I just purchased this guitar this last week and overall, this is an outstanding value in a Strat! I looked at -many- other Strats at the time (over a dozen in fact) as I was considering options for new pups for my MIM Strat and I have to honestly say that even if I had of had $1500 to buy a high end American Standard, I would have chosen this guitar...yes...it's THAT good! I wasn't even looking to purchase a new guitar...I was really only looking at pickups, but this beauty fell under the classification of "had to have" and for the price, I just couldn't pass it up! The sound is fantastic, the finish is -INCREDIBLE- and the feel is simply wonderful! I would easily buy another of this model if it were lost or stolen (assuming it were still available).
Now one thing I would like to add quickly here is that I'm no newbie to guitars or Strats. I've been playing for well over 20 years now and with this new Squire Strat my official count is up to 19 guitars (3 others of which are Strats/copies). I will admit that I do have rather unique tastes when it comes to guitars and their sound, but I do certainly know a decent instrument when I see (or play) one!
Also, while I realize this is a bit subjective, I have always believed that there is something
about a great guitar that screams "PLAY ME!" from across a room. It's a bit like dating really...for a guy in a room crowded with women, there's always one or two that really catch your eye. You go over to meet them and then
you find out if the chemistry is actually there. The same is true of guitars and specifically with this guitar. In a crowded show room floor with literally dozens of Strats and easily over 100 other guitars on display, there was something about this guitar that just called to me. Now as with women (or women looking for guys for that matter), sometimes after you meet them you find out their either too intellectual, too ditzy, too shallow, etc., and you know it just wasn't meant to be. In this case however, this guitar played and sounded just as good as it looked! All of the right elements were there for a solid and lasting relationship :-D.
Now a couple of things folks should know here. Again I bought this at Guitar Center and it seems that GC no longer does setups on their guitars when they bring them in. They come out of the box and go right to the show room floor (at least here at their Cleveland store). I played two virtually identical models of this same instrument and there was a small but noticeable difference in "feel" that I would easily attribute to the setup (or lack there of). Please don't let this throw you...the quality of an instrument should never be judged by how well or how poorly the retailer sets up the instrument! Even if the instrument has a fantastic setup from the factory, things can happen during shipping that can and often will toss the setup off. However it is also worth noting that if this is how well this Strat played without a dealer setup, to me that's a good sign of how well it holds the setup to begin with!
There is one other very small little nit... Ok...I know this is a dumb little thing but the pickguard, knobs and pup covers aren't actually "white". They do in fact have a very slight green tint to them, reminiscent of "glow in the dark" plastic. It is a -very- slight tint...hardly noticeable unless you compare it with plastic that is actually white. I'm sure this wouldn't bother most folks out there, it certainly doesn't affect the sound, playability or the overall fantastic finish of this instrument and of course being a Strat it's quite easy to change (which I'll probably do with my first string change), but I did find it a tad bit unnerving as I really thought there was something wrong with my eyes! I had noticed it in the store, but thought that maybe it had something to do with the florescent lighting or something. Once I got it home and compared it to an actual white pickguard, it was clear that there was a tint to it. Why Fender/Squire chose to add a very slight green tint to a cherry burst finished instrument...I don't get it.
Beyond that, I have to honestly say that this is an incredible guitar even at 3 times the price! I can easily and whole-heartedly recommend this instrument to anyone from a mere beginner to even an advanced pro looking for that classic Strat sound. I am really blown away by the fact this this instrument is a "$200 Chinese Squire"...simply unbelievable! If you are considering an MIM standard or even an American Standard, you should really take a look at these instruments as well...you could very well save yourself several hundreds of dollars!
This is one of the "Crafted in China" models made from Alder/Agathis. It's a 22 fret rosewood fretboard with all the standard stuff you'd expect on a strat...3 single coils, 5 way switching, etc. This particular model has a "Cherry Burst" finish, not unlike what you'd see on many LP's. The amazing thing about this instrument is that all of the hardware is top notch, comparable to that of an American Standard. In fact, the 2 point trem looks identical to those found on the American Standards!
This instrument is exactly what most folks have come to expect from a "Standard" Strat. It has the "C" shaped neck that many people prefer and it really plays smooth as silk...quite impressive from such an "inexpensive" guitar! As far as playability goes, it is very much on par with even an American Standard. Very smooth, good fit and finish, nice fretwork, very nice and stable trem action, etc.. The tuning is a little sensitive due I'm sure to the "floating trem" but once she's tuned, she stays put very well even with fairly heavy trem use. Anything beyond that I would simply attribute to being a "brand new guitar" taken from a nice air conditioned show room to the poorly regulated environment of my basement studio! More than enough to shake even the most expensive axe! LOL!!!
I'm playing this thru a Lab L5 and my Peavey Backstage practice amp as well as the Fender Deluxe that I played it thru in the show room and so far the sound is -very- good for such an inexpensive instrument! According to the label it has "upgraded alnico pickups" and I would easily put the sound on par with a more vintage sounding Strat. It really has that bright classic Strat tone that is so ideal for everything from classic rock to blues to country. It does have the typical single coil "hum" that one would expect, but considering the tone this instrument produces, it's well worth this minor annoyance. The sustain is also about what you'd expect from a "stock Strat". If you're expecting this instrument to sound like an LP or a PRS then you will be disappointed...it is after all, a Strat. However that said, again this is an exceptional instrument for the price and the sustain is on par with or better
than you will find in an MIM or other similar models.