Price paid: $ 499
Sound — 8
This is where the guitar shines. For this review, I played this guitar through a nineties Fender Princeton tube amp. Clean, this guitar has a very crisp sound, and I found I could get a tone very similar to "Hallelujah" by Jeff Buckley. By rolling off the ton on the neck pickup, I got a nice (but still too bright) jazz tone that sounded sharp and defined when playing complicated chords. With both pickups engaged, I found a great Indie rock tone. On the bridge pickup, funk chords and porn music "chika-chikas" sounded so great that I almost considered growing an afro and calling myself "Mister Funkslice". When I turned the gain up, I got a very good Keith Richards rhythm sound, which really suits my tendency to play a mixture of rhythm and lead during verses. However, my favorite tone I could coax from this thing was an early Zeppelin sound, which was really suited to chunky riffs and meaty solos. My only problem was in trying to find a metal tone. With the gain dimed, the hum from the pickups got very loud when I was not playing. However, I found that the high-gain tones I could coax form this thing were actually pretty darn good. The single coils give a really defined sound and the high notes really scream. The bottom end is lacking, but the high gain sounds really are very usable and unique. It doesn't mean that it's gonna handle Wolves In The Throne Room style black metal, but it's pretty damn good for single coils. Overall, the bridge pickup is ballsy and the neck is smooth but still has enough bite to cut through the mix. The middle position on this guitar is a lot more usable than that of a Les Paul. Instead of sounding hollow and lifeless, it gives the best of both worlds from the pickups. Overall, for this price point, I have to give this guitar's sound an eight.
Overall Impression — 8
This instrument is great deal for people who play rock, blues, country, or Indie music. It can even get good high gain tones. However, though it is versatile, don't expect it to be as good as an Ibanez for metal or as good as an archtop for jazz. It is very good at what it does, but it doesn't do everything. Though it's versatile, this guitar is very simple and very distinctive. Overall, this guitar is probably the best you can do if you want great single coil tone at a good price.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I can't imagine any reliability problems with this guitar. The design is so simple that there really isn't much that can go wrong. I've only gigged with this once, and I played a short set, so I can't really attest to its ability to stand up to constant gigging, but it seems very solid. The strap buttons, however, are kind of small, so I'm going to replace them with straplocks. However, I can't really take off for that, seeing that I was going to do that regardless. The finish is poly, and by now I have probably drummed into your tiny heads that I DO NOT LIKE POLY FINISHES! However, though it's as covered with fingerprints as Meryl Streep's butt, it will last a long time. All in all, nothing to complain about here, but nothing to special, either.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The action, fit and finish on this guitar were all phenomenal for the price point. I must say, I have played some badly set up Mexican Fenders, but this one plays like a dream. The action is low enough to be extremely comfortable, but high enough to get a decent slide sound on. The finish on the back of the neck makes it one of the best-feeling instruments I've ever played. The bridge was set up very well, and there are no sharp edges that make it painful to palm mute. The nut and frets are all set perfectly. There really is no problem in terms of action or hardware. Sadly, the finish is a plastic-y poly coat, which is kind of a downer for me. However, this guitar is set up very well, and I haven't seen anything in this price range that feels as good.
Features — 6
This guitar is your standard, no-frills workhorse instrument, and it has the typical Tele features (two pickups, alder body, three-position pickup switch, etc.) but for those who like details... - Body: Alder - Neck: 1-Piece Maple, Modern "C" Shape, (gloss finish) - Fingerboard: Maple, - Fingerboard radius: 9.5" Radius (241mm) - No. of Frets: 21 Medium Jumbo - Pickups: 2 HOT Standard Tele Single-Coil Pickups (Neck & Bridge) - Controls: Master Volume, Master Tone - Pickup Switching: - 3-Position Blade: - Position 1. Bridge Pickup - Position 2. Bridge and Neck Pickups - Position 3. Neck Pickup - Bridge: Standard 6-Saddle String-Thru-Body Bridge - Machine Heads: Fender/Ping Standard Cast/Sealed Tuning Machines - Hardware: Chrome - Pickguard: 3-Ply Parchment - Scale Length: 25.5" (648mm) - Width at Nut: 1.650" (42mm) It comes with a plastic-y polyurethane finish (mine is in sunburst), which seems to pick up fingerprints very easily. I'm not a fan of poly finishes, so it loses points for that, but it doesn't matter that much as far as sound and playability go. On the other hand, the finish on the neck is very nice, not dry and hard to move along like other Fenders I've tried. The main drawbacks result from the volume and tone knobs. The placement of the volume knob is not ideal for Jeff Beck-style swells, but compared to a Les Paul, it's not that bad. The main problem is that the tone and volume knobs seem to go straight from zero to ten, with very little room to dial back the volume or round out your tone. I understand that this is commonplace on most inexpensive guitars, but it is a bit of an annoyance. I also find the lack of a 22nd fret to be kind of a nuisance; I don't use it that often, but I still think it should be there. Also, the black plastic fret markers look kind of cheap, but that's just my opinion. The pickups in this guitar (Fender HOT Standard Tele pickups) are good but not great. They offer good sustain but still cut well and have a nice twang. More about that in the sound category. Overall, the features on this guitar are very simple. There is no wasted space and there are no unnecessary appointments. It's very basic and minimal, but there is something to be said for that.