Price paid: $ 850
Purchased from: Sam Ash
Sound — 10
I play a lot of Modern/Garage Rock, as well as Blues and Classic Rock, which the guitar handles great. I used it for live shows when I was in Jazz Band, and it always surprised me how well it sounded compared to my old ESP that I used during rehearsal. I play it though an Orange Crush 30R, usually with a little reverb and close to or as much overdrive as my amp'll pump out, although the guitar still sounds fantastic running through a clean amp. I usually play though the neck pickup or the bridge pickup, but hardly ever any of the other three settings, although they sound great if you're trying to play something that sounds really "Strat-ey" (i.e. the rhythm in Another Brick in the Wall pt 2). The single-coil pickups make the rhythms come out pretty clean compared to the muddy sound of the double humbuckers in my old guitar, and it handles leads pretty well. I guess the best way to describe the sound is more of a smoother sound. I don't think I'd try to play metal with it, although Iron Maiden seems to do a fine job of using Strats in metal music. I just think that you might have trouble getting the right punch for metal music with it, but I could be wrong. Another thing to mention is that the pickups hum if you get even remotely close to the amp. It goes away while you play though, so you just have to remember to either turn the volume down or mute the strings while you're not playing. Really not that big of a deal, but I figured I'd mention it. When I first got the guitar, I was afraid I was going to miss my Humbuckers, but after playing this for a little over a year, I could care less.
Overall Impression — 10
Overall impression? Great guitar. I usually buy a guitar and say: "Yeah, this ones good, but I can't wait till I can afford (insert slightly more expensive guitar here)." Not the case with this one. I'd have no problem having this be my guitar for the next 10, 15 years. When I went to Sam Ash, I had the option of spending another couple hundred dollars, and I really tried to find something more expensive. I played a good 20 guitars that day, but in the end I went with this one. When I first started playing guitar, I always wanted to have a Gibson Les Paul, but if I had to choose between this guitar and any other electric guitar I've ever played, I'd go with this one.
Reliability & Durability — 9
So far the guitar hasn't given me any problems. My two previous guitars had pickups that shorted out, input jacks that came loose, knobs that came off, etc etc. I haven't had a single problem with this one. It's survived numerous shows, as well as numerous drops and numerous clunks into walls and the like. Basically all that kind of stuff that makes you gasp when you do it. The strap comes undone sometimes, but it only seems to happen if I have the strap twisted over on itself, so it's just another one of those things that's completely avoidable if you pay attention. I'd definitely use it in a show with no backup. I don't know why, but the strings never want to snap. I went nearly a year without changing them, finally doing so just because they were really dirty and I wanted to know what it sounded like with new strings. I usually go through a set of strings in a month, month and a half. Also, the guitar's got a poly finish, so you don't need to worry about it wearing down that much.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I'm pretty sure the guitar was sitting in Sam Ash for quite awhile before I bought it. The strings were pretty old, and there was a lot of dead skin crusted on the fretboard. And I don't know whether it was the factory or Sam Ash, but when I got the guitar, it smelled like cat piss, which, to put it lightly, was a pretty gross. Other than that, the guitar was perfect. It plays really well. I never get hung up when I get to the higher frets like I do when I play my friend's Gibsons. The guitar was set up pretty well too, which was probably done by the guy in the store, but it was a nice plus not having to adjust the action when I bought it.
Features — 9
I bought this guitar on a trip to New York City in '09. According to the Fender website, the Robert Cray Strat was first introduced in 2003. It's a Mexican Strat, but for the longest time I just assumed that it was an American Strat because I didn't think there was any way in hell that a Mexican Strat could be THAT good. It's got 21 Medium Jumbo frets with a "60's C-Shaped" maple neck. The body's made of Alder and has a sexy tobacco burst on it (It also comes in silver and violet). It comes equipped with 3 Vintage Single-coil pickups. It's got a 5-position pickup blade, a volume knob, and tone controls for the middle and neck pickups. The bridge is a Vintage Fender string-thru body hardtail, and the tuners are also Vintage Fender tuners. The thing that really caught my attention though, was the rosewood fingerboard. I hate playing on maple fingerboards, but I love the sound of a Strat. I guess the only downside is the plastic volume and tone-control knobs, but those are easily replaceable.