Price paid: $ 237
Purchased from: Classified ad
Sound — 8
Because it uses humbucker pickups, it can be a little noisy when cranked. I like to back off the tone control a bit, and I run it through a DigiTech RP200A, directly into my Mac Mini for recording, or an ancient Yamaha VX65D amp on stage. It has a very big sound, which isn't surprising, seeing as it is a big guitar with a lot more wood than your typical Strat. My only gripe is that there aren't a lot of varieties of sounds. Every pickup setting sounds pretty much the same, and backing off the tone knob doesn't give me much tonal variety, except for cutting down on some noise, and some highs. But, since I mostly play progressive rock, I usually rely more on effects for variety of tones, so I don't mind not having much control on the guitar end.
Overall Impression — 9
This guitar matches the style of music I play perfectly, as I like to play a lot of Dream Theater songs, some of which involve 7-string guitars. I've been playing for 10 years, and owned mostly cheap Strat knock-offs designed for beginners, and a budget ES-355 knock-off. My gripes with this guitar are very minor, and though I won't give it a perfect rating, I do feel it deserves a high one. If it were stolen, my heart would break, since I don't own another 7-string. The only thing that really irked me at first was the transition to 7-strings, as I've been used to bashing the low E string on songs typically played on 6 strings. With the low B in the way, I have to be more careful on it. However, this taught me to become a more precise, careful player, and I feel like my playing has improved since I bought it. The only features I wish it had were locking tuners and a whammy bar, so I can complete the Dream Theater picture.
Reliability & Durability — 10
This guitar, being my only 7-stringer, has to be able to withstand a gig. I do believe that it will. The hardware on this guitar seems rather solid, and the strap buttons have held up remarkably well. I've slammed my guitar around a bit here at home, and haven't chipped the guitar more than once or twice, so I think the finish will stand up to the test of time on stage. I can depend on it enough to use without a backup, though I have no choice, since 7-string guitars are a rare breed around these parts.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
This is where the guitar shines. The action was a little high, but perfect for me anyways. Everything on the guitar seems solid and well-built. The knobs are smooth, the tuners are tight, but not too tight, the finish doesn't appear to have any problems, apart from a few self-induced chips here and there, and the strap buttons haven't given out on me yet. The pickups are adjusted a little wonky, but that may be a result of the previous owner's handiwork.
Features — 8
The guitar appears to be very modern and is a Chinese-built instrument. It has 24 jumbo frets, and small inlays. I'm not sure what types of wood make up the body. Being a 7-string, it's definitely a slightly heavier instrument than most other guitars (even outweighing a Les Paul). The controls are very simple: just a volume knob, a tone knob, and a 3-way selector Switch for the dual humbucker pickups. As far as I know, the pickups in it are stock. The bridge is a string-through body fixed bridge, and feels really stable with tuning, even despite its lack of locking tuners. The tuners are located on the bottom of the headstock, and were a little disconcerting to get used to at first, but after a while I got the hang of it.