Price paid: $ 499
Purchased from: Stewart Guitar Company
Sound — 9
The Stow-Away sounds like a Strat. By the sound, I'm guessing it has Alnico single coil pickups. The electronics are of high quality with no hum when the pickups are bridged, and minimal hum when they are not. The guitar has the distinctive bell tone typical of Stratocasters and has slightly better than average sustain, which is surprising considering the neck joint and the hollowed out body.
Overall Impression — 9
I've had my Stow-Away for a little over a year, and overall, this is probably the guitar I play the most. It's not just because I travel for work and play in my hotel room most nights. I play this guitar when I'm home, too. The Fender, Gibson, and Martin stay on the wall, and it's the Stow-Away plugged into the amp. I've played gigs with it, and it always sounds great. I was torn between giving it 9 or 10 stars. It's easily a 10 if you're in the under $1,000 territory, but I own and have played some exceptional guitars in my life. It's a great guitar, but it's not a '63 Les Paul, for example. Then again, I doubt I would schlep the Les Paul with me to a hotel every week just to jam in the room. As far as travel guitars are concerned, it's the best, hands down. The sound, the playability, and the ease of transport make this a home run. Add a Tascam guitar trainer and a pair of headphones, and you're rocking anywhere and everywhere you want. For even more fun, get a small FM transmitter that plugs into the headphone jack of the Tascam, and every FM radio becomes your amp. I once sat in on a blues gig in Nashville using this setup with my Stow-Away!
Reliability & Durability — 10
I travel extensively for my day job. This guitar has been across the US on weekly business trips, and has been to Europe more than a few times. It's always carried on-board the airplane in the soft-shell case provided, and the guitar has never once let me down. The Clip-Joint neck assembly is still as tight today as the day I bought the guitar. This is a travel guitar, and it was designed and built to handle the rigors of everyday travel.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
The fit and finish was very good, but not excellent. For comparison, it was better than my Mexican Strat, but not as good as my Gibson Custom Les Paul. Then again, the Stewart was better than mid-range $500 guitar, and not quite as good as a $3, 000 guitar. I purchased the Stow-Away Import. I have to assume the Stow-Away Custom, which is all US made is higher quality. The action was good from the factory. I prefer a lower action on my guitars, and once I got it set-up to my liking, it's probably one of more favorite guitars to play.
Features — 10
It's set up like a Strat with 3 single coil pickups, a 5 position selector switch, a volume knob, and 2 tone controls. It has a headless neck and the tuning mechanism inset at the base of the body. The true genius of the Stow-Away is the Clip-Joint mechanism that allows the neck to be detached from the body in only a few seconds, while still providing excellent neck to body contact. The body has a diagonal pocket in the back for storage of the neck while the guitar is in transit. Even with the detachable neck, the body holds tuning well once it is retuned after the guitar is reassembled after travel.