Price paid: $ 415
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 9
I was surprised by the excellent sound of this guitar. To me it sounds very clean and modern, with a slightly unique and beautiful tone. I'm have some EMG's I could drop in, but I'm happy enough that I haven't bothered. I play alternative/metal/new rock mostly in drop C, so this is perfect for my style. The bridge pickup gives a nice, bright, biting lead and shiny rhythm, great for palm muting. Switch to the neck pickup and you get a rich, warm sound that I can only describe as 'liquidy.' The neck pickup is extremely mellow, maybe a little too mellow for some, but it gives my band a fat bottom end on a chorus and does a great job supporting when the other guitarist plays lead. The sound is very clean and accurate. I also have less feedback problems with this guitar. The bridge pickup can be a little thin on clean tones, so you might need some EQ, depending on your style. This guitar could accommodate a range of styles. I've squeezed out some beautiful blues on the neck pickup. Because the tone is so modern and clean, it might not be well suited for gritty classic rock. It's sort of the opposite of a tele or strat. I could see it working well for jazz or metal.
Overall Impression — 9
I'm extremely happy with this guitar, and I recommend it highly. I was surprised to be able to get this much instrument for such a low price. I was on a limited budget of 500 or less, and I tried out almost every budget guitar in the store. Many of them were difficult to play, or the back of the neck wasn't finished. I picked the Tremonti because it blew away other guitars in this price range. I've been playing for 15 years, and I needed an axe that could keep up with shredding leads and complex rhythm patterns. This guitar is so easy to play, the leads feel effortless. I just worry that I'll get spoiled by it, and have a hard time playing other guitars. I would give it a perfect 10, but because it's a budget guitar, I'll give it a 9. If I lost this guitar, I would buy another one without hesitation. As I mentioned, it's great for Les Paul fans, and it's just what I was looking for: a Les Paul with updates.
Reliability & Durability — 8
Because of the low weight and incredibly thin body, I worry that the guitar might not be as sturdy as some others. I have dropped it once directly on the body and saw no damage. (Strap locks were installed immediately after that.) It just feels so delicate in my hands. But from what I can tell, it's very well constructed, and I believe it's gig worthy. Tuners and input jack are metal, not plastic like some cheaper models. Considering the low price, you really can't do much better. The finish is excellent, though you will find yourself polishing a lot, as glossy black shows every smudge. The lack of pick guard also means you will accumulate some scratches.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This is one of the easiest, most comfortable guitars I've ever played. The rounded bridge is great for palm muting. The body contours are also comfy, with no hard edges. It's about half the weight of my old Paul, so I can play all night without tiring. The action was incredibly low, right from the store. You barely have to touch a string to get a note. It's effortless. The downside is, it's also unforgiving. The smallest mistakes will be heard. This is a very delicate guitar. It's incredibly light and almost feels like you're playing on air. For me, it's great. I was looking to reduce the weight of my axe, and I wanted low action and a fast neck. I play gently with a lot of precision. If you like rocking hard or banging away, this may not be the guitar for you. It's a delicate flower, not a battle axe. Even so, I play some heavy material, and it works well. This instrument was clearly designed for comfort and precision.
Features — 8
The Tremonti SE has a design inspired by the Les Paul, but with many improvements. Being a former Paul player, I found it very easy to transition to the Tremonti. It felt like my old guitar, only lighter, sleeker, and faster. 22 frets, three-way pickup selector, 2 volume and 2 tone knobs, all should be familiar to the Paul player. Mahogany body, rosewood neck, single cutaway. The volume and tone knobs were arranged differently from the Paul, with the two volumes on top. It's a logical configuration, but took some getting used to. No pick guard, which is an interesting choice.