- The finish is way better than I expected. Nice grain, very smooth gloss, and in person I no longer have sunburst envy. It's actually a pretty attractive guitar. No visible flaws thus far on the body.
- I can't tell if the neck is unfinished, or lightly matte finished. I'll probably rip it apart in the near future and check out the neck pocket to be sure. Either way, the profile is nice - a little on the thick side compared to my UV, but very comfortable. One tiny indentation on the bass side of the neck up near the neck pocket, but it's small and pretty much impossible to reach while playing, so no biggie.
- The fretwork isn't spectacular, but is totally acceptable. Frets feel about medium height, jumbo width; not really a "true" jumbo, IMO. Fret edges are smooth, and don't hang over the board. They seem to have been trimmed ever-so-slightly smaller than the widthe of the board, and then the gaps filled with filler - one or two of them are flawlessly done, while the remainder are merely nice.
- The pickups have to go. The neck is fine on the bass strings, but a bit muddy and lacking presence on the treble, strangely. The bridge is ok, but doesn't have as much of that Tele-style spank as could be ideal. The middle, meanwhile, is so good that if the neck and bridge were this good I'd be leaving it. They're pretty quiet, and don't hum that badly even on Recto-levels of gain, which is nice, but they definitely prefer grittier clean settings (like I said, they don't have quite as much attack as I'd like). That said, I can see this guitar having a lot of potential for overdubs against a humbucker-equipped 7 for a bit more snap, particularly that middle position.
That said, there's one big issue I'm having that's keeping me from giving this an unequivical thumbs up review - the high E string keeps choking on bends. At first I thought it was my imagination, but after bypassing my delay it was clear that notes on the high E pretty much across the board (but definitely worse on the top half) were muting as soon as I bent. Considering this was bought as a "blues" guitar and as I count both Jimi and Albert King as major influences, and either man could take a chorus playing exclusively bent notes on the high E, this is a major problem.
At first I figured it was just because my calluses were a little weak from the shower, but while it was a slight but managable issue on the B, it was fine everwhere else, so I discounted that pretty quickly. Then I started looking at the bridge. I'll post pictures tonight, but here's what I think is happening - the strings are on individual saddles anchored from behind with a long screw. There is no "channel" for the allen height screws to hold them in place, so they're basically anchored front-to-back by the screw, and side-to-side by string tension. The high E, and to a lesser extent the high B, is getting pushed slightly to the treble side because there is greater tension from the low B, E, A, et al than there is on the high E and B, and is pretty much running right up against the inner side of the V slot through which the string runs. As you bend a note, then, you push the string downwards towards the bass side, the closer to the top of the neck, the closer to the side of the V. I suspect what's happening is that the string is simply coming too much in contact with that V, and it's dampening vibration.
I'm not sure what my options are here. First, I want to try a heavier set of strings (the stock aren't bad, and I'm wondering if they might be 10's, but it's worth a shot anyway), but I don't know if it'll make a difference. Likewise, I'm wondering if you string it up starting with the high E and working down it'll help force the saddles to center. Barring that, I'm wondering if I could jerry-rig the bridge to work with more traditional 2-string saddles, at least for the E/B pair, which would also help force the alignment to be a bit better, at the cost of some intonation flexibility. Finally, replacing the bridge itself is an option, as Scott_of_actual_time seems to have had no issues with his.
However, I don't necessarily want to do anything irreversable to this just yet, as if I can't sort this out (and again, I don't know how big an issue this even is yet- it's possible simply stringing it from high to low is going to be enough to fix this), then I'd want to at least be able to return it.
Anyway, so far I'm by-and-large impressed/optimistic, though it's going to require some tweaking. At the very least, the guitar's a blast to play, and looks great.
I've got a busy day ahead of me, but more commentary (plus pics!) tonight.