Squier Affinity Stratocaster
Summary: For the money it's a great guitar!
Overview: The Squier Stratocaster is apart of the Affinity Series and are made in China by Fender Guitars. The Affinity series electric guitars are a low cost option to the American Made and Mexican Made standard Fenders. They are affordable guitars ideal for beginners and intermediate guitarists of all ages. I purchase this guitar for my nephew because it is the best beginner guitar. It's the best in that the features to cost ratio is rather high. This isn't a "cheap" guitar especially if you look at the overall construction of the guitar.
Pros: The bolt-through neck is solid and the guitar doesn't feel like it's made out of pine. Its body is made of Alder. The Squier Stratocaster has a slightly slimmer body than the American Made Stratocasters so it is slightly lighter than both its American and Mexican counterparts.
The neck is made of maple and has 21-frets (a rosewood neck is also available). There wasn't one buzz or dead fret, all of them played. The lacquered neck has an excellent feel and looks pretty good with the black dot inlays. You must remember that we are talking about a guitar that cost in store about $150 US dollars. It also has die-cast tuners that help to create the pretty decent action on the fingerboard. They look like the American made Fender Strat tuners. The tuners stay in tune and don't feel like toys.
It also comes with a tremolo that is very similar to the original 58' Stratocaster tremolo. You can easily remove or install the tremolo whammy bar by just screwing into its socket. I did my version of the Jimi Hendrix Star Spangled Banner (it was plugged into the practice amp) and had all sorts of fun :^)
The Squier Stratocaster comes with three single-coil pickups again just like the fender's. You can select between them using the 5-way switch. I'm thinking just getting one for myself and doing some major modifications just based upon that 5-way switch. You can choose between: Back pickup only, Back and Middle pickups mixed, Middle pickup, Middle and Front pickups mixed, and Front Pickup. The tones produced are quiet varied and useful. It really sound just like my $2000 American made Eric Clapton strat. I am quite surprised to say the least.
If you are interested in learning how to modify guitars by changing out the pickups and shaving down the neck etc... then this guitar is probably the best way to learn.
Cons: Upon playing with the intonation though I found it had a slight tuning problem that probably only I would notice. If I tuned using 5th fret and 7th fret harmonics and tuned string 2 to string 1, then string number 2 would be slightly flat if then compared to string 3. Did you follow that? It is only a very slight and not that noticeable but I wanted to point it out. The pickups are a little weak and have most of there power in the mid range. This may not be problem for most people as it's just how the guitar sounds.
Other Simiar Guitars: the Epiphone Les Paul Special
The Squier Stratocaster is low cost alternative to the American made fender strats. It comes with almost everything the American strats do. The 3 single coil pickups are Alnico which produce the Strat sound while the fender tremolo response the same way as the American version. The neck has 22-frets and comes with either a rosewood (shown) or maple fretboard. Also included is the die-cast tuners and solid Agathis body with 3-ply pickguard.
It has a standard style tremolo. It's decent but not as good as the standard strat. It is a floating fulcrum style that uses six screws for pivoting (the fulcrum). The one I played did go out of tune a little when the whammy bar was pushed down to its fullest, but that's to be expected. You don't have to use the tremolo as you can either screw it into the tremolo or leave out. When playing the tremolo it's meant more as an effect rather than to be put to its maximum. You can install the tremolo arm by screwing it into the hole near the 1st string (bottom, thinnest string). The thing I noticed is the spring in the hole that keeps the tension on the arm at a constant. It can fall out so fender recommends that you place a piece of tape over it.