Price paid: £ 265
Purchased from: Andertons
Features — 8
Indonesian made, mostly faithful to the classic Mustang. Slab basswood body in a lovely (but thick poly), more yellow than white, tortoise guard. Mustang vibrato with height adjustable saddle bridge. Maple and rosewood neck 24 inch short scale neck, chunky profile with 9.5" radius 22 fret fingerboard. White buttoned split post tuners, two Duncan Designed single coils with individual on/off/phase switches, vol and tone. Comes with... an allen key. Whoopee. It has all the features you'd want in a Mustang at a price closer to what was originally seen as a student model should be. Kudos for Fender and Squier for the outstanding value coming from the vintage modified line. 9, only losing a point because there's nothing at all with it and Fender should at least include a comprehensive guide to setting up the trem/vibrato properly as it'll mystify a lot of people.
Sound — 7
The sound is, to my mind the weak point of this and all Mustangs as I understand it. The pickups are a little hotter than average covered single coils but they sound "meh" they're not excessively noisy though, just lacking character, definition and punch. I've heard and owned worse but they're prime for an upgrade. The guitar has a good acoustic resonance and you can really hear the trem springs, I personally love the natural reverb of it and the character of the guitar as a whole. It's good for fuzz, cleans up well enough but is definitely not suited to properly high gain work or anything that needs a lot of body. The score reflects the sound in the grand scheme of things, but it's bumped up a little by bearing in mind this is an affordable instrument for a beginner.
The out of phase sounds are worth an extra point, purely for novelty - it's an uncommon feature. It thins out the sound which actually does come in useful sometimes and I'm glad it's there. If you aren't expecting Gibson and PRS tones, or even tele twang you'll be happy enough at this price point. I've put this through a Peavey Vypyr and a Rat 5 watt Valve amp.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Again for the money there's a lot to like here. The neck is outstanding, it's got a surprisingly chunky profile - a little thicker than strats and tele's I've played and really fills my fairly big hands more than I'd expect for a short scale. The neck and nut were well finished, no raised or sharp frets. Neck gets a 10 for me! The body came with a flaw in the paint work, but was otherwise very tidy, the cavities are decent too, can't complain at all. Electronics work without buzz or crackle, but are on my upgrade list all the same. The bridge and trem, as pointed out elsewhere are likely to be a problem area. The saddle screws do like to randomlly alter the height, it's not been bad for me, but I'm not gigging it so it's not a big deal. A regular mustang bridge could be used, or possibly a TOM but it is a design flaw.
I fly in the face of common opinion and think the trem is GREAT! You can do brilliant atmospheric work just with you palm, it just needs setting up right - this took me a few hours to get bang on - but now tuning is stable and the trem is position so the arm is parallel to the strings. The trick is to remove the bridge and alter the position of the springs on the posts and then set the tension up top. Tuners are ok, they look crap and cheap but actually work just fine, I think a lot of problems blamed on the tuners are actually down to bigger strings sticking in the nut slots or the trem being badly set up out of the factory. The guitar comes with 9's. On a short scale this feels and sounds like it's strung with cotton. Get some 12's on it. Some minor issues exist like the pickguard screws are all in at a slight diagonal!
Reliability & Durability — 8
Bridge saddles aside, this is a simple and rock solid guitar that's well put together, I'd be confident gigging with it, smacking burglars around the head with one or maybe using it as an emergency paddle. Well done Squier and Indonesia. The finish is tough and thick, but it will not buff easily if you scratch it (speaking from experience and coming from someone who has refinished a number of guitars to a mirror like shine). Strap buttons are fine, but who wouldn't put locks on a gigging guitar? Good all round and I'd not be surprised if someone told me this guitar was selling for double the money on first inspection.
Overall Impression — 8
I'm a hobbyist that likes a heavily processed sound, playing a bit of drone and post rock more than anything else. I've gone through a lot of guitars in the last 18 months trying to find the right fit and I have to say this Mustang is up there with guitars that cost much more - I'd struggle to find a reason to pay more than double for a Japanese Fender reissue. It's not the ultimate axe and I'm biased as I've always wanted a Mustang due to some of my guitar heroes playing them, which does colour my opinion, if it wasn't so gorgeous maybe I'd feel differently!
Neck profile, looks, oddball trem and the out of phase sounds all give you an instrument that's distinctly different at this (or any other) price point so if you fancy a Mustang it's got to be high on your list. I'll have to mark it down due to a few minor build issues the bridge saddles and characterless pickups - but there's a lot of potential to make this bad boy a 10 without spending much money.