Purchased from: Used
Sound — 7
It really doesn't suit my musical style - blues. Active pickups are active, a little too pristine with the Peavey Bandit or the Crate VFX 5212. For blues and classic rock I just like to put the gain up a little but I can't get any Vintage sounds. Clean is clean and I like it for that, no mud, full yet not rich. I'll be swapping out the pickups in the new year either to some Burstbuckers or some '57's for the older PAF Gibson sound. I'll keep the old pickups and electrickery around "just in case". For Active pickups the sound is "fair to good" so I'll give it a 7 (instead of a 5 since I knew they were active pickups and not blues monsters when I got it). For metal they would be fine.
Overall Impression — 7
The pickups are better for metal... Though for metal some people prefer lighter strings which this guitar really couldn't be set up for. I've been noodling around for a decade, I'm not good, but have guitars that sound and play better (Ibanez AF195, SAS36). The feel of the neck is nice "baseball bat" style, but not as resonant as the one piece necks. If lost or stolen I might be annoyed. It all depends on how it sounds with the pickup change. I do like the solid "Les Paul" weight. It has great sustain and I like the overall look. I wanted a Les Paul but even after getting some 57's or Burstbuckers in it the final price would be a factor of two different. I've seen too many people with Les Paul's who won't take them out to play just because they are too valuable. Of the guitars I have... Plays much better than any Squier I've tried (but guitars vary). The feel is much like a PRS SE during play. The things I wish it had are things I will be adding. After I get those pickups in I'll compare it with a Les Paul in a shootout, record the results, shuffle the recordings about and see if I can be happy without going overboard. Rating.. 7.. What would take it up a notch? Better sounding pickups. Another notch from a good finish on the neck and useful knobs. The final notch would be to simply play a little better than it does.
Reliability & Durability — 10
It had been used for live playing before I got it. It had been banged on the body at one point. I wouldn't play anything without a backup because a stage blunder can end the game. The hardware seems very solid, the strap buttons good. The finish seems sturdy. I checked the electronics cavity, nicely done. The pots very well secured. Yeah... This gets a 10.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Bought used so this is not a reflection of factory setup: The strings were too light for the guitar which ships with 10-46 and with 9-42 the neck wouldn't pull enough to not have fret buzz. Throwing on 10-46 DR DDT's brought it in line, but I think it could benefit from 10-49 or even 12-52's. The pickups were adjusted fine, the bridge is properly routed. The neck feels good but it had two issues: The first was unplugged it wouldn't resonate on frequency. Woods are funny things - if you play without tuning it up it will tend to drift. Also with the wrong tension strings the woods may prefer to resonate slightly flat. Just playing it with DDT's brought it in line so it became far more stable. The second was clearly a failure at the factory - the neck was finished well, nice rosewood and pretty abalone - but the abalone was sub-par and not perfectly aligned. It isn't much, but a couple of mm off center is visible when looking while doing the string change. While it doesn't change the sound and isn't visible from 4 feet away it is a visible defect. I guess the third issue was that it was filthy with corroded strings but I expect that when buying a used guitar. You will have to change strings and set it up to suit anyway. The controls were solid, the tuners were very smooth and responsive, the locking tuners were nice. The auto-trim had a bit of difficulty trimming down the big strings but the final look was very tidy. I checked the truss rod - smooth action). Since the neck inlay issue is visible it detracts, but since it doesn't impact playability and the other issues were just the lack of regular TLC I'd give it a 9 but for one thing - as I played it the strings from the nut to the tuning pegs vibrated to a common harmonic. This isn't an issue for the plugged in tone, but annoying if noodling unplugged. It is a common problem, I've seen many a Gibson SG with a pick permanently tucked in the strings above the nut to control exactly that - and so that is what I do. Small though it is, as a nuisance it drops the grade...
Features — 10
2010 Chinese with 22 frets, three piece neck, carved maple cap, Sapele body, quilted top, LP style with a solid LP weight, Tight-tune bridge and tail-piece, Active pickups 3V, two volumes one tone and a three way selector for twin humbuckers, locking Ibanez tuners that automatically trim the strings as they are tuned up. Bought used so no accessories. For features, if you want to change to other active pickups you'd have to change the battery setup from 2 AA's to a 9V and the pots. Not as much of a "lock in" as you might think. Are there any features you could want? With active pups you can't really split, and outside of having the ability to change EQ I can't imagine what else to add. I'll give it a 9 in theory it *could* have had some way of changing the EQ, it could have had dials that told you the volume/tone settings... There is no 9.5 on the score.