Price paid: ¥ 34
Purchased from: IKEBE Music Store
Features — 10
Let's start with a bit of a story: when I came to Japan in 2012, I had to let my Tom Anderson in France, and I was broke. But I needed a guitar, so I went to the Ochanomizu neighborhood to get some used guitar. I knew the Pacifica series was reliable, but I never had one (I have owned 1 Ibanez Sabre and the first John Petrucci model, a Carvin, a Vigier and a Tom Anderson). I bought a Pacifica 112V for less than ¥30, 000 (that's $250 for you Americans).
The pots were loose, especially the volume one, which annoyed me to no end, and after 3 years of using that guitar, I ended up buying a PRS SE Marty Friedman. What I usually do is sell my old guitar to buy a new one, but this time I didn't sell the Pacifica, for 2 reasons:
1) It's always convenient to have 1 guitar for standard tuning and another one for 1/2 down tuning.
2) I WAS IN LOVE WITH THE NECK of the Pacifica, so I wasn't resolved to sell it. Yet.
Of course, having the PRS means that I felt the difference in quality every time I was playing the Pacifica, so after some time I was like "Hey, am I dumb or what? Maybe they have a superior model of Pacifica that wouldn't be so expensive, so I would have a great neck on a great guitar!" So I did some research on the net and there I was: buying a brand new black Pacifica 212VQM (that stands for Quilted Maple Version), and selling the old 112V.
Specs: Alder body, HSS with splittable humbucker via the tone selector (push-pull), 5-way pickup selector, rosewood fretboard on a maple neck, quilted maple top, body+head. Gorgeous. I noticed that the tone pot is loose, but the seller told me that it was meant to be that way, because of the push-pull system. The volume pot is fine, though, and to be honest: I have absolutely NO problem with the tone pot. I'm just a bit too cautious with those things, I guess.
Sound — 10
I can't really comment on the original humbucker sound, because before buying the guitar I saw this video and immediately decided that I would change the humbucker for a SH-12 Screamin' Demon. A soon as I bought the guitar, I gave it to the ESP Custom Shop (we have a lot of those in Tokyo) to change the humbucker and tune it 1/2 tone down. FYI, it's NOT the same as having the guitar in standard tuning and just tune it down when you want to. Living in Japan, I don't have the luxury to own a real amp (because neighbours and shabby sound isolation), so I'm playing with Ampkit on a Macbook pro. And earphones. I know I may sound like I'm loaded, but I'm not. I just make wise choices when it comes to music investments.
The guitar fulfills all my needs, sound-wise. The SH-12 sounds great when splitted, too. I almost never use the single coils, but I know they sound good with clean sound, not too "ear-piercing" bright when playing funky rhythms, for instance, which usually happens a lot with the middle single coil on other guitars. In short: the guitar sounds great. I rate it 10, but keep in mind I changed the humbucker.
Action, Fit & Finish — 10
Guitars sold in Japan usually have a great action, because everything is taken care of by the shop you buy them at. I even own a Yamaha Bass that I bought on Amazon.co.jp because it was the only way to get that discontinued model, and the action was perfect. As I said, I immediately gave my guitar to the ESP Custom Shop, and asked them to tune it a half-tone down AND put .10-.46 strings, which is something I do with all my guitars (more on this when I'll write the PRS SE Marty Friedman review). The guitar was flawless, plays great and the neck is just one of the best I've ever played on. Whether you want to shred or play chords, it's just perfect. Especially with chords: it's thin enough so you can wrap your thumb around the neck, and wide enough so your fingers won't get clustered. As stated earlier: I bought that guitar FOR THE NECK. Finish-wise, it's beautiful, but to be honest, that's something I don't really care about, given the conditions I'm playing in (mainly at home). The guitar feeling great is much more important to my motivation than it looking gorgeous. I'm just thankful that the shop had the black version, because having seen the red and natural versions in a shop, the black one is the most beautiful of the three. To me, at least.
Reliability & Durability — 10
As I said, I don't play live, but the guitar is DEFINITELY reliable. I've owned 3 Ibanez (2 in France and one 7-strings here) and I ALWAYS had problems with Ibanez hardware (tremolo, gears, etc.). The Pacifica stays in tune, has a great hardware (that I don't need to mess with, because, well, it's stays in tune). One of the things I should mention, though, is that thanks to my playing on guitars with trems for years, I just HATE tremolos and always have my guitars set up so the tremolo can't be used (I don't buy guitars with floating trems and have the normal trems stuck to the body). The selector didn't get loose with time, but I'm not using it like Malmsteen/Steve Morse (i.e. : switching the pickups every 3 notes) either.
Overall Impression — 10
I play in many styles, from jazz rhythms and pop songs to rock and every kind of metal (Malmsteen, Morse, Megadeth, Satriani covers, etc.) and the Pacifica can be used for all of them. I have been playing that guitar for 6 months now, everyday, for hours. I have recorded songs with it and I just couldn't ask more from a guitar. Remember I paid it only $284 (OK, you have to add the price of the SH-12 and the set up). If it was stolen, I would definitely buy it again, as the neck is fabulous.
If you want the best bang for your bucks, the Pacifica series is probably where it's at. You could even buy it as a beginner guitar and keep it all your life, but I usually don't recommend great guitars for beginners, because I think starting with a not-so-great guitar (as long as it doesn't hinder your paying) is the best way to learn what's good and what's wrong in a guitar, hardware-wise, so you won't be blinded by brands. Having a long experience in playing the guitar (more than 20 years now), I know what a good guitar feels like, and the Pacifica is exactly that.