STL50 review by SX

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  • Features: 9
  • Sound: 9
  • Action, Fit & Finish: 9
  • Reliability & Durability: 9
  • Overall Impression: 9
  • Reviewer's score: 9 Superb
  • Users' score: 7.8 (31 votes)

Price paid: $ 108

Purchased from: eBay new

Features — 9
Likely 2016 build; from China. Medium jumbo clean frets and nice fret ends. Maple on maple neck with light amber gloss that is smooth and not sticky. Alder body is solid. Lake Placid Blue type color is subdued and not bright. Tele style with 3 saddles; each has 2 grooved string guides. Well-chromed hardware. 3-way switch knob is not sharp, but easy to replace. Strap buttons have small white felt washers. Kluson style tuners that need a bit of lube inside the "boxes." 3 Allen wrenches for truss rod, saddles. Rated "9" because it comes set up almost perfect with Allen wrenches and all screws snug and saddles are angled well. Not much to do!

Sound — 9
The pickups are "good enough" for a China Tele. Alder body and well-fitted maple neck would do well with a better set of pickups. But the pickups are not shabby, even for a very inexpensive guitar. This is the 3rd of these Teles I have had from SX and the others were very good as well and slightly more $. I rate the sound as "9" because a well made guitar that is already set up and sounds nice deserves it. Body and neck and hardware and electronics make a difference and this guitar is strong on all those. Not the best electronics and pretty good pickups, but look again at the cost of a new guitar to your door already set up and cosmetically perfect.

Action, Fit & Finish — 9
This surprised even me (I have owned easily 200 guitar since the 1980s)... the setup and cosmetics and fitting are as good as a Classic Vibe, but the CV series is better electronics and tuners and hardware. And they cost about 3.5 or 4 times the price... I see no flaws. No control crackles or pops, quiet when plugged in and even reasonably clean under the pickguard. No need to shim the heel; just tightened the truss rod a bit for my 1/2 step low tuning preference. I rate it "9" since it is close to a perfect setup already and for $140 to my door, it is hard to believe.

Reliability & Durability — 9
It's soild; it's a well-made Tele and shipped with very nice packing and wrapping and a pretty good plain SX logo'd Cordura black gig bag. Strap buttons were tightened. Very pretty finish color and well-shot. No runs or flaws anywhere on the body or the tinted amber neck gloss. The guitar does not feel sticky, though it is clearly a gloss poly finish all over. Tuners should be lightly lubed through the small holes at the case rear face, but be prepared to replace them in a year or so. Solid and well put together gets a "9."

Overall Impression — 9
A Telecaster with the standard pickup and a 3-way switch is easy to convert to a 4-way switch and you do get a usable tone from both pickup in series (middle stock position is both pups in parallel). The 4th position is very nice for bluesy and more "muscular" tone. Rated "9" since it is scary cheap to buy, very well packed and looks and feels great for any guitar. For $140 to the door, it's almost too good to believe. It's not a Fender Mexico; it's a China Tele style with everything done well and easy to resell and get all your money back. I can adjust polepieces and do most basic tweaks (adjust nut slots, shim neck right, do intonation, etc.) and this guitar needs nearly nothing. It's very good out of the box. I like .009-.046 strings from D'Addario to get comfort, airiness, and durability like .010-.046, but easier to settle in and feel light on bends.

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    Notes for maximizing tone : added 1/10/2016. I did these things to fine tune this already pretty sharp Tele. 1) set the action to make the strings' bottom to be 1/16" over fret 12 (a quarter is 1/16" thick). 2) remove and very lightly lube the tuners (where post enters tuner body, at the small openings on the body sides, lightly wipe the shafts with oil and using a Q-tip, wipe a thin coating inside the ferrules that the shafts fit through) to remove any friction points. Use your string winder to rotate the buttons 10-20 turns each way before restringing and wipe tuners clean first. Check nut slots pressing just past fret 3 and then check fret 1 or 2 gap of strings over fret. The gap should be nearly invisible, but you can hear it 'clink' when tapped and barely seen to move. Lightly use a Q-tip to lube the nut slots and under the string trees' groove... to reduce string friction in the strings. I use string cleaner/lube on strings before installing to be sure strings last longer and do not corrode from hand chemicals. Wipe the saddle grooves with the Q-tip to allow strings to move if needed. I put on a quality .047 capacitor for the tone pot to smooth out the 'too treble' sound and keep volume about 90% open and tone just less than the place it starts getting 'trebly'. I take the 'edge' off the trebles after finding the point the 'too treble' tone starts. Strings with more nickel will have less treble and 'smoother' tone. By doing these things and adjusting the bridge pickup to tilt the middle slightly down, we reduce some of the 'too treble' ... I set both pickups 1/8" under the strings on bass and treble side of the pickup, except the middle of the bridge pickup 3/16" under string bottom. As a starting setup, this will get you most of what you want. I go clean into a Princeton Reverb Silverface with Celestion speaker : ultra-clean and reveals every unwanted tone and all the good ones. Reverb about 4; treble 8; bass 6 on the amp. YMMV.