Price paid: € 150
Purchased from: eBay
Sound — 8
I play a variety of musical styles ranging from fusion and blues to metal and ambient, though I mostly like messing around with rock and Traditional heavy metal (nothing extreme though). Coming from a Cort KX Custom (my first guitar; still great) and an ESP Eclipse II (my second one) I found the sound to be disappointing at first; too thin and tinny, lacking important fundamentals that made even 4-string power chords sound as if they were coming from a radio speaker. Unfortunately, I cannot know the difference between those "Duncan Designed" pickups and the original ones the guitar had, but I doubt the situation would be improved. After replacing the .09 strings with .11 ones the sound improved a bit and by tuning it a whole step down it now classifies as acceptable. It still sounds a bit thin (thinner than both the Cort and the ESP, which have SD JB/59 and EMG 81/60 respectively) but the sound is usable and rather gratifying, plus I doubt I could tell the difference in the mix after processing has been applied. * I don't have my Marshall amp with me at home due to space constraints; I always use my DAW and studio monitors with VST plugins, unless I'm playing live. While you could argue that this cannot match the performance of a real amp, the comparisons with my other guitars are made using this same setup.
Overall Impression — 7
It's a cheap guitar which I wanted for a specific purpose. I don't think it will ever be my primary instrument, though for a beginner it's a much better choice than your typical Fender ripoff (but that's just my personal opinion). I've been playing for about 11 years, starting when I was 20. As for the gear, I mentioned already that I own a Cort KX Custom which was my first guitar and still is excellent and which I usually use for lead parts, and an Eclipse II which performs very well and that I mostly use in rhythm ones. The JS32T cannot and was not meant to compared with any of these however. I don't particularly like that the fit of my Planet Waves locking strap is quite problematic in this guitar, yet I refuse to use any other strap any more. Also, I'd have liked the guitar to have been heavier and the neck a bit wider, but that's just me and my big hands. I wouldn't buy one again if it were lost or stolen however and would probably seek a guitar with an even longer scale to facilitate a Standard D tuning with reasonable hardness on the strings (I like my strings stiff and even .11s are too soft when tuned to Standard D). Bottom line: If you want a beginner guitar, it's a good choice, despite the unusual shape. Even on an intermediate level this a good option if you're on a tight budget, but I couldn't recommend it for anything more serious.
Reliability & Durability — 9
Despite its lightness, the guitar seems to be able to withstand catastrophic damage (it has done so once already according to the seller), though I wouldn't trust any guitar to not have a backup. The whole build seems quite cheap when you first get your hands on it due to its weight, but after using it for a while I can say that it's probably going to last you for quite a few years with proper handling. The finish is thick (though generic) and apparently there were two coats of it (primer + top coat?). I am afraid I don't exactly know what materials used in it however, but it'd certainly need a lot of sandpaper to get the wood to appear.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar needed intonation configuration and the pickups needed to be lowered (due to the magnetic interference on the strings), but the truss rod and the fret-job were pristine. I like my action as low as I can get it and on this one I managed to get 1mm on the high E and 1.5mm on the low E with almost non-existent fret buzzing. Due to such a low action and the thinness of the neck, I got a bit disoriented at first (being used to my other guitars) but it allows for fast shredding with minimal finger stretching. It's definitely something you get used to and I personally don't mind having to adapt to different instruments.
Features — 7
I needed a guitar to be permanently tuned to Standard D and didn't want to use one of my other guitars for that purpose. This came at a reasonable price and its owner had replaced the standard humbucker pickups with two Duncan Designed, one of them apparently related to Dave Mustaine (but I couldn't get any more details about that). I've heard horror stories about stock Ibanez and Jackson pickups, so this counted as a plus at the time. Apart from the pickups and a nasty break in the shorter (bottom) edge of the guitar (with the wood chipped as well) the guitar is a standard JS32T Rhoads. The Indian Cedar from which this is made is surprisingly light (perhaps TOO light) and with the bolt-on neck being too thin from what I'm used to, this feels like I'm holding a ukulele. I wish it had locking tuners; personally, I really dislike nonlocking ones, but they seem to hold a tuning acceptably well. Apart from that, it is cheap and it shows. If it weren't for the replaced pickups I would only award it a 6 out of 10. (The rating does not take into account the crack on the edge of the body).