Price paid: $ 600
Purchased from: Island Music
Features — 10
I bought this guitar used in a local music store for $600. I didn't exactly intend on buying a guitar with massive electronics, it just happened to be the Stratocaster that spoke to me. Made in Mexico, 22 frets, maple fretboard. I did something crazy and had the guitar refinished from black to Surf Green (and is probably the only VG Strat that is surf green haha). The electronics on this guitar are quite impressive! You have the ability to bypass these electronics to the traditional Strat pickups, but its versatility lies in the tuning options, and some of the models it claims to emulate. I generally stick with the Strat and Tele models which A/B'd they resemble each other, but I view it more of just another pickup for my Strat. I think what sold me on this guitar was after playing with it for 20 minutes I forgot that I had the electronics on in Drop D tuning, and went to tune up and later went back to the traditional pickups and had a wonky tuning. Back to the VG electronics: The VG Strat has several different tuning selections (standard, drop D, open G, D modal, baritone, and 12-string) all of which I've ended up using in live performances at one point or another, so I'll contest that there is a use for these features. The only obnoxious thing I find on this guitar is the bright blue indicator light that desperately screams out to everyone that there are indeed batteries inside this Strat.
Sound — 9
I play ambient/post rock and some metal with this Strat, which may seem odd, but it's incredibly useful for all of these things. Comparing the Strat model to the regular pickups you'll notice a little bit of a volume drop, and a bit of a rounder sound in the midi pickup (sounds like some of the highs are rolled off), I do use this to my advantage and swap to the natural pickups for leads/solos and increased bright output. I must say I am in love with the baritone tuning, there is no warble (as the hexaphonic midi pickup tracks seamlessly for every string) and has become a great writing tool for further experimentation. This guitar has become my primary live guitar due to its extreme versatility, and don't need to swap guitars between songs. I play this guitar through a Kemper Profiler rack direct into the PA (which is AMAZING), and I have to say that these two are made for each other.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This guitar was extremely well set up, and when people pick it up, they usually note how easy it feels to play and are surprised when I tell them that I have 11 1/2- 56 gauge strings set in standard tuning. I don't fret out, and aside from intentionally trying to, the guitar doesn't buzz from regular play. There are no noticeable structural flaws to this instrument, and even if so, I'm not concerned about dings or scratches (but I do take care of this instrument) I'm surprised, for a Mexican guitar, this feels super solid, and it definitely is on par with my Japanese telecaster.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I can say this is a reliable guitar, I've played out with it for 6 months, bought it secondhand, had it refinished (which means all of the electronics were gutted and put back in), and I've had zero electronics issues with this instrument. The strap buttons seem to be sturdy, and they've not pulled out on me. I would never gig without a backup, it's just a poor choice that will eventually get you. I use rechargeable batteries to cut cost a bit, but I do keep spare batteries in the event of a battery failure (which also has not happened live). The new finish on this guitar is amazing, and I'm hoping that it won't wear any time soon, it was refinished by a licensed Guild luthier.
Overall Impression — 10
For what I do, and how I play, I feel like this guitar was made for me. I utilize every function (barring the acoustic models, they're awful). I've been playing guitar for 11 years, and can say that it'll be a while before I find a guitar with these specs that plays like this guitar. I would be really really sad if this guitar got stolen or lost, especially due to the customization that I've had done to it. I did try the Variax guitars, unfortunately their biggest setback is that they play like starter Yamaha Pacificas, however their electronics are pretty cool. If I could change one thing, I'd replace the open G tuning with maybe a full step down in tuning (D standard). But you can't have your cake and eat it too...