Squier Cyclone Review

I have had my new Squier Cyclone for over a week, so it is time for a full review. A word of warning, my reviews tend to be long and detailed. Some people like that, some people don’t. I hope you do.

As a reminder, the Squier Cyclone is currently sold exclusively by Musician’s Friend and their line of stores. The normal price is $199.99. They put a couple of colors on sale for $155.99, and then gave me an extra 5% discount, bringing the price to $148.19.

Squier Cyclone

Black Squier Cyclone from Musician’s Friend

I’m going to go over the whole instrument, starting with the…

Body. The body is made of alder, and my guitar is black. It feels solid, and has a nice weight. I wouldn’t call it light, but I wouldn’t call it heavy, either. The body is nice, but with reservations. There are a couple of small spots on the edge of the guitar that are not sanded very well. If you run your hand over them, you can feel ripples on the surface. The bigger question mark, though, is the finish.

All signs point to my guitar having been painted several times before they got it right. A chip from the inside of the guitar reveals that the black layer is covering a white layer, which is covering a green/blue layer, which is covering the wood. It might be wood filler, but I am becoming convinced that it is not. The same layering is present in the screw holes. Part of the body under the pickguard has some white paint showing through. A little nick I accidentally made under the tremolo cover has layering under it. When I shine a super bright white light at the guitar, it appears deep green.

I think the guitar was probably made originally for a different market, probably Canada. I have read that they have other colors available, like fiesta red, daphne blue, surf green, and a white variety. I think mine needed three coats to get it right. I can’t imagine that they use two different colors of primer for a $150 guitar. I also read that since the ’50s, Fender’s standard operating procedure has been to repaint guitars that were not up to spec.

Because of the odd paint job, the paint around the neck pocket is a mess. It is almost like there is an edge where multiple layers of paint that ended up in the neck pocket were cut or sanded. I plan on cleaning it up.

Hardware. The hardware is pretty nice. In fact, the tuners are nearly identical to those on my 2011 MIM Stratocaster. The only difference that I can see are slight changes to the shape of the button, and no Fender logo on the back. They feel just as good as my MIM’s tuners, and hold tune pretty well. The bridge is also really nice, with Fender-stamped saddles. The tremolo block leaves a a lot to be desired– it is cheap potted metal, and any metal that could be removed, was. The springs are ridiculously tight, so tight that I could barely use the tremolo bar until after I set up the guitar. The knobs were junk, and I replaced them right away. The pickguard is a nice two-layer black/pearloid with a soft, round edge. Pretty slick. The screws all seem pretty good except the neck screws, which seem thin and needed to be significantly tightened to stabilize the neck. One of the screws that holds the control plate was stripped, but a toothpick in the hole fixed it. The string tree is cheap, and needed sanding to prevent binding during bends and tremolo use. The strap buttons are adequate.

Electronics. The electronics in the guitar are okay. The switch is generic, as is the jack and all of the pots. At this price point, that I expected. I’ll upgrade all of them. The pickups are… interesting. The neck pickup is nice. Staggered poles, which I hate. It is a pretty mellow pickup with a medium output, and can get some nice Strat-like tones. The bridge humbucker in my guitar was extremely microphonic. I don’t know why I keep getting these guitars with microphonic pickups. … hmm. I potted the pickup in wax– a first for me– and ended up partially melting the plastic bobbins. Nice. The pickup still works, and the tone didn’t seem to have change. I have a no-hole metal cover on the way, and it should class up the guitar a bit.  The pickup itself is grainy and gritty. It will take some time to get used to it, I think.

Now, maybe it is because this is my first guitar with a single coil and a humbucker, or maybe it is the pickups themselves, but I really do not like that configuration. Switching from the neck pickup to the bridge pickup is like hitting a booster. Switching back leaves me wishing the volume knob went to eleven so I could even things out. I plan on doing some height adjustments to even out the levels once the pickup cover arrives. I am also considering changing the wiring to the Fender Cyclone variety, which looks like it would sound different.

Neck. The neck is pretty nice. It is Gibson scale, which is 3/4-inch shorter than a typical Strat. I read that a lot of people had sharp frets. On my guitar, only the very high frets were sharp– the frets where the neck overlaps the body. I will probably try to smooth them a bit. I applied lemon oil to the fretboard to clean and condition it, and it feels and looks great. There is a tiny ding on the edge of the headstock, but it is not a big deal. The nut was good for the strings that were on the guitar, but not for the D’Addario XL-115 strings that I use. I suppose I can comment on the strings in this section. I know that almost everyone quickly replaces their strings, but the strings on this guitar required immediate changing. They were so bad that even under tension, I could see bends and kindks in the G string.

Setup. The setup was not very good. The relief was good and there was no buzzing. The strings were all way higher than the should have been, though. There was minimal buzzing after I lowered the strings to the right height, and all the buzzing disappeared when the thicker replacement strings added a bit more relief to the neck. The intonation was not well set, and needed adjustment. And as I said earlier, the overly-stiff springs made it nearly impossible to use the whammy bar. Even with thicker strings, I still had to remove a spring. And, the bridge plate was flush against the body of the guitar, which I hate. It is all fixed now, though.

Summary.Overall, pretty nice for the price. All of the setup issues were expected. I wish the pickup hadn’t been microphonic, and I wish there weren’t issues with the paint. I am almost tempted to do a slight relic on the guitar to reveal some of the underpainting, but I hate relic guitars.

If you have any questions, please ask. Thanks for reading!

New Guitar Day – Squier Cyclone

My new Squier Cyclone arrived yesterday. I played the crap out of it last night, and have many observations I will share. Unfortunately, it will have to way for a while– it is the 4th of July, and we have company in town.

In the mean time, here are some photos I took:


The first thing you may notice is that I replaced the knobs. The knobs that came on the guitar were Jazz Bass style, and were really cheap. I have some really nice Eagle knobs in my stash that I really like on this guitar.

The other thing you may notice that the neck pocket has a little issue. The two paint chip photos show what is really going on. It looks like the guitar was originally painted surf green, and then over-painted with a shade of white– maybe primer– and then painted over with black. Hah! Under a strong white light, you can see the green paint come through the black.

I’ll post a full review in the next couple of days. Thanks for reading!

New Guitar Day, On The Way

Well, my addiction continues.

You are probably not aware, but last year, in 2011, I purchased three guitars: Agile AL-2000 in honey sunburst flame, SX Furrian in vintage white, and a used Fender Standard Jazz Bass in 3-tone sunburst.

Earlier this year, I blew my entire hobby budget for 2012 on a MIM Fender Standard Stratocaster in arctic white. I agreed that I would not purchase any more guitars during 2012.

Well, I made a liar out of me.

I just ordered a Squier Cyclone. I really wanted the Lake Placid blue, but it is on perpetual extended backorder. Candy apple red is really not my thing, and the idea of 3-tone sunburst at this price point scares me. I went with the ever-popular black… hah!

Squier Cyclone - Black

The Cyclone is a Musician’s Friend exclusive, but they still gave me a great price. These normally sell for $199.99. The best price I’ve ever seen was on Black Friday– $153. They put the sunburst and black ones on sale for $155.99. I called to see if I could backorder a Lake Placid blue one at that price, but they wouldn’t do it.

They ended up offering me another 5% off, bringing it to below the Black Friday price, 7 months ago. For $148.19 delivered, I couldn’t pass it up.

Believe it or not, I own something like 11 stringed instruments, and none of them are black. Lake Placid blue would have been nice, but I’m not sure I would like it. My 93 American Standard Strat is “Caribbean mist”– a metallic green teal. I’ve had it for almost 20 years, and I’m still not sure if I like it.

I am looking forward to having a black guitar, and I will post a review after it arrives. Thanks for reading!