintage style bridge has a tremolo attached. The guitar came with a gig bag and some random tools for adjustment. Other than that, you are on your own.