Price paid: $ 180
Purchased from: SamAsh online
Features — 9
2014 from Indonesia. Basswood body with maple neck and rosewood board. Body somewhat between Axis and Strat outline. Bridge is 2 point tremolo, Passive H-S-S pickup configuration; no coil tap of the humbucker. 5-way switch. Strings through body like a Strat. Likely the pots and switch are substandard, but it's a cheap guitar, see? Volume, Tone, Tone and rear tone knob does control the bridge pickup. Standard tuners are smooth and non-locking. Truss rod tool, saddles wrench, and bridge post wrench. No case. Rated "9" for sheer value.
Sound — 8
Versatile sound and quiet pickups. The pickups individually are good, but not great (look at the price again!). With a coil tapped Pearly Gates or similar at the bridge, the other 2 are good enough. Rated "8"... Plenty good enough for most guitarists. I want a guitar to have fun with and not worry about dings or reselling it. A sub-200 dollar guitar is no heartburn if it can be made to play and sound good. No worrying about my investment! I play into a Silverface Princeton Reverb 1973 with upgraded power and a really good 10" speaker from Celestion. A decent guitar into a killer little amp beats a swanky guitar into a mediocre amp.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
Stable and almost playable as received. Frets need to be cleaned and polished and fret ends smoothed a bit. All screws are tight and chrome job is good on hardware. Nice neck finish is satin smooth and body is gloss and not too thick finish. Nut looks good and all 6 slots need to be lowered just a bit, as normal. The neck needs 1 thin shim at the pocket deep end (which will allow all saddle screws to be sunk just under the tops). For a cheap axe, this is pretty good and is fundamentally nice... just not adjusted finely.
Reliability & Durability — 9
I had a real Axis Sport long ago and liked it a lot. This guitar has the same feel and balance, except for the tuners are lesser ones as well as the chrome job. But this one is CHEAP to buy. It's very solid and all solid with good enough hardware. This is as sturdy as any Strat. Strap buttons needed only a bit of tightening but are a good retention design I like a lot! Polyurethane finish, I would expect and I can live with it. Pickups are easy to get used and for $100, you could get some good ones (Pearly Gates bridge and 2 DiMarzio Strats might be fun).
Overall Impression — 9
Rated "9" since no guitar is perfect. This one can be made to play low and well and replace a Strat by a different feel in the body and neck/board. At $180 new with return inside 30 days and no tax and no shipping... Wow! I give my luthier pal $30 to go over it and set the action just right. I can solder in a better tone capacitor or replace the HB with a 4-wire one and push pull pot, if desired. Not everyone wants a Squier Classic Vibe at $350 new, so this is an alternative. They are different and I like a Music Man type 2 point tremolo. And there's a lot to be said for a holed wheel versus wrench-only truss rod adjustment. For under $200, you can have a right good guitar that is unusual on stage, sounds and plays well, and is cool looking (chicks dig cool).