Price paid: $ 280
Purchased from: Music store in Newmarket, Ontario, Canada.
Sound — 7
The sound has been great. First of all, these are Hotrail pickups so they are mini-humbuckers. But that is misleading. They are not true humbuckers and are not true single coils. The sound is distinctly in between those two. It is not very deep, nor very high and twangy. Its a mid range sound that is produced by these pups. Most people who reviewed this guitar on the net have said "OMG ITS FOR METAL" - well its not. They just let the allure of the new guitar cloud their thoughts. The guitar produces a great sound for solo's, clears, and reverb effects, but over driven metal effects sound really twangy. You don't really get that evil bite and muddiness I enjoy from my other guitars. The metal effects come through a bit to twangy on the bridge pup, and the neck pup they are a bit to blurry. I have yet to find a setting that I really enjoy on my amps. I am spoiled in this regard because I am comparing this do my other guitar with a high end metal pick up that screams. (DiMarzio DP102-X2N). With that said, it is still producing a great sound. The Pups have no buzz, I opened up the guitar and the wiring was clean. The twin pivot tremolo is like a poor mans Floyd rose. While you can't dive bomb with it you can pull a note up or down which is really cool. The guitar also stays in tune remarkably well. I have taken the strings off already and done a complete re-string/re-tune. Took me about 5minutes to get the strings on. Tuned to standard. Pulled on the tremolo up and down, re-tuned. Repeated that twice. It stays in tune now. Another reason why this guitar is not for metal is because of the full C-Shape neck. I have average "man sized hands." The C-Shape is really comfortable to play, I don't get tired and my accuracy is where I want it to be. The neck is also only lightly finished so it is fast to slide up. The big shape though does mean shredding and other metal techniques might be a bit more difficult to do. While I enjoy metal, I am not a shredder so this does not concern me. I have been doing some sweep picking on it, and it gives me no problems.
Overall Impression — 8
I have only owned this guitar for about a week now but have played it almost constantly and I feel like I already know it extremely well. I have been playing guitar for 5 years. In hindsight I wish the pickups were not HotRails. I would rather have a true HSS layout. That doesn't mean the HotRails are not good, I just like to have one guitar that can do it all. For just under 300$ this guitar is pretty sweet. I plan to spend another 100$, convert it to the HSS layout I want with a black pickguard and a maple neck. This is the type of guitar you buy for 300$ and love -- but after spending a bit extra it will rival a $1200 Strat. While many people upgrade their Squier Bullet Strats or Affinity Strats after playing this guitar it is already leaps and bounds ahead in terms of quality compared to those 2 models so you are really starting off on a better footing. I tried to give an honest review here, hope it helps you make your decision.
Reliability & Durability — 10
The solid basswood body weighs a lot. I have a Squier Bullet Strat and the body on this guitar is much thicker, you can instantly see the difference. The Bullet Strat feels like a toy after you place this thing in your hands. So, it is a solid beast and I have no concerns with its durability. Strap buttons are solid. I don't play live, but if I did, I would not hesitate to play this guitar. I think it will out live me.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
The finish is flawless. Really nice and glossy black. There isnt much more to it. When I opened up the guitar I saw hints of red metallic paint all over the inside. I may have lucked out with the body--- Looking at the Squier lineup some of their highest end Strats come with a red metalic finish. This body must have been for one of those guitars but the paint finish did not pass QC. It is solid wood and from the small unpainted parts I can see, it looks like an awesome piece. Factory set up - I don't know. The guitar store I bought it from set it up for their floor model so I got their setup - it was good. There isn't a single finish flaw on this guitar and it was played in the store daily. I don't see any issues arising.
Features — 9
You can see/listen to the guitar here - this is me playing so this is the actual guitar I am reviewing below. This guitar was made in 2009. It is a Deluxe Series Hot Rails Stratocaster in a gloss black finish / with a white pickguard. The body type is basswood. Neck is the big full C-Shape. Rosewood fret board 25'5 scale Master Volume, 2 tone, 5 position Switch for the 3 pups. Twin Pivot tremolo. (Seymour) Duncan Designed pups, HotRails - so the guitar is technically a HHH layout, not SSS. For a guitar at this price, the features are great.