Price paid: $ 160
Features — 8
Standard Strat by Squier made in Indonesia. HSS pickup and rosewood fretboard on maple neck that is not finished or very lightly finished in satin. Shoreline gold body. 2 point bridge and solid saddles; no tremolo bar. No coil split for the humbucker and no tone control for the bridge pickup. V, T, T controls and 5-way switch. Smooth and stable tuners and non-locking but are solid with the 2 small studs on the rear headstock face and a hex nut on the front... Simple and always align right. No accessories. Rated "8"... Used but no trem bar nor gig bag and all stock and not really well set up. I assume a used guitar will NOT be set up right because almost no one knows how. It's like dog handling... It is not complicated, but it takes some practice, accurate information, and common sense and willingness to do it. But once you can set up a Strat, you can set up most any guitar (Bigsby and Floyd Rose tremolos excepted). And honestly, I like being the guy who only takes a guitar to a pro when the problem is an odd one and the guy sees I have already done all the setup well. He is more inclined to pass on guitar deals, sharp used pickups and so forth to a knowledgeable guitarist.
Sound — 8
Rated "8" since a Squier Standard is not going to have premium pickups, but they are "good enough" if you do adjustments. The main shortcoming is no tone control for the bridge pickup. See my solution below. The guitar has a nice neck and big headstock marked Indonesia. Good frets and ends are smooth. Rosewood fretboard looks pretty good and needed a light oil wipe to deepen it and remove the dry haze. Having a non-splittable humbucker at the bridge and no tone control for it limits the stock sounds available, but it can be remedied easily.
I replaced the rear tone control capacitor with a good .047 value one and added a short jumper wire on 2 tabs of the switch to make the forward tone control manage both the neck and bridge pickups. The pickups are not on at the same time, so you have no problem there, And in position 2 & 4, you have 2 tone controls... 1 for each pickup that is on. That is nice and it takes 10 seconds to solder and a tiny length of coated wire.
I raised the pickups to strengthen and focus the sound and then lowered treble or bass side if needed to stop "warbling" (if magnets start affecting the plucked string). I find that a into a clean Fender amp, volume about 8-9 and tone knobs at about 5-8 range will cover most situations no matter the switch position.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Rated "9" since it is a budget guitar. Affinity Squier is the bottom of the pile and Standard are OK and decent tuners and OK pickups. And the Classic Vibe line are quite nice. This Standard Squier Strat needed 2 coats of gloss wipe-on poly by Minwaw wiped on wet but carefully with a soft T-shirt square. Leave the finish wet and it will dry glossy and smooth. It's fast and easy and I allow 1 day to dry each coat with tuners and string trees removed. Use a coathanger through the tuner hole to hang it up as it dries and it will stay glossy and not smudged. Front of nut needs to be smoothed on the edges (I use masking tape on the fretboard at nut/fret1 to keep the sandpaper or smooth file only on the sharp edge of the nut front.
Nut slots on my used guitar had already been deepened and angled right by someone who knew how to do it. But the neck needed to be shimmed with 2 business cards thickness to make the fretboard/guitar top angle be more shallow. I ended up with about 1/16" at fret 12 gape from string bottom to fret top. I play 1/2 step low and with nails, so need relief and a gap to get string clearance as they fly in a bigger arc than standard tension.
Reliability & Durability — 9
This is not a "10," but a Strat is very solid and stable. I make the tremolo float parallel and low to the body with 3 springs in use. I want it stable and seldom even use a tremolo. Some guys "block it out" with wood, but I want it to float and barely move. You can also adjust the springs so the bridge bottom barely rests on the body for stability in tuning and still occasionally use the tremolo bar. Long ago Fender shipped the Strats with the bridge on the body and then later started advocating making it "float."
The guitar is a soild one and the finish is plenty sturdy and nice cosmetically. Good wood in the fretboard adds some color and the chrome on the bridge and tuners is glossy and pretty good. The saddles are solid (not the old-fashioned bent ones) and appear anodized rather than polished or chromed.
Overall Impression — 9
For $160 used and in 90-95% condition, this is a good guitar. No... Not a great guitar, but you cannot get great guitars for that price normally. But by being able to adjust and tweak a guitar, you can make it play and sound easily 15-20% better. And nearly no guys know how unless they are setup guys for a living or geeky guitar guys like me who are good with tools and who pay attention to how a pro does it.
I have another Squier Standard Strat for $140 in pristine shape and with a good sunburst body and pretty rosewood board that I put a set of GFS "gold foil" Strat pickup into (3 single coils). They are cheap and sound unusually good. Even the Sam Ash guitar salesmen were really impressed. A Squier Standard is a good platform to modify, but you need to get it adjusted and tweaked as I described above. So paying a guy versus doing it yourself with a few basic tools (nut slot files, soldering pen, correct screwdrivers and Allen wrenches) would maybe run 80-120 bucks. So I do it myself, as any guy can do if he built a lot of model cars and RC planes and is good with his hands and careful.
So I rate this model a "9" because it is plenty good enough to be made impressive and feel and sound nice. Better pickups are nice, but the tuners and bridge are good enough. I even left the pots alone and just added in the tone control for the bridge pickup and installed a good. 047 rear tone capacitor. Maybe I spent 10-15 dollars and can use the gloss poly on a dozen necks and the nut slot files for years. See?