Price paid: $ 70
Purchased from: Guitar Center
Sound — 7
I play Blues, Classic Rock, Metal, Jazz, and almost everything else in-between. With the Basswood body, thin Maple/Maple neck, H-S pickups, coil-split in the bridge Humbucker, you have an excellent platform for a stealth weapon on your hands. It became a stealth weapon with awesome sonic excellence, only after some inexpensive mods: replace the plastic nut with bone or something better or man-made such as Corian, Tusq, etc. and then, replace the stock Humbucker and SC with something with more clarity and punch. I replaced some with DiMarzios and some with Seymour Duncans, Lace Sensors, and even the inexpensive GFS pickups. Played through my Fender Hotrod (valve/tube) amp or through my friend's H&K and Mesa RoadKing, this inexpensive beast with slight upgrades will slay from Blues to Classic Rock to Metal. Metal? The slim neck with it's slightly rounded fret edges helps a lot. The coil split allows you to experiment with the tonal combinations. If you decide to stick with the stock PUs, prepare to do some major EQing on your amp because they sound really bright, quite brittle. Some may prefer this tone and it does cut through the mix but I find it painful to my ears. With the stock PUs, I rated it a 7, with the upgrades, it'll be a 10.
Overall Impression — 9
Although it'll never replace the sonic awesomeness of the Stratocaster's SCs or the iconic tone of the Gibson LP's Humbuckers, the now discontinued Squier '51 will deliver the versatility of the Humbucker and SC combination that a musician needs at a very inexpensive entry point. I use this to play Blues, Classic Rock, and old school Metal (Metallica, Iron Maiden, GNR, etc.) and it delivers. I've been playing seriously for 3 years and while developing as a musician, I've accumulated the typical gear (effects: Wah, tubescreamers, octave, compressors, flangers, etc.). With the slight upgrades that I mentioned earlier, you will not be disappointed. If this were stolen or lost, I'd cruise evilBay and CraigsList to get replacements. This guitar is such an awesome platform I'm not sure why Fender discontinued it. If I were to re-design it, I would have made it stringthrough, with a compensated saddle bridge, slightly thicker (Modern C or you profile) and wider neck with a 12" radius, and a Bone nut with the same width as a Fender Tele. Even if this $70 guitar is now only available at $150 or so at evilBay or elsewhere, $150 is still a huge bargain, cheaper than the generic Squier Strat or Tele, and definitely more versatile and less generic in looks. This is an amazing guitar, for the price, and they do show up in some online music shops once in a while. If you get the chance, buy it!
Reliability & Durability — 9
Like most modern guitars, manufacturers have to be complete sleazoids to turn out absolute cr4p. With CNC machines, the reliability of most electronic components, and the amazing chemistry that goes into modern finishing supplies, the only requirements to produce and deliver decent or amazing guitars are opposable thumbs. This model is built extremely well and I expect that it will continue to deliver reliable performance no matter how many gigs you perform. This guitar will outlast you and me as long as you give it the proper, regular guitar maintenance and care. The Poly finish is bright and shiny and tough. Like most dedicated guitar players, I replaced the stock strap buttons with straplocks. Although the guitar is pretty solid, I wouldn't dream of performing without a back-up, even if I was using my Fender Strat or Gibson LP, it just doesn't make sense to go to a gig or performance without a back-up.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Straight from the factory, the action came set-up very nicely - medium height. This allows you to immediately play it with a slide, if you're into it. For those Who prefer very low action, good luck! The bridge it came with makes it really tough to bring the strings a lot lower. Your option here is to go with an after-market bridge and there are a lot available for the Squier '51 fanatics or modders. Overall, the fit and action were pretty decent straight from the factory. This model comes in SunBurst, Black, and Blonde and most were Made in Indonesia (MII). The Poly finish was decent, for such an inexpensive guitar. Since becoming a member of the UG, I've been bitten hard by the modding bug - check out our very own Guitar Building & Customizing forum at http://www.ultimate-guitar.com/forum/forumdisplay.php? s=f7179e3e4036a677d44b0fbdd7ddf791&f=53 I've installed Fender and Tokai necks to Squier '51s and these have turned them into absolute beasts! Note, the stock necks are an absolute joy as is. As mentioned earlier, the stock PUs were on the bright side and no amount of PU height adjustments seem to work to tame it a bit. Taken as a whole, without tweaks/adjustments or slight touch-ups, it's a solid 8.
Features — 9
This model was Made in Indonesia in 2006 (or earlier) and was discontinued in early 2007. It's a Standard 25.5" scale, solid Basswood body with a Maple/Maple neck and generic tuners that are surprisingly well-made and kept tune. I won't go into the specs since those have already been covered below. Instead, I'll focus on the things that haven't been mentioned or have only been touched briefly. I bought my '51s for $69.99, call it $70, during the Memorial Day close-out sale at GC and MF of 2007. So, it's way past the honeymoon stage and all the flaws and shortcomings of this model have been discovered, and addressed.