Price paid: $ 371.3
Purchased from: Steve's Music (Toronto)
Sound — 7
I play a fair range of styles, but mostly settle around the jazz/blues/country/rock area, leaning on a more aggressive sound. This Strat works for about everything I do, with good tonal contrasts from one end of the selector switch to the other. Its easy to retrofit these guitars, and so I did, putting 2 Fender Texas Specials in the front, and a Seymour Duncan JB in the back. This beefed up the sound in general, and although the new singles have a little more hum than the lower-output stock set, their growl and bite more than make up for it. Putting the JB in the back solved the no. 1 problem with this guitar: the Fender stock humbucker that came in it is quiet and it didn't give that fiery boost that you may want for intensive lead playing. With the retrofit, the single coils are still pretty sparkling when clean, and have a real grinding bite when set dirty, and the humbucker is searing or soothing, depending on the tone/volume settings. standard switching configuration will give you a good spread of distinctive tones some fuller than others. The guitar does have a lot of natural high-end. It costs a bit extra to upgrade the pickups, but it is definitely worth it, as the factory sound of the guitar is ok, but it really isn't anything special. The tonewoods are good though, and give great bright tone with better pickups. The sound is 7/10 before the new pickups, 10/10 after.
Overall Impression — 8
I play mostly blues/jazz/country/rock, in that order. I use this guitar, and a 15-year old Washburn HB 35 (a good guitar in its own right) for electric. My main amp is a Fender Blues Junior, sometimes using a Smokey Amp in between the guitar and the Junior to Drive the hell out of it, and/or a Dunlop Crybaby somewhere in the lineup. I've been playing for about five years, and do the occasional gig or recording set, but nothing too big. For what I do, the rig I'm using is decent, and this guitar fits perfectly. The Strat gives good overdriven tones without breaking up too much, and is still distinctive and clear through the single coils with the volume rolled a bit back. Here's what I don't like: the factory pickups are middle-of-the-road, at best. Standard 6-screw-mounted tremolos are garbage. They only allow for limited tremolo action, after which your tuning goes completely off. I took the trem bar off this guitar and threw it in a parts box. The white plastic bugs me, but this is easily replaced with after-market parts for minimal cost (about $25) and some people love it. Basically, I bought this instead of an Epiphone Les Paul, and I think its worked out very well. I don't have as as thick a tone, but the subleties of the different pickup types give this guitar an extremely wide range, all nice and bright thanks to the maple fretboard. If someone stole it, I'd shoot first and buy a new guitar later, but then I'd probably get the same one, and do the same work on it. Once these are hot-rodded a little, they're tough to beat for tonal diversity and sheer playability.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is a pretty tough guitar. I treat it relatively nicely, but it does get knocked over and bumped from time to time, and has survived well. The strap buttons are fine. This is a dependable instrument, and I gladly gig with it, sometimes with other guitars, and sometimes without. All the parts are wearing ok, and the body finish is great. I don't really like the satin neck finish, but most fenders have this now, so unless you're willing to pay for the luxury of a neck with a heavy gloss coat, I guess you just make do.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
I got this guitar after it had sat on the wall of a store for a year, and had been played, so I had to fix up the intonation when I got it. When I changed the pickups and the faceplate I reset the pole heights, but the action has been pretty much fine. The pegs and other hardware are generally fine, but I hate the white plastic pickguard and knobs, so I switched it and the knobs for black ones and made some black covers for the texas specials. much better now. The jack socket was a bit loose, but a pair of pliers fixed it in ten seconds, and it hasn't been a problem since.