Sound — 8
This guitar is great. The stock pickups sound pretty damn good, though I wouldn't mind an upgrade. You get those nice, bright, punchy single-coil tones. The bridge pickup delivers a sharp twang, the middle a glassy, smooth tone, and the neck a fuller, bassier tone. Combing the middle pickup with either delivers a sort of "quacky," more mellow tone. I love the middle/neck, don't care much for the middle/bridge. You lose the bite of the bridge pickup, but it doesn't thicken up enough to make up for it. No noisier than any other single-coil pickups which is to say, it'll hum a bit, but I never really notice it unless I stop and think to listen for it. I play blues and blues-rock, and this thing is a damn good match. I run it through a Boss Blues Driver and sometimes a Dunlop Original Crybaby into a clean Fender FM-65R (which is a damn good amp, especially for the money) and the sound is bright, punchy, and crystal clear. I mainly use the neck pickup, sometimes the middle/neck, and it delivers the bassy, full sound I look for, although honestly, sometimes I prefer a thicker tone than single-coils can really give you. Cleans are gorgeous, with a nice overdrive it really kicks. Great-sounding guitar, with lots of variety due to the 5-way selector.
Overall Impression — 9
I play blues, and this is an excellent match, some would say the best! Although there are days when I wish it had humbuckers instead of single-coils, there are others where I really appreciate the single-coil sound. I've been playing for two years, now, and have not regretted this purchase once. This was my first electric guitar, and although it won't be my last, I'll always hold on to this one. I love the bright clear tone, and its a very comfortable guitar. I hate the fact that it doesn't have that '70s-style oversized headstock.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I don't really play live, but I don't think this guitar would fail me. It's a very solid piece of wood. The finish is thick, doesn't chip easily, and hasn't rubbed off anywhere in the 8 months or so I've owned it. The strap buttons are solid, though strap-locks could never hurt. I've never had the strap come off while playing though. The tuners are pretty excellent, I think these really stand out. Holds tune for days, and on the stock tuners! I honestly can't afford a backup guitar right now, but I'd be confident in this thing. My only concern would be the freak accidents that can happen to any guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The set-up was pretty decent. I've since adjusted the pickups and everything to my specifications, although I haven't touched the action, that was excellent off the shelf, low but not too low. The finish is beautiful, glossy, not one chip or flaw I could see when I bought it. Not much to say here, honestly. I definitely think the finish will last. It does show fingerprints easily, though. Gets a 9 though ain't that tough to wipe it down!
Features — 9
Well, it's your basic Strat. It's fairly new, I bought it in 2005. Made in Mexico. A lot of people really want the American Fenders, which is understandable, but the Mexican ones are excellent quality, and almost 600 dollars cheaper. I originally wanted a blue one, but I saw the sunburst and couldn't help myself. Just gorgeous. I believe the body is alder and neck maple. I went for the maple fretboard. It's got the standard Fender tuners, Strat-style floating bridge, 21 frets. 3 single-coil pickups, 5-way selector, 1 volume and two tone knobs. Can't really argue much with the features, though tone for the bridge pickup would have been nice, and I personally would rather have a HardTail bridge.