Price paid: £ 24
Purchased from: ebay
Features — 3
Made in Korea for Hohner (Germany).
- Neck: Plastic nut, 21 jumbo frets, rosewood fingerboard almost flat in profile, truss-rod, possibly maple neck, finished in gloss varnish.
- Tuners: enclosed gear, modern style with adjustable friction (i.e. how tight they feel to turn).
- Body: Stratocaster style (not exact copy), Plywood body, plain black gloss finish, two pressed steel strap buttons.
- Bridge: 6-bolt 'vintage-style' tremelo, with strings through the trem block from the back of the guitar.
- Pickups: 4 pickups: bridge, middle and humbucker at bridge (which looks like a pair of single pickups).
- Controls: 5-way pickup selector toggle, coil-tap switch, volume control and one tone control.
Sound — 3
This basic beginners guitar makes a reasonably convincing strat sound (with the tone control wound to around the highest treble setting): the bridge pickups are quite "quacky." Middle pickup plus bridge makes a reasonable "acoustic" type sound. Middle alone makes a slightly treble-y/slightly mellow sound, sort of generic electric guitar sound. Neck pickup plus bridge makes a "jazzy quack" noise, neck pickup alone makes a "jazzy" mellow sound. The pickups themselves are poor, they tend to sound flat and bassy, without a lot of definition/clarity even with the tone control set at max treble - ... but... it makes the right "strat" noises with enough variety offered by the 5-way selector switch to be satisfying.
Action, Fit & Finish — 3
I can't comment on the factory setup (bought the guitar in used condition), but I imagine it was adequate. The neck was in fine un-warped condition: just enough bend (relief) to allow strings to vibrate (in their elliptical pattern) without fret-buzz halfway down the neck. I had to dress the string slots in the Nut so they were all "level"). I set everything else up: At the bridge: string height, intonation, made the floating bridge hold its tune (angle spring claw about 15 degrees, tightens springs to counterbalance the higher tension of the thin strings). Pickups: They show their cheapness. The adjuster screws are tiny, and have a limited adjustment range. This was a problem - they sounded "muddy" near the strings, so I backed the off low as I could to get as much sustain and detail in the sound as I could without the screws falling out! It was barely enough to get an adequate sound.
Reliability & Durability — 2
This is NOT a professional-level guitar, but it is a great started guitar for teenagers and other people with narrow fingers and small hands. It is a fairly light guitar to hold (but not too light) making it easy for such people to use. The pickups are the weak point. But the rest of the guitar seems robust enough to last, the paint/varnish seems durable and the neck and body seem reasonably robust. It would probably stand gigging, IF you'll upgrade the pickups. I bought it to learn on, mainly because it was cheap but had a good neck. I use a Peavey practice amp (with distortion emulation built in) with the tone controls set in the middle of their range and the volume setting fairly high (control the level using the guitar volume knob). For effects: Just a reverb pedal (Behringer) and a fuzz pedal. On clean amp settings with no effects, the guitar sounds very "stratocaster-like" on the bridge pickup alone, almost "acoustic" on the middle and bridge pickups combined, and "jazzy mellow" on the neck pickup alone. It also sounds satisfyingly gritty with low levels of fuzz and reverb switched on.
Overall Impression — 3
I rated this a "3" almost entirely because of the pickups. The guitar good for beginners, especially teenagers and smaller people (as it is reasonably light, but not too light, and the neck is about 1mm narrower than many similar guitars). It is also cheap to buy! I probably paid too much for it £17-20 would have been better than £24. It is versatile: it sounds like a "quacky" strat - but can also make a wide variety of sounds due to the five-way selector, and the coil tap for the humbucker pickup. When set-up, it holds its tune and is easy to play, especially for people with smallish hands and narrow fingers, as the fretboard is a little narrower than most (1mm or so). The near-flat profile of the fingerboard means it is easy to use a bottleneck. The pickups are the weak-point - adequate, but not great - the rest of the guitar isn't bad quality, and a small adult with narrow fingertips may possibly consider upgrading the pickups & keeping the guitar because of its ease of use/relative lightness.