This is unboxing, building, and review of a cheap chinese DIY stratocaster kit you can get on eBay for about $56 (at the time of this post).
I ordered this kit on eBay, and despite being made in china, shipped from a US warehouse in La Puenta, CA, so I received in 3 days.
This is Extremely rough CNC machine work. Not cleanly cut and shaped, and the basswood lacks nice wood grain. However, the maple neck is beautifully figured, nice and straight, and features with jumbo frets.
The Neck fit the body much better than expected, though it still had a tiny amount of slop in it. Both the neck and body had some glue spots that will need to be scraped or sanded before a finish is ap
The Hardware is nothing special, but gets the job done. The kind of stuff you would find on
low budget guitars, like today’s Squires and Epiphones. The strings are completely trash, definitely the worst part of the kit. The electronics are pre-wired for easy installation, but used 500k pots (incorrect for single coil pickups). Typically you’d want 250k pots for single coil pickups.
Putting this thing together only took about two hours total, but there weren’t any instructions, nor were there any pilot holes drilled. So putting it together required some “guess and check” to make sure I was using the correct screws and mounting things in the correct places. Soldering was only required in two places, the green ground wire to the bridge spring claw, and the white/hot and black/ground wires to the output jack. In both cases it was a breeze, if you any soldering ability whatsoever this won’t be a problem.
Once everything is put together you need to do a “setup” on the guitar. *If you don’t do an initial setup this guitar will NOT be playable as built. This means tweaking the truss rod to set the initial action/relief, then adjusting the bridge saddles for proper string height and radius. Even with these adjustments, the guitar still doesn’t play super awesome, it has some buzzing frets, uneven string heights, and out of tune notes, all do to the fact that the frets have not been leveled and crowned. A true setup of this guitar should fix those issues, and I’ll show you how in the next post.
But first let’s take it for a test drive, and compare it to an American made Fender stratocaster just for kicks. Watch this video to see it in action:
As you can see, the tone of this guitar doesn’t even compare to the USA factory strat. I contribute it to three things:
1. these strings are absolutely awful. Seriously, I wouldn’t even use these to cut cheese (fart joke).
2. The electronics are poor quality, and the pots are the wrong value, this will definitely effect tone.
3. The body is made of basswood instead of alder or ash, like a typical American strat. Basswood isn’t bad per se, just different, being a softer wood it actually has a more even frequency response. While alder and ash are increasingly denser woods, respectively, they tend favor higher frequencies, and are considered “brighter” and “snappier” respectively. One isn’t necessarily better than the other, just different. basswood gets a bad rap just because it’s cheaper and lacks good figured wood grain, but if you do your research, you’ll find there are lots of high end guitars made of basswood that sound awesome. There is some debate about whether or not wood affects tone in an electric instrument. In my experience, I feel like I can hear the difference, but your mileage may vary.
Now comparing playability:
This cheapo kit still doesn’t measure up to the Usa strat. It just feels, well, cheap. The string action is high, and still has buzzing frets. The strings feel more like rubber bands than nickel plated steel, and overall it just feels really rough in the hands.
But that’s simply because it hasn’t had a true setup, seen a good set of strings, or had a finish put on it yet. I honestly think that with a little more elbow grease this thing could feel like a high end guitar, and with some hardware and electronics upgrades, sound like one too.
Things that are good:
Cheap price of $56
Neck was beautiful and straight.
Thinks that suck:
Low end hardware
Glue spots on the wood
Rough shape in general
Strings are unusable
And Just slapping this thing together won’t really get you a playable guitar, you’ll need some upgrades and a good setup.
But for the price you pay, this kit is actually a great value. It’s fun to build, and depending on how much work you want to put into it, (and how good you are with tools) you could probably get a good playing guitar out of it eventually.
And if you screw it up, just hang it on your wall and call it art! Seriously, for $56 it’s almost worth it just to hang on a wall.
Be sure to subscribe to my blog so you can follow this build, because in the next post I’ll show you what it takes to make a high end guitar out of one of these cheapo kits.
Full review video: