Price paid: $ 169
Purchased from: Guitarfetish.com
Sound — 8
I play mainly rock/blues/punk. This is a really great guitar for blues/jazz/rock(its a Stratocaster copy, so anywhere you'd use a strat, you could grab this). The single coil pickups can't really dish out chunky power chords but thats fine, its not that kinda guitar. I was pleasantly surprised at the quality of the pickups. Even though it was a budget guitar, I found these pickups to be really punchy and felt that they easily outclassed the stock pups on my Mexican Strat. There was even a hint of warmness which I don't really hear in a lot of single coil pups. The guitar sustains reasonably well(again, its a strat) as the neck pocket was very well cut. The way the guitar is routed is really strange, rather than having an HSH or SSS routing for the body, A GIANT RECTANGLE(any pickup combination could fit including HHH) was chosen. Despite this I didn't sense any lack in sustain or tone. The pickups were wound so positions 2 and 4 were noise cancelling but the other positions were more or less quiet save for the normal 60 cycle hum(The pickguard came "shielded" with what I'm pretty sure was just a few square inches of aluminum foil, does the job I guess). The selector Switch was a little "meh" in terms of noisyness(one of those budget switches, non switchcraft style). Not to say that this guitar is a one trick pony, but it can basically get any tone that a Standard SSS Strat can achieve(its versatile, but has limits) *I eventually opted for a HH config with a coil tap option*
Overall Impression — 6
So. Very soon after getting the guitar I opted to get strap buttons, locking tuners, new screws, and new tremolo bar. I really love this guitar. But stock out of the Factory...its really not something I'd be comfortable with. But for 169 its a STEAL. These guitars are REALLY GREAT FOR MODDING. Just keep all the decent components and you're more than golden. I wish I could score the guitar based on my modifications but I can't as it would be a terrible, terrible injustice. I DID swap out ALL of the stock electronics but that was a personal preference as I wanted Humbuckers with a coil split(HH w/ Custom 5 way Switch coil tap, Got everything I needed from Guitarfetish and Guitarelectronics) You really can't ask for more considering this price range and I'd recommend this guitar to ANYONE who wanted a more than decent Strat Copy. Good Neck, Good Body, Good Pups. Solid for the most part. Just don't expect it to hold together through a session with Jonny Greenwood unless you swap out alot of hardware. AND GET A DAMN SET UP(too many budget guitars aren't set up right and it saddens me). I can only give this guitar a 6 for my overall impression :'( But...after fixing it up to my own specs I'dve given it at least an 8. If it were stolen I'd surely get another one and make the thief lay on his belly and take a dump. The Bottom line is: IF YOU WANT A GREAT CHEAP Strat for >300, GRAB THIS AND MOD THE HELL OUT OF IT. Worth Well over $169 worth of bacon.
Reliability & Durability — 6
I'm not the kinda person to bring a $2000 Les Paul and start pummeling the crap out of it on stage. I'm really rough with my guitars and budget guitars are really good for being thrashed around. This is where the guitar will lose the most points, as 60% of the hardware was utter BAWLS. I couldn't believe how craptastic this hardware was...rusted pickguard screws(they were already cheap screws, but they managed to get crappier ones for the backplate), a DENTED football jackplate, Strap buttons looked like I got them out of a $.25 machine. The Soldering job was REALLY BAD(100% functional(more than decent pots), but really poor craftsmanship) the creme pickguard and white backplate were made out of this single ply material which looked like it had been cut with a pair of plastic safety scissors(very poorly cut). I BROKE THE TREMOLO BAR IN LESS THAN 15 MINS AFTER GETTING THE GUITAR. This guitar really WOULD NOT LAST in the long run considering the quality of the components I just mentioned. The reason this category doesn't get a 0-1 is because of what parts they got RIGHT. -Perfectly fine budget tuners(14:1 ratio, stayed in tune as much as any other guitar without a locking mechanism would) -Bridge (very nice and solid feel, FULL sized inertia block. Bent Steel saddles, nice chrome, came with VERY good Tremolo springs) -Neckplate(Thick, solid, came with a weird black neck plate guard thing...goes in between body and neckplate...eventually ditched it for cosmetic reasons) They basically got the MOST IMPORTANT components right. You'd really need to replace ALOT of the hardware if you wanted to gig with this on a regular basis(which is what I did, cost >100 to bring the guitar up to at least an 8)
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
Ok. This is where the guitar really SHOULDA lost points, but my scoring based on after I had the guitar set up(myself). The guitar DID NOT COME SET UP PROPERLY AT ALL. I'm not familiar with Guitarfetish's policy on set ups but the action was really, really badly thwacked when it arrvied. The strings were wound in a terribly Derpy fashion and seemed to have rusted at the factory before shipping it to me. The bridge comes set up neither flush to the body nor, floating but rather tilted toward the other end about 2 degrees (they are done this way for tuning stability reasons I think) and it works perfectly fine. The nut was cut more or less perfect. I chose a "British Racing Green Finish" and its very nice looking. Shiny and no imperfections as far as I could tell. It seems like a very THIN finish however and dings really feel like you're getting close to the wood. (I personally like thinner finishes unlike the ones on the older Mexican Strats that basically scabbed off after a few dings) The Frets were cut just fine but they didn't seem to be filed/polished right. Past the 13th fret I get some serious roughness when I bend(still very playable just kinda annoying). AFTER setting it up(restring, truss rod, bridge adjust, intonation, NO fretwork needed) it plays real great. The neck is amazing(stays nice and straight, gloss finish VERY similar to Squire Vintage Series) for a guitar in this price range. Its really an awful shame that this was the case because newer players may think that this budget guitar was unplayable when all it needed was a decent set up. This guitar gets an 8 POST SET UP(a very minor set up). I would have given it a 5 or 6 otherwise.
Features — 7
Body- Solid 3 Piece Poplar Neck- Solid Maple with Maple Fingerboard with Graphite Nut Fingerboard Radius- 12" Tremolo- Vintage USA spaced, Steel Baseplate, Full Sized Sustain Block Frets- 21 Medium Jumbo Nickel Silver Pickups- GFS Vintage Alnico Staggers- Calibrated Set Tuners- Sealed Die Cast 14:1 Scale Length- 25 1/2" Width at Nut- 1 21/32" Depth at 1st Fret- 0.75" Depth at Heel- 1.05" Came with Allen Keys to adjust bridge