SE Special Stratocaster review by Squier

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  • Features: 7
  • Sound: 5
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 5
  • Reliability & Durability: 4
  • Overall Impression: 7
  • Reviewer's score: 5.6 Decent
  • Users' score: 6.3 (47 votes)
Squier: SE Special Stratocaster

Price paid: € 179

Purchased from: Euromúsica

Features — 7
Chinese-built electric guitar. I couldn't track the manufacturing year by the serial number of my particular model, but I bought it new back in 2013. It's neck is supposedly made of maple with a rosewood fretboard, 21 frets, 25-1/2" scale. I have no idea which type of wood the body is made of, but I suspect it varies depending of the year and factory each particular model was manufactured in - it must be a rather cheap type of wood though, as my guitar gets dents on it's body way too easily (I'm very careful with it, yet for the slightest hits against even the ground guitar support would leave an indentation). My guitar is the black glossy version, although you can get a white and a sunburst version as well. It features a regular Fender Strat bridge with 6 bolts holding it to the body and with a fairly cheap composite metal block. The unbranded single-coil pickups are acceptable for a beginner's guitar and are controlled with a 5-way selector. The tuners are Squier branded as everything else, but really of bad quality. They won't do an effective job keeping the tuning, in my guitar one of them is defective and will disassemble itself every time I remove the string because the bolt won't stay in place; the others tend to feel really loose sometimes.

This guitar comes in a pack, including a bag, strap (that won't last any time, I wouldn't rely on it), a jack cable, tools to adjust the truss rod and saddles height, a DVD with lessons of the basics, a chromatic tuner "clip-on" style, 3 picks and a Squier SP-10 amplifier (I already reviewed as well).

Sound — 5
I play a lot of different kinds of music, but after years with it my conclusion is that it'll play acceptably anything without much distortion. High gain just won't sound good with cheap, unshielded single-coil pickups, it gets noisy and with a seemingly dull sound. The cleans, however, are quite nice, but I'll subscribe the point of other reviewers that they're really bright.

The volume control is incredibly cheap, playing with it sends a scratch-like noise trough the amp making volume adjustments using it while playing not really useful.

This guitar's sustain isn't great either: sum the plastic nut with a floating bridge with cheap springs and you'll find the reason why. I believe upgrading both these parts could have a significant improvement on it's sustain, but I have yet to try that out myself.

It's worth to mention that, after reading some of the reviews of this guitar both in UG and around the web, some critics about it's sound are actually fault of the bad amp included on this starter pack and not of the guitar itself. I play it trough my Marshall Valvestate 15 (a practice and simple amp) and it sounds immensely better than anything you'd get from the Squier SP-10 amp. However, a good amp still won't make this guitar and it's cheap pickups and electronics sound excellent.

Action, Fit & Finish — 5
I'll admit right away: since this was my first guitar, back when it came out of the box I had no idea what setting up a guitar meant, even less if it was properly done. Some time later the young, know-it-all naive me decided the re-adjust everything by eye and thus "unsetting-up" the guitar even worse it could ever be from the factory. It took long for me to understand the concept for me to fairly evaluate this point, so I won't have it in mind. When it comes to flaws, my critics have already been made: one of the tuners is defective and won't bolt together, some of the tuners tend to rotate way too freely and the pots are of really bad quality.

Reliability & Durability — 4
This guitar was mostly played at home and well taken care of. However, all the metallic components (including chrome parts) got rusted quite easily. The body gets easily dented with light hits on surfaces not supposed to cause that kind of damage to wood and the electronics are really cheap. The finish however, is okay and doesn't seem to get scratched or wear off (the latter never happened on my guitar) more than usual. I think not only I'd not use it for a gig without a backup, I'd use it as the backup for another guitar - at least while stock.

Overall Impression — 7
I owned this guitar as my only electric for 5 years and learned how to play on it. It's a comfortable guitar to hold, and a good thing for a beginner to learn as long as you don't expect it to be your "one and only" guitar forever, eventually you'll find out you could do more with a better guitar and get a new one - or mod it, because it doesn't feel bad at all. In my opinion it's definitely not nearly as bad as some reviewers consider it is, but isn't exactly a bargain's deal either.

I recently upgraded it for an Epiphone SG400, another very affordable and great value instrument, mostly because this Strat doesn't match that nicely the style of music I play (classic rock and metal) so I preferred an instrument with humbuckers, not having a floating bridge also makes things more simple to me as I never could make much out of it. However, a Strat is still very versatile guitar, so it can help you out figuring out what you'd like and want to play.

Even after upgrading I kept my Strat SE because it's a perfect canvas for modding, because I can still use it as a "beater" practice guitar and for it's sentimental value - and, of course, because I still find it a good value guitar. If it was stolen/lost, however, I wouldn't really bother to get another one because it's not really unique in any way, and won't offer anything a more superior instrument can't offer.

I recommend this guitar to every beginner with a small budget for a decent instrument that wants to try out different things and hopefully find their real music passion and path, because this guitar will do okay in most genres, as long as it's not metal. I'd also recommend it to someone seeking for an instrument to get into and experiment with modding because the body and neck aren't bad at all, it's mostly the hardware that feels cheap and unreliable. Finally, I wouldn't recommend buying the Starter Pack as a whole for the reason the Squier SP-10 amplifier isn't worth the money neither is nearly as decent as the guitar in terms of quality, I highly suggest anyone interested in the pack to read my review about it.

4 comments sorted by best / new / date
    So... one downvote. Well, I'd love to also hear why do someone thinks something that gave quite some work to write isn't useful. I'm not saying the review is great, but it would help receiving the feedback of what's wrong so I can learn and improve from it.
    - The nut won't affect sustain much on open notes, and it won't affect it at all on fretted notes. - The quality of springs doesn't affect sustain either.  All springs dampen vibration. The only thing that will affect sustain on this guitar is changing out the zinc trem block for a better one.
    Absolutely right, my bad I've slipped on both those aspects. However, the nut really needs to be replaced if the guitar is meant to be used on long-term because it's very cheap and the strings tend to get stuck on it causing that clicking noise when tuning and sometimes when doing vibratos or bending the strings. My mention to springs was a big mistake and thanks for correcting me. The issue is related mostly with the block, indeed.