Well, I did it again. I bought another guitar.
For those of you keeping score at home, 2011 has been the year of the guitar for me. I have purchased a Fender Standard Jazz Bass, an Agile AL-2000, and Jaime got a Squier Vintage Modified Jaguar Short Scale Bass.
The newest addition is a vintage white SX Furrian from Rondomusic.com. Rondo originally was selling these guitars for $109.99. Then they dropped them to $99.99. I finally bought one when they lowered the price to $79.99. It fills three gaps in my collection: 1. It is white. 2. It has a maple neck. 3. It is a Tele-style guitar.
Here is my review.
Body. The body is nicely done, with smooth cuts. There are no major dings, but the back does have an area where it appears that the sanding was overly aggressive. The color is nice, but the paint job is not so nice. If you look into glare on the guitar, you can see a series of lines in the finish that run parallel with the grain of wood. The clear coat seems soft or thin, and is easily scratched. This guitar should age quickly, which is fine by me. The neck pocket has a hairline crack in the paint (same as my American Standard Strat), and there also was a paint buildup sticking out near the neck that I had to remove and smooth. The biggest issue that still isn’t a big issue is that there are several random black dots embedded in the finish, one right on the upper bout, the rest on the back or sides. They’re small enough that you can’t see them from about 5 feet away. If this was an expensive guitar, it would be completely unacceptable. But for $80, meh.
Hardware. The body hardware is a mixed bag. The pickguard is dual layer black-and-white and has a softer matte finish than most budget instruments, which is a nice touch. It had the rippled edges that you would expect on a budget instrument, and that was easily fixed with some sandpaper. The screws are straight, but cheap. The bridge and string saddles are of adequate quality. One of the screws for the bridge plate is installed at an angle, but secure. The six holes that hold the six screws that attach the string saddles to the bridge plate seem rough and slightly undersized. There is a bit of a gap between the head of the screw and the bridge plate. Some cleanup with a Dremel should fix this. The control plate is adequate. The knobs are surprisingly nice. The switch tip looked like they popped it off a mold for a model airplane, and required some shaving. The jack mount is of the football variety, and seems to be similar to every other football jack I’ve seen. The neck plate is thin, and the neck screws are cheap. The strap buttons are cheap.
Electronics. The electronics are just ok. The switch feels cheap, the pots are cheap, and the pickups leave much to be desired. The bridge pickup in my guitar was ridiculously microphonic. When removed from the guitar and hooked directly up to an amp, you could speak into the pickup and hear your voice. When it was in the guitar, you could hear the strap moving as you played. Kurt sent me out a new pickup that solved the problem. Still, the pickups are cheap ceramics with plastic bobbins, and will be replaced. The jack is of the cheap variety, but adequate. The soldering was done fairly well, with only a couple of cold joints that looked like they could use a reflow. I did shield the guitar because single coils do not play well with my noisy house power.
Neck. Overall, the neck is pretty nice. It comes covered with odd this orange tint that I quickly removed with paint stripper, revealing the maple below. Unfortunately, it also revealed a few areas where the neck was sanded after the sealer was applied, and so now I am left with bare wood in spots. My plan is to do a full refinish with Formby’s Tung Oil.
Frets. The fretwork is pretty good. There are a couple of frets that are a tad bit higher than the rest. It doesn’t make the instrument unplayable, and it seems like a perfect guitar for learning how to do fretwork.
Nut. The nut is actually of better quality than I expected, and was well cut but sloppy. I did a bit of cleanup while I had it out while stripping the neck, and I do not plan on changing it
Tuners. The tuners are junk. They move up and down as you turn them, and they seem to have dead spots. They are stable once set, but they need to be replaced to increase tuning accuracy. The string tees are also not very good. They had sharp edges and were causing the strings to bind when tuning or bending. Some sandpaper smoothed them out, and the result was greatly improved tuning stability.
Setup. The setup was mixed. The neck relief was set correctly, but not for the light strings that were on the guitar. My thicker strings pulled it to within 0.001″ of where I like it to be. The pickup height seemed random. The biggest setup issue, though, was the action. The low E string was at 9/64″, where it should be 4/64″. All the strings were between 4/64″ and 6/64″ too high. The E strings had the string saddles installed at severe angles, leaning in towards the other strings. It was very odd, and I can’t imagine that anyone could think it was correct. The intonation was dead on for most stings, with minor adjustments needed on two strings. This will all need to be changed, though, after I clean up where the string saddle screws set against the bridge plate.
Overall. This is a decent little guitar. It is more than I expected for the money. I would not recommend it to a beginner. The little issues here and there could be enough to prevent a beginner from sticking with it. I also wouldn’t recommend it to someone who is uncomfortable working on their own guitar. It doesn’t make sense to pay someone to fix any issues you find on an $80 guitar. If you can’t do the work, don’t get the guitar.
BUT… if you are comfortable doing some work, and appropriately adjust your expectations before buying, you will be extremely satisfied. If you look past the fit and finish issues, and the low quality hardware and pickups, you will see that you are getting a very nice body and a very nice neck for very little money.
This guitar seems like a great platform for improvement and customization. I plan on replacing the strap buttons, the tuners, and the string tees as soon as possible, and eventually the pickups. I’m going to use it to learn how to refinish necks, and to learn how to do fretwork. It is such an inexpensive instrument that it doesn’t bother me if it picks up some scratches. I would buy another one in an instant.
If there are any areas I missed, let me know!
That is all.