Purchased from: Archambault
Sound — 5
It sounded great when I first played it through my "dramatic music" Marshall MG. However, I have since developped a higher taste for Acoustic quality, and have also bought a shiny tube amp that all the cool kids are bragging about. To my horror, my bottom-line BC Rich Kerry King Warlock sounded ages ahead of the Peavey through my Epiphone Valve Senior. The single-coil pickups sounded a bit weaker than the humbucker through my crappy solid-state amplifier, but you have to actually select the humbucker when playing through the tube amp to hear anything at all (beside the familiar 60-cycle hum). I know for a fact that single-coils are naturally enclined to have a little bit less power when compared to humbuckers (especially in a metal axe), but the loss of volume, and evidently, tone, is ridiculous. I'm giving this section a 5 because the pickups work and sound okay when played through a solid-state amp, but they are pretty much mulch when it comes to being played through a proper valve amp. I think I might swap them out someday, when I'll be done withg all my other unfinished business.
Overall Impression — 7
I used to only listen and play Green Day when I first bought this guitar. Evidently, I have evolved in my musical tastes since the purchase of said instrument, having had my X-treme Metal Phase, followed by my Hippie phase, followed by my Prog Rock phase, followed by my Jazz phase, followed by my Psychedelic Shock Rock phase, and so on for the better half of a decade. Based on my general understanding of music in general, I can tell you that this axe is great for practice, learning and smashing your TV. It can handle the generic "distorted guitar tone" you see on most things that try to emulate a guitar sound, and can play clean. It cannot, however, play "teh br00talz", the Guess Who's "American Woman" solos, Mountain's "Rocky Mountain Way", or the drums. If you were expecting something other than a good ol' first guitar, you are gravely mistaken. Like I said in the comments a few years ago, it's not a great Strat, but it's a good start (Incidentally, I have affectuously named my Raptor EXP Plus "The Crapocaster"). It's also fun and comfortable to mess around with!
Reliability & Durability — 9
Let's make this short and sweet: the strap holders will outlive any strap, the hardware, despite its poor sound quality, can take a punch in the face (the volume pot hisses when I play with it, but that's probably because I am too lazy to clean the dust off of it) and the finish could probably provide adequate shelter in the case of a nuclear attack. If India and Pakistan decide to play Global Thermonuclear War, I will purchase more of these guitars and build body armor out of them.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Remember how I said that I didn't remember the year of fabrication and price of this guitar? Well, chances are, I don't remember the factory setup either. However, to this day, the frets are still holding (by the grime that resides on the fretboard, I believe) and the tuners have a surprisingly efficient string pitch retention system for their cost, despite the fact that I live in a place where it freezes half the year, and make you feel like you're melting the other half. The finish is great. Really. The neck doesn't feel sticky, but doesn't feel like sandpaper either, and the paint job on the body, although prone to showing fingerprints, is still nice. It's hey wait, don't look under the pickguard! There is nothing to see there! Ignore the sloppy paint job, the remaining woodchips and the tangled innards of the instrument!
Features — 8
I bought this guitar back in 2005 (give or take a few months), but I am unsure about the actual year of fabrication, as the sticker that shared the date and place of creation has since faded out (It still has the signature of the Chinese dude who inspected it, though. That guy has messy handwriting). It features a Standard stratocaster-ish body (the horns aren't exactly like that of a strat, but it still fitted into a molded Strat case), with a single-coil pickup in the neck and middle position and a humbucker in the bridge, a whammy bar bridge, one tone and one volume control and a five-way pickup selection switch. The (maple?) neck has 21 frets, and a rosewood (or so they say...) fingerboard. The body is made of what I presume to be basswood, and is painted a solid black colour so that you cannot see the wooden horrors that lie below. It did not come with free accessories, but I am more willing to blame that on the shop that sold me this guitar than on said instrument itself. Also, I have added groovy lines and shapes with some Sharpie markers. I am giving the features an 8, because it has a cheap plastic nut and lacks the traditional second tone knob, and also a cupholder and a fog machine. You need those last two features to get a ten. That, or a laser cannon on the headstock.