Sound — 8
I play in an alternative/rock/electronic band as my main job and a side project as a more blues-rock outfit. To be honest I didn't ever really think about Tele's much for either sound. I didn't dislike them, just probably saw them as more of a country-style guitar or a very neutral rock tone. But I was intrigued enough eventually to give this a try. I can't really compare this to a top of the range Fender Tele but it was very well made considering the cost. The neck is great and the set up is far easier than most guitars. I guess as the original electric guitar it is just straight forward - so it's hard to screw it up. I really liked the variation between the loud, chiming bridge pickup and the thick but not nasally neck pickup. It's a bit jarring after coming from Strats and Jaguars with all their options and splits but it really works well. I found it able to handle a lot of styles and the flat body and simple shape were surprisingly comfortable. The downside, which I guess was the cheap pickups was a lot of microphonic squeal and a clicking jack input. I've since replaced a lot of hardware on this thing. It now has EMG T set for active pickups, new locking tuners and a few other minor mods. It's no longer what I bought, but it's great for my sound now. I'd rate this a 9 for what I do with it now, but probably a 7 for what I bought second hand without any changes. That's only really because the squeal and poor electronics let it down - the actual versatility of a Tele is surprisingly good.
Overall Impression — 9
This was an impulse buy of a cheap guitar, mainly to see if I liked Telecasters after growing up with Strats, Jags, LP's and other more exotic guitars. It's a very simple, no-nonsense design which hasn't changed much since it came out as the first proper electric guitar. The simplicity means it's very easy to like, easy to look after and easy to play. It won't cover every tone in the world, but it is very "neutral" in that you can mould it to your playing, rather than it forcing you in a certain direction. Now that I've got one I've finally noticed how many other people play them! It was like I was blinded to it before or something. Overall I'd say this was one of the best budget guitars you can get, it's ideal if you want to keep the cost down but without getting a piece of junk. It's also ideal as a base to mod and upgrade. If you spend a few pounds here and there improving bits and pieces over time, you'll end up with a deluxe guitar at a fraction of the cost. And if you just need something to smash when your shows get out of hand - I guess this would be a better choice than the LP you spent 4 years saving up for.
Reliability & Durability — 9
For the money (I keep starting sentences with that I guess! ) this is a great guitar. It seemed solid and well made within it's budget niche. I've seen far, far worse cost a lot, lot more. The strap buttons are standard Squier ones which tend to be a bit oversized compared to Fender USA, but I replace these with locking straps anyway. The fit and finish was again, very impressive on the neck and frets but less so on the electronics. Still, the main advantage of a Tele is it is pretty basic. There's not much to go wrong and it is very easy to play and set up. If you hate guitar tech stuff, get a Tele and it's pretty much set up after one decent attempt. It stays in tune better than any guitar I've ever owned - seriously I've barely have to tune it and I play hard (probably too hard). I always take at least 2 guitars on shows and tour with about 7 or 8, so I'd never be without backups, but if you are just starting out, or want to play a lot of different styles with just one guitar - this is definitely reliable enough. I'd probably switch out the input jack and pots if you can, it might seem a bit absurd to spend more money on a really cheap guitar, but with a few tweaks, you'd have something as good as the more expensive USA models without spending that sort of cash.
Action, Fit & Finish — 7
Squier have really improved over the past few years. Originally a Squire guitar was basically junk for when you first started playing and had no money and were happy to smash it to pieces when there was a Riot at a show. Nowadays they are often pretty close to the Fender models - and I've even had one which was better finished than a USA standard (in a bass). This was second hand so I'm not sure how much abuse was from the previous owner, but once I'd cleaned it up, the action was pretty great. The Bridge seems to be from a USA Tele anyway and the pickups had a very decent impression of the famous Tele split (the warm neck, the bright bridge). The neck was beautifully set and there was no fret edges or anything that needed doing (again, this could have been the previous owner, so can't guarantee it was a factory job but hopefully it was). The actual controls were a bit misaligned and the tone was a bit loose. Internally, when I started pulling it out to fit the active electronics instead, the routing wasn't awesome. There was quite a bit of sloppy unfinished machining and some broken edges on the wiring tunnels. I'm guessing this is where the money is saved on Squiers - though having said that I've sent back an expensive Gibson Les Paul in the past for crappy routing which is a scandal - when you pay this little for a guitar, it's just one of those things. It doesn't really affect you unless you're making mods so I didn't really mind that it was a bit of a hatchet job internally.
Features — 9
This was a second hand Standard Squier Tele - the latest model in a metallic black. It's the Agathis body with maple neck and rosewood fingerboard. It's pretty much a great copy of the Fender Standard Tele. It's the basic bridge in chrome plate pickup and chrome neck pickup combo and the 3 way selector switch. It didn't come with any extras as it was second hand but I don't believe you get anything with Squier standards brand new either - that's one of the reasons they keep the price down. I've never owned a Tele before, so when I was considering getting one for a project I thought it might be better to get one of the cheaper end in case it wasn't for me. I've had good experiences with other modern Squier's so it seemed like a risk worth taking.