Price paid: $ 400
Purchased from: Lifesong Quarryville
Sound — 9
I use this guitar with a Crate VC6112 tube amplifier. This guitar is voiced perfectly for 80s rock, metal, and thrash. The wax potted Atomic pickup is a brighter one, though not shrill like a Duncan JB. Nice, pronounced mids, very smooth treble, and tight bass, but not overwhelming, bass response. In terms of output, it is not an Ultra high one like a DiMarzio Super Distortion or ToneZone, but it certainly has more kick than your average overwound PAF. This balance means it will work well with a lot of different amplifiers and setups while remaining clear with a pronounced and unique EQ range. The trebles are exceptional on this pickup, being screaming and powerful without being ear piercing. The pickup also has a nice mid bump to keep the sound textured and powerful. The bass response is very clear and tight, though it is not going to knock you across the room by any stretch. Unlike most higher output pickups, it has pleasant and bell-like cleans, and being precise with the volume knob gives you a great range of sounds, both clean and distorted. I use this guitar mainly for 80s rock and metal. It also does grunge and punk styles quite nicely with the right amp settings. It can do old rock and roll as well, though it's EQ band and output do not make it the best for the job. To get the most out of this guitar though, you need to be versatile in how you play, know how to use the volume control, and monitor the dynamics of your picking. One thing to keep in mind is the alder body and maple neck lead to this being a rather bright instrument, even though I did not find it overwhelming, it may be too much depending on your amp and personal taste.
Overall Impression — 9
I play mainly 80s rock and metal on the guitar with some grunge and punk. It suites those styles perfectly in tone and image. I have been playing for going on 3 years, and is a keeper for sure. The guitar channels the Vintage Charvel style and sound, making it perfect for those seeking that look without the money to spend. If it was stolen or destroyed I would try and find another for sure. I love the simplicity of it, and the fact it feels a lot like an older Charvel. I do wish it said just that, Charvel, on it, but that does not detract it from being a great guitar that fills it's roll well. It also is a fantastic value, and offers something a bit unique from your cookie cutter MIM.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This guitar is built extremely well. The neck has no play in it, the truss rod adjusts smoothly, and everything seems to have plenty of range. the hardware seems pretty solid as well. The strap buttons are a bit of a concern for looser straps, but I advise strap locks on all guitars anyway. If I would need to gig it without a back up, I would, as it does not seem like there is a lot that can go wrong. In terms of resistance to dings and dents, the finish seems very solid, though it looks a bit vulnerable to scratches. It also stays in tune extremely well, even with the trem set up full floating. As always though, it will go out of tune if you go nuts on it, but it can take a fair bit of abuse before tuning slips. Overall, a very solid and well built instrument.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
In terms of playability, the guitar was well set up at the factory using 9 gauge strings (I received this guitar fresh from the box for the most part) and the bridge had a nice bit of floating action. the strings were set low. The neck did need to have some relief put in it though, but I would brush this off from it being shipped. The bad however is the pickup was set too high and sounded a bit thin at first, and was picking up excessive amounts of string noise. After a quick setup and change to.10s, I found the guitar to be almost perfect. The nut was very well cut, and the frets were perfectly. It intonated right on out of the box. I do suggest though taking the bridge a bit closer to the body or not floating it at all as you could have issues if you are not experienced in dealing with a floating, non-locking trem. Finish quality is excellent on the neck and body. the matte does not easily Shine up like some cheaper matte finishes, and is smooth without a hint of Orange peel. The stain finish on the neck is buttery smooth. The single bad thing I will note is some excess glue seems to have seeped from the 17th or so fret. It came off with a bit of playing, and the fret is seated fine, but it looked a bit sloppy and unprofessional. All parts fit perfectly in there routes. All screw holes are will drilled and the screws are installed correctly (ie straight). The neck fits on tightly to the body with very little, if any gap. In terms of hardware, it does it's job. The finish job is sturdy and does not seem like it would corrode or wear easily. It is basic though, but it keeps the guitar in tune, intonated, and playing nicely so you can't ask for much more. The electronics are very quiet, with a smooth and quiet volume control that has a tone of range. Though this guitar does not have a lot on it, what is on it is quality stuff and done well.
Features — 7
This is a FSR Fender Straight Six, limited to 800 or so, and distributed exclusively to small dealers. The theme of this guitar seems to be the classic early 80s Charvels. Single humbucker, volume control, and a slimmed down neck. 21 frets, 9.5" fretboard radius, 25.5" neck scale. The neck/fretboard is one piece of maple with a rosewood skunk stripe. A nice touch here is the very slight roll applied to the fretboard ends. The body appears to be a three piece body, made of alder. The single Fender Atomic humbucker is a high output pickup in the vein of the DiMarzio Super Distortion and Seymour Duncan JB. It also includes a Vintage 6 point synchronized tremolo. The lacquer finish is a very well done and smooth matte black finish. The three ply pickguard is also a nice touch, as is the black tipped tremolo bar. The guitar is stripped down, No Doubt, but it's target market will not be bothered by this. That said, if you like tons of features, you're probably looking at the wrong instrument.