Price paid: £ 315
Purchased from: Plectrums, Pens & Paints
Sound — 8
I play mostly Blues and Classic Rock and this is an ideal guitar for that. It has the classic twang and treble of a good Strat, with enough warmth in the neck pickup to get a really deep, rich sound when you want it. Cray, Gilmour, Clapton, Blackmore and Knopfler tones are all there if you are looking for them. Naturally it would be a good fit for Country too. I've run it through solid state, and tube amps, a tonelab ST and a Pocket POD, and it works well with all of those. Not surprisingly, the single coil pick ups do pick up a bit of noise when compared to humbuckers, with the Bridge being the worst offender, however a lot of that is easily managed by positioning. The sound is bright and attacking, but there is plenty of mid-range for a warm and full bodied sound. The Bridge pickup can be biting or snarling played dirty and crisp played clean. The middle pickup adds warmth and body, while neck is a more rounded and fuller tone. The tne controls have a good range of effectiveness, while rolling back the volume does not cause the sound to get muddy. The Middle pickup is "out of phase" with the others, so the quack is there, quite mellow with the neck pick up and brighter with the Bridge pickup. The range of sounds is versatile and capable. It has enough power to overdrive without assistance, but cleans up easily and nicely too.
Overall Impression — 9
As stated earlier, for the Blues and Classic Rock that I mostly play, this is an ideal guitar. I have been playing for over 25 years and owned and used a lot of different equipment in that time. This is the first Strat - includng US made Fenders - that I have really got on with and enjoy playing - within about 30 seconds of picking it up to try it I knew that I had to have this guitar. I would be very upset if this were stolen or lost, and I should certainly replace it with another one. The best feature is the neck - the modern profile and wide radius make it an absolute pleasure to play, as does the top quality set up. Thus far, I have found nothing to hate whatsoever. I have had and used other Strats, and this was something new to me in terms of playablity. It has those classic Strat sounds and looks. I compared this to the 50s Classic Vibe Strat and a Squier Standard Strat and a house brand Telecaster - all were well set up, but only the 50s Classic Vibe Strat came close in terms of sound and playability, but this guitar just had to be mine - it was love at first chord.
Reliability & Durability — 8
I'm sure that this guitar would stand up to playing live tremendously well, it is well built and can withstand vigourous practice sessions. The hardware is simple and traditional and gives the appearance that it will be robust and durable. I have swapped the strap buttons out for Schaller strap locks. I would not put my trust the fitted ones in a live environment. Thus far this has been a very reliable guitar and I am sure that it would be dependable. Were I still a gigging musician, I would have no worry about using this as my sole instrument for a whole gig. The finish is deep and even, and will almost certainly last.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The set-up is excellent - an action of between 1.5mm and 1.8mm at the 12th fret with no fret buzz anywhere. The pickups were adjusted to balance across the strings and with one another almost perfectly. I haven't had the need to open up the body cavities, but there is no evidence of any problems with the Bridge and spring routing. No flaws are evident at all, the Standard of the finish, fret preparation, set-up are all exemplary.
Features — 8
Made in china, QC checklist says December 2010. Its a Stratocaster, the design ethos is that it should have the vibe of a classic 60s Strat, but with a modern twist. 21 "medium jumbo" frets in a 25.5" scale maple neck with a rosewood (veneer style) fretboard. The neck is a modern profile and 9.5" radius fretboard for comfort. The body is Alder, and I haven't poked around to take a look yet - it feels really light, but that might be more to do with my main comparisons being massive mahogany bodied guitars! The finish is polyester - a high gloss golden "vintage tint" on the neck, and a high gloss metallic "candy apple red" on the body, with aged (i.e. off white/cream) pickup convers and controls and mint 3 ply scratch and back plates. The hardware is all Squier, a "Vintage Style Synchronized Tremolo" Bridge and "Vintage Style Tuning Machines". Excessive use of the Tremolo will put the guitar out of tune, but that shouldn't really be a surprise, in normal use it holds tune pretty well. The tuners are accurate with no slack, although to get very precise tuning requires a little care. Standard passive Strat electronics, three Alnico V pickups with staggered pole-pieces, the middle pickup is wired for the out of phase "quack". 5 way selector switch, Master Volume and two tones for neck and middle pickups only.