Price paid: C$ 275
Purchased from: Long and McQuaids, Waterloo
Sound — 8
I find the sound a bit twangy and it often sounds a bit out-of-tune, especially using the bridge pick-up. The neat thing about electrics though, is that so little of the sound is dependent on the guitar so you can tweak just about any guitar through effects pedals, different speaker cabinets, mixer settings, etc. To sound just about any way you want it to. I find it has a very bright sound, especially the highs, which I like. I also like the warm, buzzy sound of the single-coil pick-ups. To better tailor my sound, I've rewired the controls so that the tone control is used to adjust the mix of each pick-up. That's in the middle setting. The other two settings are just the neck pick-up, and both mixed evenly, with the tone control now useless. I figure any decent amp will have a mixer, so what do I need another one on the guitar for? Still, I'd like to have it so that the two "fixed" settings convert the tone knob back into a tone knob, but I don't think there's any good way to do this without adding an extra switch.
Overall Impression — 8
I like this guitar a lot, but hardly ever play it because I'm living at my parents' place at the moment. There's no room for the amp in my room and my parents hate the sound of an electric guitar. Also, even with the volume turned almost all the way down on my wimpy 10 Watt portable amplifier, it's still quite loud. I don't mind, but my parents do. I play mostly basic rock on it. I've bought a couple of distortion pedals to go with the amp which has only clean settings. One thing I don't like much about this guitar is the extremely narrow neck. I guess this makes it good for certain styles of rock, but I've yet to master these. I find I much prefer a wide, meaty neck or even a classical neck.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Because of it's solid, simple design, this guitar should be very durable. On the other hand, it's quite heavy (~12 lbs) so falls of any distance are potentially disastrous. It did fall off a large amp once and now it has a small crack near the neck. Also, the finish on the headstock is flaking off. Once it pulls off completely you hardly notice it, but in the meantime it looks like a skin disease. Then there's this issue with the plug, which I've covered already.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
When I first picked up this guitar, the action was extremely low but since then I've fiddled with it and it's not as good as it was. The six-piece saddle is both a blessing and a curse. It means you can get the intonation perfect but only if you have the patience. There's also no question you could set this guitar up with very low action, but again, assuming you have the patience. If I had the money I would take it to the shop and have it professionally set up. One problem that has dogged me from the start is that the saddles are slightly too wide so that the high E string comes right to the edge of fretboard. One of these days I should disassemble the saddle and file each of them down. Another problem is the neck pick-up which was loose and rattling. I've since tightened the screws but now the strings rattle against it instead - one more problem to fix. Lets be honest, despite their fearsome reputation, Fender guitars are not exactly the highest quality out there. Although the fittings seem extremely solid, the design of the body and neck/headstock is so simple it would be almost impossible to screw it up. And while the single-piece neck/headstock may look cool, there is no question that it is a cost-saving measure to make the guitar easier to manufacture and assemble. Final issue: the plug is quite loose, which is exacerbated by it's location - if you play sitting down, it's quite easy to bend the jack, which explains the location of the plug on the Stratocaster. A jack with the wire coming out at right-angles has alleviated this considerably.
Features — 9
I bought this used from Long and McQuaids. I saw it hanging up and fell in love with it because of it's clean, retro design and colour. It's a lefty, 2008 I think, baby blue in colour with white pick-guard. Has a simple design - solid body with single cutaway, two single coil pick-ups, two controls - tone and volume and a three-way switch. One-piece maple neck and headstock, no glued-on fretboard, a single string-tree for high E and B strings. Tuners are of excellent quality but quite high ratio. I love the clean, simple design and retro-style knobs and switch.