Price paid: C$ 50
Purchased from: Wal-Mart
Sound — 8
I do like the sound, feel, and apparent durability of this RG-100 guitar package. It gives a pleasant bright, crisp and sharp sound with neck pickup (a la Buddy Holly), warm thick full range of sounds (in combos), clean smooth sounds using the mid pickup and with overdrive on the bridge humbucker, I can get a beautiful classic rock distortion (a la Keith Richards' "Satisfaction").
Overall Impression — 4
I find it is more than adequate to allow my son free reign to explore all kinds of music with his own guitar while providing him with a fully functional versatile and pleasant sounding guitar as he learns. If he keeps interest, and progresses, I will invest in a high-end guitar for him, or even custom build one with him to help him better understand the instrument. I expect he will either lose interest in guitar, or need a better quality one in a couple years, and I suspect this Rocker SG-100 will serve at least that long, maybe even considerably more with decent care, and the amplifier should serve well for basic practice and toying around with effects, well into his 3rd guitar... To that end, this was about the best $50 investment I could make... A truly sweet deal! As for comparing this to other kits, if it had not been discounted, I would never have considered purchasing it, nor any of the generic low-end packages on the market these days (Silvertone, Kona, Stedman, etc). There are many fine packages available for slightly more money... Check out Peavey, Ibanez, Aria and Fender (Squire) to name a few, all have good brand-name guitar/amp packages in the $180-$250 range, that are much more likely to provide a long life of pleasurable service, retain a decent value, come with a reputable company warranty and the "peace-of-mind" this brings or at least be more saleable should you decide to sell or trade up. These brand name packages are worth the additional money based on resale value alone, and the customer service from these companies is MUCH better as they have a reputation to uphold. The only points I can find that would put the Rocker RG-100 ahead are price (saving $50 to $120 from a brand name package) or this package's unique set-up... Maple fretboard is not the norm (and has qualities that can be desirable), and HSS pickup layout (a big plus when seeking versatility in musical styles) which is not typical of beginner packages.
Reliability & Durability — 6
The RG-100 I have is solid all-around. It is my belief that this was intended to be a teaching and practicing tool as opposed to a gigging instrument, and the included amplifier would not suit gigging at all. Still, I can find no reason that the guitar would not be able to withstand gigging, and it's unique properties could prove useful for specific numbers and alternate tunings... I could see this serving as a back-up, or a preset alternate tuned guitar for specific songs. The finish appears to be as durable as any guitar, and the hardware will last a few years with little care. Maple fretboards all lose their finish and become worn and dirty in the 1-8 positions, but will develop their own unique properties when they do.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The RG-100 hardware isn't too bad... The sealed machine heads are a tad too high ratio for my liking (likely to accommodate less precisely machined parts), but they do keep tune. The adjustable one piece bridge/tremolo (with arm) is quite similar to an Ibanez SAT style tremolo. It feels solid, and it is all chrome (not nickle), the nut is solid and shaped well, the frets are all level, filed perfectly at the ends, and everything including the neck/body joint is quite secure and fitted. I did open it up and make sure everything was tight. Loose components do affect sustain and vibrational noise, and any guitarist knows enough to do this to EVERY guitar periodically as screws do work loose during shipping and over time even without use. Inside, the finish didn't entirely cover exposed wood and I applied varnish to the exposed routed area to seal it, preventing cracking due to normal moisture loss, temperature changes and aging. I am not finding any fret buzzing on mine. I have not had to setup the guitar either, and it has a fairly low action. I would assume that I am lucky... This guitar came with adjustment hex keys for a reason, didn't it? I do not recommend attempting to adjust the trussrod, this is always best left up to a skilled professional, as it is so easy to irreparably damage an instrument with the slightest mistake.
Features — 7
I purchased this Rocker RG-100 in a "starter pack" for my Son (his first guitar), it is black with white faceplate, and comes with a 20w Amp, gig bag, tuner, strap, DVD, picks, adjustment wrenches, and a spare set of strings. It is made in China, as indicated on the packaging and the rear plate of the amplifier, just as I'd expect anything available at Costco, and Wal-Mart and others, and there's usually at least one Rocker guitar in every pawn shop for well under $70 (as low as $25 without the amplifier and accessories) so there's apparently little resale value in the Rocker lineup. This one was discounted to $50 (from it's original $130~). I've had the opportunity to see and play almost the entire Rocker series in pawn shops and I assumed this would be typical of generic low quality instruments. From what I have seen, the RG-100 and RG-120 are identical and come in black only and just like the original Stratocaster, have a maple fretboard. The RG-200s are the same as the 100 & 120 but come in solid white, transparent blue or transparent red with fancier gold chrome trim, pearlized faceplate and a rosewood fretboard. The RG-80 comes in either black with a white web design, or pink with white heart design with only a single solid front mounted humbucker pickup (rear routed), and a solid string through body bridge (no tremolo) and rosewood fretboard. I own a REAL Vintage Strat (worth well over $20k), along with many other quality guitars, a few of which are Strats or copies of them, and I still own all but 2 of the guitars I've ever owned. I've a degree in engineered wood and paper product manufacture, several years as a production machinist, several more years making laminated wood products, and a couple years making custom cabinetry. I have also built a few guitars by hand. I am not a professional musician, I simply have a lifelong passion for stringed instruments and music. I enjoy most types of music, from country, bluegrass, blues and classic, to metal, classic rock and jazz. I play daily, from 1 to 4 hours at a time. I would consider myself to be quite qualified to assess a guitar. I will write this review comparative to my high-end gear, so please do not assume I am calling the Rocker RG-100 a piece of junk. The Rocker RG-100 I got is truly an OUTSTANDING guitar for the price I paid, and my rating numbers are given in consideration of the original $130 price of the package. The body is solid (not plywood, but definitely laminated boards to form a wide enough block to make the body, (which is standard practice, especially for low-end guitars, and even many high-end ones with opaque paint) and I'd assume it's the cheapest stuff available (doesn't smell like basswood, but paint can mask the scent). The finish on mine is flawed on the back (looks like the wood was not entirely cured when the finish was applied, but the paint is sealed, so there are no cracks) but it is a decent enough looking instrument and the finish is fine on the front. I own both an Ibanez RG and SA... This is closer to a true Strat than either in shape, and the HSS pickup layout (the RG is HSH) is all "fat strat" (like my Ibanez SA and Strat HM) The Rocker RG-100 is slightly more cut-out than a Strat (and therefore more comfortable for higher frets) but not as comfortable as the Ibanez (especially my SA) The sound is similar to my Strat and Ibanez RG (both are top routed with frontplate mounted pickups) and the versatility of the Rocker is great! I can manage nearly any "Fat Strat" sound I could want with it. The Strat (SSS pickups/maple fretboard) was designed specifically for country music, and the (HSS pickup/rosewood fretboard) "Fat Strat" revision was to make them better capable for rock, metal and pop. The neck is quite good overall, despite a minor run in the varnish on the rear of the headstock, and a flaw in the fretboard (1/4" spot of rough "dried goo" under high E at the 14th fret which I was able to shave down and then fine sand away without leaving any noticeable marks). The "V" shape/arched neck has a definite rounded ridge that runs the length of the neck, and is comfortable. The lack of a palm-side insert along the neck makes it safe to assume that this is a single action truss. It has 22 frets (My Vintage Strat has 21) and the headstock shape is more of an Ibanez shape than a Fender (but sized similar to pre CBS Stats) The amplifier works well. It has high/low EQ, and a separate push-button overdrive with a separate adjustment knob. The amp I got sounds MUCH better than I expected, and I'd say it's comparable to my 19w Ibanez GTA-10... Not quite as clean or versatile, but it does have a sweet overdriven sound. I couldn't really complain, as it's a solid state practice amp and one cannot honestly expect a lot from them. It's even quite quiet (very little static hiss), though it does distort more than my higher-end gear does at higher volumes. There was no unpleasant feedback, with any combination of settings. I expect this amp will adequately perform practice duty for my son for a decade or more. The strap is cheap nylon, but it's wide enough for comfort, and the vinyl/bonded leather ends are strong and durable enough to secure the guitar to it's chrome strap buttons. The gig bag is also nylon, reinforced with nylon straps and padded with plastic hardware and nylon zipper. It features padded side carry handles, and a nylon clip-on shoulder strap (with plastic clips) and a generously sized zippered pouch with a rubber "Rocker" branded patch that will easily hold all the included peripherals, and it is large enough to hold sheet music or books. The guitar is not noticeably heavy, and the bag will suit light duty transport, but I would not trust the shoulder strap hardware to hold up if there was more than a couple of thin books in the pouch. The included cheap plastic picks are terrible quality, but fine quality pletrums are a mere 30-75c each at most shops. The strings on mine (and the spare set) are fine gauge nickle, and I'd imagine they will last as long as any standard strings. The included 10' cable is extremely cheap (I can buy similar ones for $1.99), and I would expect it to become noisy and useless quickly, but it does the job. Within a couple of months, I will replace the included cable with a 20' high quality cable (about $25) should my son acquire my love of guitar. My Rocker RG-100 was missing the tuner and DVD, which is likely why it was discounted. I have tried to contact support for replacements, though I don't expect much of them... We are talking about a $130 complete outfit made in China.