Price paid: $ 158
Sound — 3
When I got this guitar I was into stuff like the Red Hot Chili Peppers and AC/DC. Nowadays my interests have changed greatly and I now listen to pretty much anything between blues and death metal, excepting nu-metal, progressive rock/metal, etc. I am still into AC/DC and RHCP, but I mostly listen to the likes of Janis Joplin, Ratt, Motley Crue, B.B. King, Eric Clapton, Opeth and many others. This guitar doesn't fit NONE of those styles, though you can get a nice crunchy sound for distorted power-chords, but only with a distortion pedal. When I got my beginner's gear I bought a Marshall MG10, which is an incredibly crappy amplifier with dull cleans that can only go from sparkling bright to jazzy warm and an overdrive channel that doesn't sound like overdrive at all, it sounds more like a bee caught in a jar of glass, or a fart. A few months ago I bought a Behringer HM100, which is an analog (or so they say) distortion pedal modeled after the Boss HM-2, but it obviously sounds worse. The pedal was a nice addition and I could actually get an at least mediocre tone. The guitar however is stunningly noisy and gets a lot of feedback. Heck, there's pick-up humming even on the clean channel. The guitar, despite what everybody says about its versatility as a beginner's guitar, is not versatile at all. It pretty much can produce just three tones: sparkling, bright and trebly clean, jazzy/bluesy warm and curnchy overdrive. Those are the only tones that won't make you want to emulate Van Gogh. Twice.
Overall Impression — 1
I (try to) play mainly rock and roll, blues, hard rock and heavy metal. With a distortion pedal it can get crunchy enough for blues rock and rock and roll. But it won't do it if you plan on even slightly getting serious about your guitar career. I have been playing for about a year, but have been learning very fast and am satisfied of where I have arrived technique and composition-wise. This guitar at this point is more of an obstacle in the way of my progress. I am planning on getting an Agile AL-2000 or AL-3000, as I should have done in the first place. Or maybe not, but now I do know that bad single-coils can be a painful experience. Dual humbuckers is the way to go for me now. If this was ever stolen, I'd hunt the guy down and laugh in his face, as breaking into a house and carrying this guitar all the way to his place is a lot more than this piece of crap is worthy of. I'd NEVER, NEVER buy it again. I'd get an Agile. I couldn't really compare it to other products. There are no music stores in my area. I bought it off the internet since everybody was saying it's a good beginner's guitar... It's not. Anything I wish it had? A self-destruction button, maybe. But I guess that would just have added to it's already extremely high (for the quality) of this instrument. Alright now. Listen to me, beginners. DO NOT BUY THIS! Trust me! There are cheaper and A LOT better guitars on the market. Buy an SX Hawk RN FT WT guitar if you really want a strat! It has a HSS (humbucker-single coil-single coil) pick-up configuration, so it's way more versatile and that Bridge humbucker will spare you the pain of the feedback noise. Even the two single-coils are better! And it's like 29 bucks, or even a full 50$ or 100$ cheaper and you get a good guitar that you won't outgrow in about a year. Or just save some more money and get an Agile LP copy: for way less money or just slightly more than the price you'd pay for this you can get semi-professional, good guitars! I myself have never owned one of those guitars, but as said am planning to get an Agile, but judging by the good reviews they're getting I'd say they're worthy. Plus the SX is even cheaper. Just don't buy this guitar. It's a total waste of money, even for a beginner. Trust me, I know!
Reliability & Durability — 2
This guitar will NOT withstand live playing. It's incredibly fragile. Both the neck and the bridge, after using the whammy bar a few days look like they're about to pop and destroy your guitar. And that wouldn't be that bad: the thing's a piece of crap. But you could get injured if this happened. But the main thing to say here is: who the hell would ever use this for live playing?! You get insane amounts of feedback and it's a really bad guitar overall. Does the hardware seem like it will last? No. Not at all. The tuners and the Bridge are all unstable. I wouldn't use this on a gig at all in the first place. It's an awful practice guitar as it is, I dare not imagine how it'd fare on stage. Just do not use this on stage. Don't. The finish is actually pretty sturdy. Nothing to say here. It's well done. Too bad it is one of the least important things in a guitar.
Action, Fit & Finish — 3
This guitar was actually well set. I had to make no adjustment, it was good to go right out of the box. Its only flaws here where the buzzing frets after a couple months, and the plastic thingy over the toggle Switch blade which fell of after about a month. Oh and the high E's saddle was a bit too high, so the high E broke soon enough, and I had to lower that one saddle. Oh yeah, and the neck got a bit unstable after messing around with the tremolo arm about two... Days. Now I can actually move it a few mm in any direction and hear it crack meanwhile.
Features — 2
I'm assuming that since you are reading this, you are a beginner and are looking for your first guitar. Therefore, everything I write here will be written with that in mind, and with the goal of making you understand what this guitar has to offer. My copy of this guitar was made in 2008-2009 (I purchased this in August 2010, but I'm not sure of the exact year of manufacturing) in China. 21 medium jumbo frets. Not exactly the most versatile thing I can think of, especially if you want to experiment and learn stuff like 2-handed tapping or simply wanna play fast. Solid-body guitar. That doesn't make for much Acoustic amplification obviously. Basswood body, maple neck, rosewood fretboard. My guitar has a sunburst finish, but it is obviously not the only one available. You can get it black, white, red, blue and pink. Just like a Fender strat. Too bad it's the only thing they have in common. Synchronus Tremolo, Cast saddles. I'm not really an expert, but I can tell you it is quite bad. It won't allow the guitar to stay in tune for more than a week or so, and the saddles come loose rather easily and break the strings. I had to tighten it about three times in 1 year, and that's 3 full sets of strings plus the occasional high E and the B which break easily. Also, my factory G string had this awful buzz and sounded muddy even non-amplified and I had to replace it in about two weeks since I couldn't stand it anymore. It has a volume knob and two tone knobs, one of which isn't wired and doesn't do anything (the one nearest to the body's edge). It has a 5-way toggle Switch so you can use the Bridge pick-up only, the Bridge and the middle, just the middle, the middle and the neck or just the neck. The 2-pick-up configurations suck tone and sound-wise and are only good for reducing the static noise you WILL get from this guitar. This, like every other regular Strat (aka non-fat/super strats) has 3 single coil Strat pick-ups: bridge, middle and neck. The Bridge PU is has the most treble of them all: it's crunchy and dry, so it's good for playing chords and pretty much the best one for distorted rhythm playing. The middle is balanced and quite anonymous, it's the one I like the least. The neck pick-up has more bass, and produces a warm, soft tone good for lead-playing. Do not, I said DO NOT try playing chords on this pick-up: they get really muddy, and in the case of the big open chords they even get a little dissonant. Needless to say, the distorted rhythm playing on this pick-up is the WORST sound I have EVER heard in my life. It's annoyingly muddy. While using two pick-ups you will get much less static noise and unwanted feedback, but the sound will be muddy and anonymous and very unclear. This guitar features incredibly bad, non-locking tuners which after a while get stuck in a certain position (but never the right one so the string stays in tune) and get annoyingly hard to turn. It came with no accessories what'soever.