Volkswagen GarageMaster review by First Act

logo Ultimate Guitar
  • Sound: 7
  • Overall Impression: 10
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 8
  • Features: 8
  • Reviewer's score: 8.4 Superb
  • Users' score: 6.1 (40 votes)
First Act: Volkswagen GarageMaster

Sound — 7
I play blues and rock music, with some jazz influence. Mark Knopfler is the reason that I started playing guitar so you can probably deduce what kind of sound I go for. This guitar can do it. The hum in the neck pickup is the only problem that I have with it. The pickups on their own aren't very punchy or clear, but the preamp really ends that problem when you figure out the configuration you want. It's not very noisy, unless you crank it too high or select the volume Switch and,... Why did you do that? I explained earlier about how the distortion is solid-state instead of tube. Leave the switches alone. They can't fit a tube preamp into a guitar like this and that means that the distorion is not going to be pleasant. Now, please just leave my guitar alone. The sound is great as long as you A) know what you are doing and B) never over Drive the volume control. I just got a Fender Vibro Champ XD and this guitar sounds great through it. Still, I have to drop it a couple of points because of the hum on the neck pickup and because I work in a music store and I know what a real Les Paul Standard and Fender Stratocaster sound like.

Overall Impression — 10
I really like this guitar. I am a gear trader. For years I have been looking for a guitar that I could stick with. I am also poor, so I cannot afford one of your Paul Reed Smiths or your Vintage Fender Tremolomatic Swinging Fixed Bridge Perfect Intonational Tone Tranparency '57 Reissue Special Deluxe Music Making Guitar Machines for $37,999.95 plus a kidney, Richie Rich. And don't try to tell me that I write a lot of run-on sentences. And don't tell me not to begin sentences with "and". I am sticking with this guitar. It's awesome. It was free. You can find them for around $150 on ebay but I would say they are worth twice that. I know, it's a First Act. I would have shunned this guitar like a tuberculosis-ridden leper back in my younger, not-so-wise days but what a miss that would have been. This guitar is closer in quality to their Custom shop quality than it is to their floor-level-display-at-Wal-Mart quality. I get the tone I want at no expense to myself and this guitar will last me for quite a while, unless it gets lost or stolen. If it gets lost or stolen, I will give up on life and begin a series of increasingly dangerous and self-destructive behaviors (vigilanteism, exhibitionism, philatelism) until I make the news in some sort of fiery, cataclysmic showdown with local and maybe even federal law enforcement. Laugh if you will. Deride me. I turn my head and chortle quietly to myself as I muse over your small-minded, logo-blinded ignorance. Chortle.

Reliability & Durability — 9
I would use this guitar without a backup. In a covert military operation in a small foreign nation. With a detonator, or, if I was out of ammunition, with a bayonet. It's a weapon. The only (minor) annoyance with it was that the front strap button wouldn't stay in because the hole that was drilled for it was too big. I fixed that and now all is well. If America had dropped these guitars on Hiroshima and Nagasaki during WW2, the explosions would not have been as epic, but damage would have been done and without all of that radioactive guilt. The guitars probably would have survived. I am only half joking.

Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Fit and finish was pretty good. I had to drop the action a bit, which was no big deal. I also did a tension rod adjustment (Did I mention the truss rod in the features section? No? Well, it has one.)because the guitar had been lying on its back under my friend's bed for about 2 years before he gave it to me so there was a bit more cupping in the neck than I wanted. The frets were okay, but the 21st and 22nd frets were just a bit prominent, so I filed them ever so slightly. After that, the guitar played like a champ. The neck feels a bit wide, like a Gibson neck. Maple with a rosewood fretboard. Seriously, it's a fairly well-crafted neck, much better than what I would have expected from a free, Chinese-made guitar given out by a Nazi-founded automotive company. It's a bolt on, by the way, and the joint seems very solid. There is a bit of finish on it, but not much. That seems like a corner that was cut for cost purposes. The pickups were even aligned properly. Moreover, I pulled the pickups out and took the covers off of them and found out that they had actually been WAX SHIELDED! Honestly, I would have been impressed if they had simply wrapped them in electrical tape and stapled them haphazardly somewhere on the front of the guitar. Some guitar makers don't even put THAT much effort into their product these days. I was a bit shocked when I saw that these guys had waxed the pickups. It makes me want to find out what factory these guitars were made at. The design of the pick guard is cool, and the parts, while obviously not of the highest quality, seem reasonably durable and fully functional. It has a VW symbol at the 12th fret and the truss rod cover has two hands, one in front of the other, arranged to spell VW. It's like a gang sign for anti-corporation, Macbook owning, Volkswagon-driving suburban thirty-somethings with underwater mortgages and wives who secretly hate them and daydream about the poolboy. In a word: Scrumtralescent. However, I will not rate it too highly, due to the fret filing I had to do and because the neck finish was a bit on the thin side.

Features — 8
Friend of mine gave me this guitar because he bought a new Jetta in 2006 and thought he would learn to play guitar, too, but never did. It has a lot of features. Funniest one is that the VIN of the car that it came with is engraved on a plate on the back of the headstock. Also has two humbuckers, 3 way toggle switch, built in preamp, one volume and one tone knob, and a boost knob, which works with the built in preamp. The preamp is activated by one of three small switches that are located by each of the knobs (volume, tone, preamp boost). If you activate the preamp, a blue LED will light up. If you flip the select Switch for the volume knob, you will overdrive the pickup and get that sweet, solid-state distortion that tone fiends rave about so often. ;-) If you flip the tone switch, it will boost the tone signal and give the sound a punchier, squealy tone. I only ever use the preamp to boost the tone switch. Interestingly, if you only turn on the preamp and leave the switches for the volume and tone in the off position, you get a sound that is sort of like a coil-tapped humbucker, which is actually pretty cool. The humbuckers are no-names that are probably made in China for First Act. The neck pickup has a noticeable hum. The Bridge pickup is silent and surprisignly HOT on it's own. When it's boosted, you can get some ridiculous pinch harmonic squeals.

5 comments sorted by best / new / date

    really cool guitar. i have had it for two years, payed $5o bucks. after setup from my guitar tech it now plays really well. sounds good too. i use it passive through an effects pedal.don't knock it until you play is not a les paul custom, but it's well worth playing
    i knew a guy with a first act guitar once. the guitar was better and being an insutrment then he was a guitarist. Plus, the electrics gave out, neck went to hell, couldnt keep a string in tune, and he treated it as if it were a '59 les paul. i played it once. I vowed never to touch a first act insturment again
    I played a First Act in a department store once. Threw up for 3 and a half hours afterwards. Never figured out whether that was because of the guitar or the medium rare pork sandwich I had eaten for lunch. Thought I would never touch another one, even for free. This one changed my mind. It's not pro gear, but, as a wise man once said: "That'll do, pig. That'll do." By the way, TODEEPBLUE, thanks.
    Update: I replaced the neck humbucker in this guitar with a p90 that I bought for $40 (27 for the pickup, 10 for shipping, $3 because I can't do math). The guitar sounds great! The original neck pickup had some hum. Somehow the p90 replacement fixed that, which is counter-intuitive, but I'll take it. Maybe it's just a humbucker in a p90 casing? Whatever the case, I love it.