Price paid: C$ 350
Features — 8
The overall setup of the instrument is pretty simple. Poplar body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard, jumbo frets, H-H configuration, 3 way switch, 1 volume and 1 tone. Mine has a really nice satin black finish to it that I really like quite a lot. It looks nicer than the glossier guitars in its price range. The neck on mine is flamed maple, which is absolutely crazy and bumps up the score quite a lot. It has a fixed bridge which I prefer at this price range. The tuners are gotoh style ibanez tuners and they work pretty well actually. The bridge isn't anything special but it's pretty good. The neck feels absolutely fantastic with a lovely feeling satin finish. When set up right it feels awesome to play.
Sound — 9
Considering how little this guitar costs it's kind of staggering how good it sounds. The pickups are hot, but not too hot. They're ceramic pickups, and they have a nice, balanced, and relatively clear sound to them. They aren't fishman fluences or anything but considering this entire guitar costs about the same as a set of one it's pretty remarkable how good this thing sounds. Clean tones are reasonably good, although not quite as nice as a guitar with alnico pickups. Distorted tones are where this guitar really shines. The output is pretty much perfect, and there's no harshness or overwhelming muddiness to the pickups at all.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
This is really the only area it suffers. The neck cavity on mine wasn't cut all that well and it wiggles a bit under pressure, and it wasn't aligned correctly. The action was too high out of the box. It needed some fretwork but nothing crazy. Only a high fret or two. Much better than most guitars in this price range. They were a bit rough around the edges but they weren't sharp enough to cause cuts or anything. Other than that the fit and finish is pretty good overall. The nut is cut reasonably well, all of the hardware is solidly in place. All of the issues with it were fixable and nothing terribly out of the oridinary for a guitar this cheap, and is in fact better than most Chinese made bolt on guitars.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Although I have only had it for a year there have been no major issues with it. All of the electronics still work, there has been no fret wear even with cobalt strings, the truss rod still functions, and the finish is extremely rugged, barely showing any scratches at all. Other than basic maintenance and setup I haven't had to do any repairs at all. Only time will tell how well this guitar will stand up to constant touring. My only concerns are around the neck pocket and the headstock, although the latter is a concern for any angled headstock guitar.
Overall Impression — 8
This is a great guitar for the money, and one of the best in the GIO range. It feels of reasonably similar quality to the Cort made Ibanez guitars at an even cheaper price. Other than the neck pocket and a couple high and rough frets the overall quality feels solid. Very good tuners, surprisingly good sounding pickups, decent bridge, fantastic feeling neck, properly cut, although cheap material nut, nice finish, and good quality solid wood. The guitar is definitely better than any guitar I've seen in its price range and probably better than some even more expensive than it. I would highly recommend it.