Price paid: $ 950
Purchased from: Gitarhuset, Kristiansand, Norway
Features — 10
The Fender Jim Root Stratocaster has been out for a few years now but for some reason there are no reviews of either (white or the recent black) model. Why? I do not know, and although I've only had it for 2 weeks, I will try to write a balanced, objective review even though I (understandably, to be fair) still have a raging hard-on for my new guitar and might be a little biased. ;)
Although this isn't a "custom shop" guitar, as far as I know this guitar is a bit of a departure from what makes a "basic" Strat from Fender, be it US-made or otherwise (more later). Up until I bought this guitar I've been more into other shapes/types of guitar - e.g. Les Paul, Explorer - and I wrote off Strats as being a little boring really. I'm not a fan of single coil pick-ups, I hate tremelos of any ilk, and just the shape of a stratocaster was just... Meh. Then I started playing guitar again after a long break and my then current guitar (EMG modded Les Paul) just felt clunky. After scouring the local shops and their websites I found the Jim Root Stratocaster on sale (retail approx 1400$, paid 950$) and was intrigued by its very unusual, non-typical Strat specs and not least the fact that it was loaded with EMG pickups and had an otherwise very basic, minimalist setup. Anyone familiar with Jim Root's work in Slipknot and Stone Sour knows how big and fat sound he has and this and after watching a clip of him talking about this guitar, I thought "what the hell?," I'll order it and if I hate it, back it goes. When I finally got it I fell in love almost the second I picked it up.
Anyway, here are the specs of my model:
- Built in the US, 2012.
- Flat white with bright white pick-guard (nitrocellulose lacquer).
- Mahogany body with shaped neck joint for easier access to higher frets.
- Bolt-on, one-piece maple neck/fretboard, C-shape, 12-16" compound radius, 21 jumbo frets, 25.5" scale, dot markers, satin finish.
- Fixed, string-thru bridge.
- Fender Deluxe sealed locking tuners (black).
- Large '70s style headstock.
- One volume pot.
- Three-way pickup toggle switch.
- EMG 60 (neck) and EMG 81 (bridge).
- Schaller straplock buttons.
- Flight case with strap, Schaller straplocks and extra buttons included.
- Certificate of authenticity
Sound — 10
This guitar is a monster! It sounds HUGE through my Orange Dark Terror and 2x12 cab. As I play in both metal and punk bands, anyone familiar with EMG's, will know what they are capable of in terms of sheer volume and that certainly is the case here. Perhaps not quite as dark sounding as my much heavier Les Paul but nonetheless, it has plenty of bite. The lows sound heavy but not muddy, the highs are clear and searing. If this comes from the combination of mahogany body/maple neck I'm not really qualified to answer but if I was pressed to make a guess that would be it. What I do know is that the crunchy, overdriven sound I get from it makes my balls tingle and that the mahogany body certainly gives this Strat a meatier sound and sustain compared to models built from different wood, e.g. alder.
As for what style of music this guitar plays well I guess it's obvious that it covers modern metal and rock without breaking sweat and to be honest there isn't anything else I will be playing on it but is there a reason it couldn't play other styles? No. I mean, you're never going to get a single coil, sparkly, jangly tone out of it plugged straight into a valve head and cab but then if you're looking for that sound I can't imagine why you would buy this guitar either. It IS a straight up, furry-balls-plopped-menacingly-on-the-table, metal guitar. Sure, it could play jazz or country, but it doesn't really want to... And nor do I. ;)
Can I fault it for what it does and is meant to do? No, not really. That said giving a guitar a perfect rating for everything is kind of lame but given sound - and especially the prefered sound of a guitar to a musician - is such a subjective experience I am having to give this a 10. To me, that is how good this guitar sounds. Don't agree? Fine.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
As I've hinted at earlier, this guitar (maybe I was lucky, who knows) was flawless. Truly not a mark, ding, blemish or any other type of irritating buzz was to be found.
The factory set-up was more than usable with a low action and perfect intonation. One of the reasons I was keen to get my hands on this guitar was Jim Root himself mentioning that it could be set-up with a super-low action without any problems anywhere on the fretboard and sure enough it does just that. Solos are just a joy to play, aggresive rhythm perhaps even more so, and the compound neck (a first for me admitedly) feels great in every posistion. If you don't have hands the size of a shovel then you really should take a look at this guitar.
Reliability & Durability — 9
As this guitar is still fresh out of its hardshell flightcase I guess I can only guess at its true reliability. That said and given that it is/has been the "go to" guitar for a man who plays in perhaps one of the most aggressive live bands on the planet, you'd have to be a brave man to bet against it holding up to some fairly harsh treatment in a live setting. Why? Because it is so simple for one. There really isnt that much going on that can actually break down bar the pickups themselves, or the solitory volume pot and pickup switch. I guess the strap buttons are always going to be an Achilles heel for Strats - the neck one in particular - but only if you're in the habit of whirling the guitar around you (a move fraught with danger but mostly because you'll look like an ass if you don't pull it off and I don't do that stuff anyway). And given that this comes fitted with Schallers as standard (my own preferred choice) it means that you wont have to replace anything (working on the theory that the less you swap, the stronger the fitting of the button will be).
As for the finish itself, I'm sure it'll weather nicely, especially the neck, which will just get smoother and smoother the more you play. As I don't actually know how reliable or durable this guitar is I'll give it a 9 (but to be fair I can't imagine why a 10 isn't the real number here).
Overall Impression — 10
As I said right off the bat, Stratocasters weren't really my thing. My eye and ear (thought they) liked other guitars more. Well, I'm now a convert, a disciple of Fender (or at least Jim Root's vision of what a Strat can be - the Telecaster and Jazzmaster models are also worth a look if you like this one).
Playing metal, rock and punk on this is only doing what it was meant to do, and it does it really, really well. One of the added bonuses of this guitar, compared to say an LP-shape, is the weight. That is, the lack of weight. It feels as light as feather compared to an LP, yet it doesn't really sacrifice anything to an LP in terms of sound or sustain. It's different, sure, but not in a negative way at all and I would throughly recommend anyone who is looking for a good-quality guitar in this price bracket to have a look at it. I think you'll be pleasantly surprised by its playability and perhaps even shocked by the monstrous tones you'll get out of it. And if anyone tries to steal my one? I'll be ramming my LP right up their ass for trying.