Price paid: $ 279
Purchased from: Online retailer
Sound — 8
I play a Line 6 Spider III half-stack with a tube preamp, mostly for hard-rock and metal music. Google: Cobalt Fall! This guitar sounds very, very good and handles my music well. The coil-tapping and dual humbuckers really do allow for a wide range of tones. I'd call this quite a versatile guitar. Although most literature will call the pickups "Seymour Duncan pickups", they are not exactly Duncan's. They are "Duncan Designed", which is different. Kinda like calling a "Squier" a "Stratocaster". Though the quality difference is not that severe. The Duncan Designed pickups are very good. They don't have quite the bite or output that I'm used to from true Duncan JB's, etc., but they do the job very well. My only complaint would be that the low end is a touch lacking in output and definition. Nothing that can't be EQ'd. Clean, these pickups are crystalline and beautiful. When used in split-coil mode, the single-coil sound is VERY present - they do this job exceptionally well. Perhaps better than my "true" Duncan-equipped guitars. If the pickups were just a bit hotter and more defined, this category would get a 9 or 10. But - got to give another 8.
Overall Impression — 9
Let me say - I LOVE this guitar. It's not often I have a desire to get more of the same instrument by the same manufacturer (Well I have several Les Paul-style guitars, but all from different makers), but I would buy another Tempest if I could get one as cheap as I got this. If this guitar were stolen from me I would be PISSED because I doubt I'd find another at the price I paid for mine and replacing it would be a MUST. Now that I own one, I would definitely pay street price if I had to. And I'm already looking to find another....hmmm....maybe in white ;-) 9 of 10 overall for the Tempest! I'd give a 9.5 if there was one!
Reliability & Durability — 10
I'll be gigging this guitar tomorrow night so I'll let you know! So far it seems as durable as can be. I'm looking forward to thrashing it around on stage a bit ;-) Well they force you to pick a rating, so I will give it a 10. My impression is that it will, indeed, stand up to years of hard use!
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Setup when I got the guitar was excellent, though I still suspect it was a returned item so it may have had a setup previously. It arrived with a broken high E string and who the hell cares about that. I have not had to make any adjustments to the guitar what'soever. The action, intonation, and neck all seem spot-on. The finish has some VERY VERY VERY minor flaws. If I didn't buy a "scratch and dent" model, I probably would not have even looked nor found them. One or two extremely minor binding flaws that would not have stopped me from paying full-price for the instrument. Everything else is flawless. 9 is for the VERY minor flaws that were obviously factory-made.
Features — 8
I've got a 2009 or 2010 model. Street price is $699, the retailer I got it from had a blowout sale a few months back and I believe I got a returned model ("scratch and dent") so I couldn't pass it up at only $279. The Tempest Custom is a set-neck, all mahogany guitar with dual humbuckers (Duncan Designed), two volume knobs, one tone knob (with push/pull coil tapping for the pickups) and a three-way switch. The top is carved, and it has a TonePro's TOM bridge and stop tail. I purchased the Black model with Gold hardware. The combination is stunning, especially combined with the "vintage"-looking cream body and neck binding. On a side note: I did not like the Switch orientation nor the configuration of the volume knobs, so I modified them (easily done). The Switch on my guitar was oriented to Switch "front to back" rather than "up and down" like a Les Paul. That was simple to fix; loosen the nut, spin the switch, tighten the nut back down. However I like the volume knob closest to my hand to control the bridge pickup, and vice-versa. This was reversed on the Tempest. The "forward" (and closest) volume pot controlled the neck pickup, the other controlled the bridge. I suppose this makes a certain level of sense; the front knob controls the front pickup, etc. But not to me. All wiring in the cavity was long enough to simply swap the positions of the pots except for one ground wire. 30 seconds of solder work and a 2" longer wire and my mod was complete. I'm giving this category an 8 simply due to the somewhat-unorthodox controls that I had to mod myself.