Price paid: $ 350
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 10
I mostly play rock and blues; the Strat's home field, so to speak. The bridge pickup gives you that classic twang ("House Of The Rising Sun", "Smells Like Teen Spirit", "Crossroads"); the neck pickup gives you the deep crunch ("Smoke on the Water"), and the middle and combinations give you everything in between ("Sunshine Of Your Love"). I use a Marshall 15-watt with reverb, delay, chorus, and flange. I've also got a Vox wah-wah, which with the Strat and Marshall give an irresistible Hendrix feeling. Really, the amazing thing about a Stratocaster is the stunning versatility. You can get any sound you want, with beautiful tone. Noise can be a slight issue when you don't use pickup combinations, but how else could Jimi play "The Star Spangled Banner"? The problem is offset by the beatiful swell you get when using reverb and going from low to high volume.
Overall Impression — 10
For my blues and rock, this was a match made in heaven. If it were stolen, I would hunt down the man who took it and go to town on his arse with a crowbar, then get a new one. I might consider getting it in sunburst, but black is equally nice. The tone and versatility are flawless; the vibrato bridge is effective. In a way, I didn't choose it; it chose me. If you honestly believe in that kind of thing, you might be a guitarist.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This is an extremely solid piece of work; it's withstood the usual bumps and falls without showing a scratch. The finish looks lasting, too. The strap buttons are fine.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Adjustion seemed fine all along the watchtower, although the plastic was pretty annoying to get off (besides that little voice that's telling you it wasn't supposed to come off). A little got stuck under one of my tone controls, but that's not actually a problem.
Features — 10
My Strat was Mexican-made in 2004. It has a 21-fret maple neck (lightning fast) and an alder body. The finish is black (shows fingerprints easy, but looks stunning against the white pickguard). It comes with the classic synchronized trem (perfect for that intro on "Foxy Lady"). Volume control and two tone controls. 5-way Switch with three single-coils. The recessed jack, of course, is a nice touch.