Price paid: A$ 799
Purchased from: World of Music
Features — 10
Purchased brand new for A$799 - discounted model (original price A$1300). Made in Mexico, in 2013 I believe. Actually, some sources claim it was assembled in México from USA parts. Typical Fender Strat specs. Mine is black, 1-piece Maple neck, Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo, body: Alder. Neck : Fingerboard Radius: 9.5" (24.1cm), Backshape: Modern "C" shape, Scale length:25.5" (64.8cm) Number of Frets: 22, Fret Size: Medium Jumbo. Pickups: Single Coil type x3, Divided type x1. Controls, well that is when it starts to depart from standard Strat: MODE knob: 5types (N: Normal - non-modeling mode, S: Modeled Stratocaster, T: Modeled Telecaster, H: Modeled Humbucking Pickups, A: Modeled Acoustic guitar).. TUNING knob: 6types (N: Normal tuning, D: Drop D, G: Open G, d: D Modal, B: Baritone, 12: 12-string guitar). TONE Control knob, VOLUME knob, 5-Way switch. Power indicator. Came with accessories: G-5 VG Stratocaster Owner's Manual, Owner's Manual for Fender Guitars, Tremolo Arm, Hexagonal wrench, Alkaline battery (AA, LR6) x 4, Special gig bag. Power Adopter was not supplied but Roland sent it to me free of charge when I contacted them - very nice of them.
Sound — 9
I play mostly rock, blues, punk, alternative. I use it for studio work only. It matches perfectly my style. In normal mode you get good Fender Strat but I mostly use modeled sounds. At a turn of the know you can switch from single coils Strat to Telecaster or Humbuckers. The transition from one to another is smooth, no latency. I prefer modeled sounds as the hum is removed - perfect for studio work. Changing tuning is also seamless. I mostly use G tuning (for slide) and sometimes 12 strings in acoustic mode. Acoustic's modes (steel string, Dobro, Nylon strings, Sitar and Jazzbox) are not for purists so do not expect perfect acoustic guitar sounds but it is probably good live as you do not need to swap guitars - just turn the knob. It can produce some interesting acoustic-like sounds - I have recorded a few with a very good result. My favourite are Jazzbox and Steel strings.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
I setup my own guitars so I do not care about factory setups. I usually have the action as low as possible (just short of fret buzz). I also adjusted pickup height to my likening. It took me some time to adjust the divided pickup to get a clearer acoustics sounds. But I guess this is all subjective and that is why these screws exist, so everyone can tweak them until they are happy. Other than that the guitar was flawless. Nothing else to fix. I tried the rosewood neck model at the shop but I prefer maple necks. It is a shame that maple necks do not come with sunburst bodies. Guitars stays in tune quite well even when using tremolo
Reliability & Durability — 10
I have not used the guitar live but it seems to quite solid and no reason why it would not stand live playing. Hardware is standard Fender so it is good quality and after 2 years still looks and performs well. I installed straplocks just in case - I do not want to take risks with this beauty. You can probably gig without a backup guitar (you actually would not need a second guitar with this one). I had some grievances with the lifespan of batteries (alkaline drain quite quickly - say 4 hours) but since I switched to Eneloop rechargeables I have no problem (2 sets swapped every 7-8 hours). You can use adapter as well if you do not mind another cable dangling from the back of your guitar. The finish is good and I have not noticed any issues in the last 2 years - but I look after my instruments and the guitar is being kept in hardcase when not in use.
Overall Impression — 9
I play mostly rock, blues, punk, alternative and sometimes ambient instrumental stuff. So the guitar is perfect for that - offers plenty of sonar variety. I have been playing for 35 years and I have owned a number of different guitars (Ibanez RGs, Epiphone LP, J&Ds, Yamaha, Vox...). If it were stolen/lost, I would definitely buy it again. Unfortunately the model has been discontinued so I was thinking of buying another one before they became rarity. I like Fender Strats in general and this is a Strat with some great additional features (you can stll use it as a normal guitar if you do not wish to use additional sounds or tunings or if your batteries go flat in the middle of a gig). Nothing really to hate except changing batteries is a hassle and acoustic guitar mode could be slightly better but one day I am sure the technology would overcome that issue. At the moment it is as good as it can be. People compare it with Variax but I have not played hem so I cannot tell. Except sunburts body there is nothing else that I wish it had.