Price paid: $ 50
Purchased from: a Friend
Features: Ah yes, the long overdue review for yet another plywood catalog guitar brought to my home by the UPS guy in a box full of Harry Potter towels. Let's see what fun I can have this time.
This time it's the little superstrat that kinda-sorta-can, the Kay KE17.
- Made in 2006ish somewhere in a factory somewhere far east
- 22 "Nickle Silver Frets", maple neck with very deep but thin profile, rosewood fretboard that looked like the results of an uncooked Mexican food on one's entrails (at least, until I put Fretboard conditioner on it, then that ugly duckling became a beautiful swan), fake pearl fretboard markers, those lovely six on a plate tuners with all the stability of a tone deaf drunk, and probably the ugliest six on a side headstock ever, if I used words to describe it, I'd probably be banned for being un-classy.
- The body is 1" thick, made of plywood, and routed for a 3 coil motherbucker. It looks like a minatureized Yamaha Pacifica. Has a Candy-Apple Red finish that just barely applies as metallic.
- Simple electronics, 1 volume, 1 tone, output jack, sort of like those early 80's Fender Stratocsters, except no selector, like it needs one, there's just a single single coil pickup identical to those found in my Harmony 2813.
- Looks identical to the Strat-o-phoney bridges found on the "world-of Sam Walton" First Act guitars, but trust me, it's much worse.
- The only accessories I got were the blankets from the Hogwartz School of Magic, and a baggie with the removed hardware in it.
I'll give it a six, as some of the basics suck, but the concept is about the same as an Esquire, minus the 3-way Switch...and Fender Esquires are cool. // 6
Sound: I've not plugged this into the Bugera 333XL yet, and I'm not going to do it till I give this guitar the much needed L'oreal Wax Bath treatment (ah yes, taking Feminine products to Manland in the name of safe guitar maintenance), I don't think I'd have my eardrums left without the potting.
I run this through a Behringer V-AMP Pro at home though, and it's done pretty well in the Youtube vides I've used it in so far tone-wise.
Clean, it's very much a Fender in the bridge position as far as tonal vibe goes, as expected, think of a long scale Duo-Sonic or a Stratocaster with a straight single coil at the bridge. Does all the usual Stratocaster twanginess that I like. I could really see this thing as a hidden Tool in a country situation.
Distorted this thing can be quite a beast if you know what you are doing. The Tone control is very effective, and when backed down around 8 or so it starts to sound more like a bridge humbucker than a bridge single coil. At first I thought I was going to stick something crazy back there, now I'm having second thoughts. I was quite surprised.
So for sound I'll give this thing a seven. It twangs, it growls, it does all the usual rock guitar things a rock guy like me would like to do. Not a guitar I'd pick up for everything, but I could really see myself using this on simpler songs, or in a punk situation. However, the microphonic demons still apply, and therefore, they have a date with L'oreal before too long. // 7
Action, Fit & Finish: Well, I can't comment on the setup from the factory, this thing has long since met some action, as obvious by the paintjob.
First problem noticed, the neck pocket is cut too deep, it takes ten cents in the neck slot to make it just right. After that, this guitar sets up surprisingly low and fast, which for something of this type, is almost as shocking as the sound quality out of that crazy wannabe Strat pickup.
I put the pickup at the optimum spot myself, set up the neck, set the saddle height, but setting the intonation was where I found the most fatal flaw on this thing....the bloody bridge design.
For the record, I hate those bridges found on First Act guitars, this bridge is like a cheaper version of those. You know what I'm talking about, the string through back Strat-Copy HardTail design. While indeed the First Act is a royal pain in the donkey patoot to restring, the Kay is far worse, because adjusting the intonation is an invitation to broken strings. How is this you ask? Well....
The strings go through the back of the bridge plate below the intonation screws, then come up through a hole in the saddle behind the string contact point....what is just above that? The intonation screw, which is crazy long, so when the string comes up from the bridge base, the edge of the screw comes in contact with the string, and when turning the screw, I can imagine, on some microscopic level, my string is being SAWED by those screw being turned. BAD design. I'm putting something else on this...maybe a wraparound tailpiece.
I'll get into the paintjob and the bridge in the next section. As for fit and finish, it's pretty good, but it could be better, but I'm taking off a bit for that horrendous rip-off Strat bridge. So it gets a six, since for me, replacing bridges is one of my specialties. // 6
Reliability & Durability: I could definitely see this thing standing up to beating home intruders or a Halloween night decked out in electric tape for "competition stripes" with me in a cardigan pretending to be Kurt Cobain during the Encore set and still use the guitar again next year.
There are three points of issue....two if you actually like nitrates in your plastic hardware.
The pickguard has aged to a nice Gibson cream color. Never before have I seen a pickguard ever turn so cream colored. Must be there to keep the kids from getting bored with the looks of their guitar - in a few, your guitar with go from a Strat white pickguard to a Les Paul cream color.
As for strap buttons, I put strap locks on everything, but as I'm out of work right now, I don't have enough to order a pile of parts from Darrenguitar, and strap-lock buttons would be one of them. So I scavenged up the usual crappies from the spares bin...I think it's time to invest in some Grolsh beer for the oldschool strap locks (they have rubber gaskets in/on the bottles that people use for the same purpose as strap locks).
However, the most aggravating part of durability is the tuners. Any of you Who remember my Harmony review, recall something about the six on a plate tuners, well this has them.
These tuners usually work right twice, then they go one way or another, either the screws loosen for the keys, and nobody tightens them, causing the tuners to slowly work loose while you play, and go out of tune. The other way, is what happens when somebody like me gets them, the automatic reaction is to tighten the screws...BAD idea.
Once you tighten the screws on the headstock, it's time to break out your vice grips or get a metal string winder because that's the only way you are going to get those puppies in tune. Lube em' up, it won't work. The other great part is they are definatley not responsive - the high E goes a full half turn before engaging the capstan. That's ridiculous.
The paint also wears off easily, if you like relics, you'll love this thing, you'll have a relic in no time. If I had some Head and Shoulders, I could probably flake that stuff off like dandruff. I'm waiting for it all to wear off so I can do some sort of crazy burst.
So I'll give it a five, it'll work, it'll hold up, but the tuning keys ruin the whole ability to function. It'll be Schaller time for this thing soon. // 5
Overall Impression: Okay, I've been dodging out of listing my gear for far too long on this site so here goes a long short form list - Fender Jag-Stang, Fender Jaguar, Fender Mustang, Home Built Jazzmaster, Kramer Focus 3000, B\.C\. Rich Warlock, Dean ML-X, Vester Concert Series II, Sears Telecaster Copy, Squier Jagmaster, Squier Affinity Telecaster Special, Home Built Stratocaster, Epiphone AJ-8SCE, First Act ME-431, Home Built Explorer copy, Squier Stagemaster-7, First Act Discovery, and I think that's it for guitars....I also have a hoard of pedals on a board that I use, plus the aforementioned amps.
As far as this guitar goes, I'd give it a six. It's not great, but without that bridge and those tuners, it would be near excellent.
If it were stolen, I'd probably be a little bummed at first, but get over it pretty easily since I bought the box o' axes more for the Harmony than this one. There was even a period where I toyed with putting the neck from this on the Harmony with the Harmony's tuners.
As far as the guitar goes, it'll be upgraded after awhile bridge and tuner wise, but that's not one of my #1 projects at the moment. // 6