Purchased from: Craigslist
Features — 7
The one I have was made in 2006, said the guy I got it from. These are all made in Japan as far as I know, but don't let that scare you! I was under the impression that any non-American Fender was only so-so, but this guitar proved me wrong.
Not sure of the official name of the bridge (Les Paul style?) but I was slightly disappointed in it. The part that holds the ends of the strings is so far from the bridge itself that it allows the strings to resonate a good amount, to a point where the pickups even hear it. I'm trying to find a good way to keep them muted well, right now I have all the strings wrapped with a strip of electrical tape, I just feel like I shouldn't have to do that. Also, the saddles for all 6 strings is the same width, meaning the higher strings will move around a bit more than they should within the groove. It doesn't effect much but it bothers me a little.
This guitar is just littered with switches, which is a good thing and a bad thing. Its bad because when you are playing a live show you have to put in more thought than just flicking a single selector, you have to look down, find the right switch, then flick it, and if you don't want both pickups going, you have to flip yet another switch. Maybe I'm just not used to it yet, but it is definitely less convenient. HOWEVER, all these switches make it nearly impossible to not find a tone you like. You can choose which pickup you want, single or dual, there are two different volume and tone knobs per pickup, and in short it makes it seem like a lot of guitars in one. Also I expected all the switches to make the guitar feel "cheap" but that is not the case. The switches feel sturdy and quality, and the knobs could very well be on ball bearings for all I know.
The guitar has a bolt on neck, not sure of what woods the neck and body are but I know the fretboard is rosewood, and looks excellent. The frets are smaller than I would like, but I believe they are that way to improve the action, and boy do they feel smooth. Bending strings is a dream, even if I feel wood under my fingertips (giggity). The back of the neck is more of a c shape, with some thickness to it, but it doesn't feel like a baseball bat. It has a clear finish on top of the bare wood, which I'm not a huge fan of, because clammy hands will have a harder time sliding up and down the neck, but it was definitely done so with quality in mind. The tuners do well at keeping things in tune, they appear to be a vintage style, I've had no trouble with them.
As for the body itself, the paint job is pretty much pristine, which says a lot about a guitar from 2006. I don't think the guy I got it from babied this guitar at all, but there are no hairline scratches anywhere on it. The paint feels like a thin coat, which is (supposedly) good for tone, but its thick enough to not see the contours of the wood underneath. The pickup guard is also pretty scratch resistant. One complaint I have is that when you are playing you can hear some resonation underneath the pickup guard, as if its hollow underneath (I have yet to open it up). It seems to cheapen the guitar when you're playing without an amp, but it does not make a sound difference with the pickups whatsoever.
Sound — 10
This guitar sounds excellent, to put it short. The pickups it has from the factory are so versatile its crazy. I know I complained a bit about all the dials and switches, but seriously, you can get anything you want because of them.
I play this guitar clean on a Fender '69 Twin Reverb combo amp. Put it on the neck pickup, dual coil setting, about 70% on the tone dial, and you have just about the best jazz tone you can possibly make. switch it into single coil for a little less bottom end for soloing or fingerpicking higher up on the board, and everything in the world will suddenly be okay. switch it over to the bridge pickup, back to dual coil, turn the tone back to 100% and you have a great clean rock tone, maybe even edging on blues. Once again very clear bass, but the mids and highs really pop in this setting. switch it to single coil and you get more of a twang, you get something sounding a little folk-y in my opinion.
When I play with any distortion, I use a line 6 12" solid state amp (I used to have a better amp but I sold it when my band didn't work out) I don't have any pedals to go with it but this amp has enough presets to keep me occupied for a little while. Anyway when I play with distortion I usually put it on the setting below the "metal" setting, I play a lot of metal but I hate overwhelming amounts of distortion. Anyway I go to bridge, dual coil, full tone, and I'm immediately impressed. notes are very clear, low to high, power chords have a good punch to them, and 6 string chords aren't torn apart in a confusing mess of distortion. Just to make sure its not the amp helping it out, I turn the amp to the highest distortion settings possible, turn the drive all the way up, then play a G chord. Even though it sounds kind of like a broken TV, I can still clearly hear every note. I switch to the bridge pu, and it sounds a little muddier, but still very clear. Back to the more conservative distortion settings and I discover a pretty decent rhythm tone. I switch both pickups on, and theeeere it is: just about the best rhythm metal tone possible. bassy, but also a lot clearer than just the bridge pickup.
Overall these pickups are great, you can do just about anything sound-wise with them. I've honestly never been satisfied with factory pickups on a guitar until now.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The action on this guitar is absolutely great, the best I've ever played to be honest. The strings are crazy close to the board but not a single instance of fret buzz, even on the lower strings. I think part of this is because of the smaller frets, but what do I know? I do know that the previous owner didn't mess with the setup since buying it about 8 years ago. The frets themselves are very smooth, but they do not wear easily from what I can tell.
The intonation is slightly off on a couple strings, but I know that can be quickly fixed... I'm just lazy. One complaint about that, however (back to the bridge) is that its almost impossible to adjust intonation with the string in the saddle. You would need to loosen the tension on the string, then pop it over, make your adjustment, then pop it back on the saddle, tune it, check, and keep doing so until you're on target. Compared to most bridges where you don't need to move the string at all, it seems like a chore.
However, the guitar contained no factory flaws that I've found. Everything seems pretty tight and in place, from the tuning pegs to the volume and tone knobs. the jack was a little loose when I got it but I tightened it a bit and has yet to give me a problem.
Reliability & Durability — 8
This guitar pretty much screams reliability. I feel like I could throw this thing down a flight of stairs, pick it up and continue to play a song. My only concern would be the finish. Its good I'm just curious how durable the paint is. Like I said before though, the finish is almost flawless, and its already 8 years old.
The pickups have yet to oxidize, but one complaint I have is that they are wobbly in their place, moreso than all of my other guitars. It doesn't effect much but it bothers me a little bit.
Overall Impression — 9
I most often play metal, and though it doesn't seem like a good candidate for downtuning, it definitely has the tone to play metal in standard tuning. I've been playing a lot of Opeth songs lately, to be honest. I also own an Ibanez S7521 7-string, and I would jump to this guitar unless I absolutely had to have the extended range. I also own an Epiphone LP Custom... I don't need to tell you which I prefer. If this guitar was lost or stolen, I don't know if I'd buy it again, just because I'd rather try another new guitar, but if I went through a few more guitars and wasn't satisfied I'd make a beeline back to this one. This guy is about 800 bucks new, and for that price I don't think I can think of a better 6 string with so much versatility. And the action! the action is so close! I'd buy it just because of that. Its got a few flaws but overall I will recommend this guitar time and time again.