Price paid: £ 499
Purchased from: Merchant City, Glasgow
Sound — 9
I play primarily metal, but I try to do at least a little of everything, so I know a bit about funk, blues, country, Jazz... you name it, I've probably touched upon it. Even Baroque and Classical-period melodies are not safe! The EMGs and mahogany obviously lap up every bit of metal you throw at them while asking for more, but I also discovered that the 85 also gives passable clean tones with some amp twiddling. At the moment I'm stick with a Line6 SpiderIII 15watt amp for bedroom practice, but I also gave it a quick run through my dad's Sound City valve combo, and it sounds incredible through both amps. I haven't encountered much noise yet, but then again I haven't been able to crank it up beyond household volume levels. I've got an Ibanez RG with Seymour Duncan Blackouts, though, and the EMGs seem to be just as quiet in the hum department. The EMGs aren't quite as organic as Blackouts or high-output Passives, but this thing was made for heavy playing anyway, and for that, there's little else better. The Floyd Rose spits in the face of the liscenced piece of shit on my Dean Razorback, and kept it in tune for a night of near-constant divebombing and screaming.
Overall Impression — 10
As mentioned above, I'm primarily a metal player, and for thod price, I challenge you to find a better metal axe. I've played the six string for a year now, but noodled on bass guitars for 2 extra years before. In the guitar department I've got a Dean Razorback and a cheap Ibanez RG with Seymour Duncan Blackouts fitted. I had an Ibanez SAS36, but I hated the tremolo and the god-awful bridge pickup, so I sold that to get my RG. For amplification I just use my SpiderIII 15w, since I can't use much else in my bedroom. Never needed any effects pedals, since the Spider's built in effects are enough for practice. I've also got a Yamaha RBX375 and Tobias Toby Pro 4 bass, which is another lovely piece of Korean work. The first thing I asked when I tried this in the store was 'are you sure that's the right pricetag? '. I seriously could not believe such a quality axe would come in at 500 quid, even from a less-known manufacturer. If it was stolen, I'd take it back and castrate the thief by sticking his manhood under the strings and doing repeated tremolo screams. Otherwise I'd buy a new one in a heartbeat. The original Floyd Rose is definately a shining point of this thing. My Dean is liosted at anything up to 1000 pounds depending on stores, and it still only has a liscenced piece of shit. There really is a world of difference, people. The only thing I could possibly ask for would be Standard-fitted straplocks and Seymour Duncan Blackouts instead of EMGs. But that's just nitpicking. I compared this to a Prestige RG, several PRS guitars well above it's price, a Dean ML, and a Schecter Hellraiser. For the price, this outperformed them all, with the Schecter coming in a close second, again due to quality/price. PRS had better watch their backs from now on, as far as I'm concerned.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I've only had this a few days, but it feels rock solid. No loose hardware or wiring, the finish seems solid (unlike my Dean). Strap buttons won't budge, but I'll be fitting straplocks when I get the chance, just as personal policy. I'm not much of a gigging person due to the appalling lack of dedicated musicians in my school, but I can't forsee any problems this guitar would give me Live. I'd still never gig without a backup though, just on principle.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The guitar came set up absolutely perfectly, like everything I've ever tried and bought from Merchant City (I bought two cheaper Ibanezes there before). Very low action, but no buzz, and I can pull the Floyd right back without the strings buzzing off the frets or pickups. Pickups were set just low enough to avoid contact with strings while using the trem, but still high enough to pick up all the goodness from the strings. Balanced outputs between the pickups and across the strings. The routing for the tremolo is also much deeper than most FR-equipped guitars I've played, perfect for extreme tomfoolery. Absolutely no complaints of any type here, and kudos to Merchant City for always setting up their guitars before sale.
Features — 10
Made in Korea, '08 model I believe. 24 frets with 25.5 scale on a gorgeous ebony fretboard with pearl inlays. A 'double Diamond' is the closest thing I think I can liken the inlay shape to. Mahogany body with a set-thru maple neck, and a nice figured maple top. 'Superstrat' body style, with carved tops on the horns for a more unique look. Original Floyd Rose bridge, and Grover tuners. EMG 81/85 active pickups with 2 volumes, a tone, and 3-way selector switch. The store gave me hex keys with it, but I think that's store policy rather than Michael Kelly's generosity.