Price paid: $ 69.95
Purchased from: guitarfetish.com
Sound — 9
This review is for the GFS "Premium II" Alnico II Hand-Bevelled Strat set. I ordered these directly from guitarfetish.com, who outsources production overseas (China?), and they were ordered as part of a pre-wired pickguard. Quality was very (surprisingly) good, and adding it to the guitar body was very easy! As far as sound, the official site describes them as, "a Strat set that really captures the bell-like tones, earthy sweetness and mellow rhythm sounds of a late 50's Strat." I think this description nails it on the head. Through my Jet City JCA20H, the sound is excellent for the blues-rock sound I'm looking for. When pushed through an overdrive pedal (DigiTech Bad Monkey, for example) these pickups gain just enough grit & crunch. One caveat is that the bridge pickup is just simply too bright - with any sort of volume/drive behind it, you're quickly entering icepick territory. The middle and neck pickups are some of the best I've ever heard - a wonderful combination of earthy blues and soulful wailing tones. You can make this set sing, or you can just as easily make it weep.
Overall Impression — 9
My overall impression of this pickup set is that it's hard, if not impossible, to beat the value. I've played a few other strat pickup sets, and have yet to be impressed with any like I am with these. The dollar-to-sound rato is outstanding! My only complaint is that the bridge pickup is so bright, I almost consider it to be unusable by itself. That being said, the magic sound from the middle and neck pickups more than make up for it. This pickup set went into a Squier 20th Aniversary Affinity Srat, and replaced a fat strat set consisting of a DiMarzio X2N and a pair of HOT Rails. I wanted to go more vintage, and this set met and exceeded all my expectations.
Reliability & Durability — 10
I have had this set installed for going on a year, and so far have encountered no issues. The pre-wired pickguard was of very nice quality, and has sounded great from the moment my guitar tech put it in. He later said if I knew how to solder, I could easily have done it. The pots and switch all seem to be of good quality, and I do not forsee too many problems, as long as I do my part to maintain the equipment. I likely would still want to have a backup guitar when playing out and about, but that would be more for the tonal variety that any concern about this pickup set letting me down.