Price paid: $ 400
Purchased from: JVS Music, Iloilo Philippines
Sound — 8
I play mostly blues, classic rock, and some modern rock -- this guitar is really a jack of all trades. I play through a variety of amps and effects, but mostly at home I'm using an 80s-vintage Create G-60 solid state and a Zoom G7.1UT tube-powered digital multi-effects. I have tested this guitar with a Boss ME-30 as well, and the variety of tones just blows away any of the other guitars I own. The stock pickups, however, keep this guitar from being a perfect 10. They're noisy as hell, and the sustain is poor -- I invested in a set of Lace PS900/905s about 6 months after buying the guitar, and they dropped the noise while adding a bit more sustain -- but cost about the same as the guitar itself.
Overall Impression — 10
This guitar can provide that slightly-overdriven, bluesy punch -- about as close to Vintage blues as a non-Fender guitar can get -- and with a stomp on the footboard, you can pull out that harmonics-laden Billy Gibbons drive. Clean, it pulls out all the stops -- the tone is what you'd expect from a P90-equipped guitar, fatter than SCs but brighter than humbuckers. Tone control is very responsive and can put you close to either with a slight turn. Prior to buying the guitar, I spent a few occasions with it in the store, testing it through various amps -- lower-end SS marshalls, a Peavey ValveKing 112, and some effects as well. The only thing I wish I would have done is buy it sooner. I'd definitely replace this guitar, I just love the way it looks, plays, and sounds. I'd say for the money, nothing in its price range even compares. Not even close.
Reliability & Durability — 9
The tail strap pin did pull out, shortly after purchasing it; I repaired this and have not had a problem with it since. The rest of the hardware is rock-solid; granted, I don't beat my instruments up but I would definitely gig this guitar. Without a backup? Hell no, but I'd buy two -- just in case I broke a string. :) Finish looks good; goldtop finishes can take a lot of punishment before they start to look road-worn. Backside would be prone to buckle rash, but I don't know of any wood-finish guitars that aren't.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
I have no idea how the guitar came from the factory; it was on display in the music store and therefore had been handled by a number of customers (and probably the store guys as well) prior to my purchase of it. I had it professionally adjusted by a local technician, so it plays perfectly -- and stays in tune, even with the notorious Philippine humidity. For a guitar in this price range, that's a near impossibility.
Features — 10
Made in Indonesia, SN/8300297. Goldtop finish, pseudo-ivory binding, set neck, 2x Hamer P90 pickups, ToM/Stop configuration, 2xVOL 1xTONE pots. Overall, the guitar itself is a beautiful specimen to look at; the body style fits comfortably either sitting or standing. The back of the neck and body are finished in the same, deep mahogany color.