Price paid: $ 104
Purchased from: Reverb seller barely used...
Features — 9
Rated a '9' for sheer value and it's also a pretty sharp HSS type Strat for insane low price w. Cordura lightly padded customized bag. I ran across these and they are always cheap to buy. Not sure the target buyer, but in a 'kit', I assume a beginner player who wants a decent guitar for small $$. Wow... Did I GET Surprised! I bought the guitar/bag at an auction online and took a chance. The little I found was that the 2 single coils at M and N were OK. And they are. I set the tremolo to barely float parallel over the top with 2 springs. Volume and Tone alone is enough. 5-way switch. This one had no trem bar, but that's easy and cheap to get if you want it. Neck is 2 pieces of maple with a satin finish of poly and the strong headstock/neck joint that works fine. Indonesia build, naturally...
Sound — 9
Rated '9' after I replaced the bridge humbucker with a decent one from GFS or similar. It's just an adequate one... Not a Pearly Gates or pretty good Schecter or Dimarzio HB. But the guitar needs a stronger and more 'raw' humbucker. For a guy really serious... Get a good HB with 12 adjustable polepieces (Vantage and Fernandes had that in some pickups). All 12 Allen screw polepieces in a bridge humbucker means you can adjust every string exactly to the others for balance and really dial in the sound. Get a 4-wire one to allow coil split in a puch/pull tone pot... Cheap to buy and install (best left to a setup guy for most players). Why... for a cheap guitar? Answer: because it is a good guitar. It's basic, but stable. Good flat fretboard and nice frets, decent tuners that are good enough, and the guitar has that snap and pop as well as the 'woody' Strat sound in positions 2 and 4. This is NOT a cheap and mediocre guitar. It is very inexpensive and is nearly the equal of a pretty good Schecter and plays rock and roll really well, and same for country.
Action, Fit & Finish — 9
'9' may be a stretch, but it is stable and easy to keep in tune and intonated. That has value. The finish and neck pocket fit and feel of the fret ends and board are all fine. Not glamorous and the board edges are NOT rounded over. But it's a BUDGET priced guitar that is all out of proportion in feel and tone to its crazy low price to buy.
I like a Stratty or Telly feel and sound that is crisp, precise, twangy, 'woody/hollow' and that can be made to do those pinch harmonics easily into a clean amp ('74 Princeton Reverb with Celestion good speaker). If a guitar sounds clear and complex into an ultra-clean Fender amp... It's a decent guitar.
Reliability & Durability — 9
'9' rating since I see nothing to concern me. The tuners could be swapped out (3X3) for better ones when needed or preferred and the bridge HB should get a better replacement. But the guitar itself is not a shabby cheapie that is kid's junk. No... It is a pretty damn good electric guitar for country, old rock and roll, surf (with a pedal effect), and other light music (not metal, classical, jazz).
This design is simple, sturdy, feels right, is not heavy, is flat fretboard and OK fret feel. The stock pickups are good enough, except the bridge HB is marginal. But get a pretty decent used one... Preferably a Fernandes, Vantage, or DiMarzio all are a safe and affordable quality choice. You can have a guitar for well under $200 that people will turn their heads to hear and wonder about. It's a little bit scary as an electric. Maybe get real pots and a better tone cap. Leave it to a real pro setup guy. I'm lucky to live in Lindy Fralin's town and his pals are my pals and they work on guitars for a living! Richmond, VA is known to pros as a 'guitar town', so it's nice!
Overall Impression — 9
Easy.... '9' because it is such a STEAL to buy (just lowball the seller and act like you know nothing about it and are taking a chance). For VALUE ($ to guitar) it is one of the few best I ever ran across. It's not a guitar for a touring pro or regular band player if he is pretty good. But I can entertain most any audience and this guitar is versatile enough for darn near any songs with a couple of pedals and a nice amp. Princeton Reverb dolled-up is about good enough for most smaller venues. Mine I cannot tolerate over '4' volume in the house or locally at an open mic and guys who heard it love it.