Wednesday, July 28, 2010

SX Hawk

So... I got a Strat. I don't think you heard me. I GOT A STRAT! While I haven't been playing guitar for very long (and to be perfectly honest, I'm not that great of a player), I have ALWAYS wanted a strat. Sorry for yelling at you so much in this post. I'm just excited. The problem is... I haven't been in a position where I could afford a Stratocaster. I mean lets do the math.

An honest to god MIM Fender Standard Stratocaster
$500 (plus tax)An honest to god Fender American Special Stratocaster
$800 (plus tax)
An honest to god Fender American Standard Stratocaster
$1000 (plus tax)All the way to Artist series and custom Fender Stratocasters being well over the $2000 mark.

Well, I don't like any of those numbers and neither does my wallet (I just felt it shiver a little bit because it could sense that zero key being tapped a few too many times). So once you purchase this small piece of American music history you have to get it setup, get an amp (or 2) that it sounds great through, some great pedals that define "your sound", and potentially some after market pieces like new pups, tuners, strap pegs, pots, switches, and caps. Now that $500+ guitar has turned into a $1000+ investment. Worse yet, you now want a killer Tele because you want a different "color" and you need to start this process over again. If you're smart (and can swing it) you save up and buy the Tele, but odds are you sell your "old" Strat so that you can afford the Tele, so you can fix it up, so you can figure out that you really miss that super Strat that you had that one time. Silly. Right? I didn't want to be THAT guy, so I went hunting for a great deal and what I found was SX.

Am I saying that an SX Hawk is of the same quality as a Fender American Standard? Hell no! What I'm saying is that the SX Hawk delivers where I wanted and takes a back seat where I expected. First of all, I should probably mention that this is a $100 guitar. That is not a typo. This is a $100 guitar. At that price, one might expect little more than a piece of cardboard with some strings glued on; but you would be sadly mistaken. The major selling point for this axe is how much guitar you get for a hundred beans. In this particular case you get a solid alder body (with a 3 tone sun burst finish), maple neck (bolted on) with an ebony fretboard, a tailpiece (similar to a les paul), and your standard 3 single coil pickup configuration with typical 3 knobs and 5 way switch. Anyway you slice it, its a Strat. Again, not an American Standard. From my research, QC on these babies aren't nearly as high as Fender and some people have gotten some lemons. I would also like to mention that there are quite a few people that review SX guitars as if they were replacement guitars for their $2000 custom shop axe and I think that is simply unfair. Anyone that reviews this guitar with the mindset that it cost them $100, should be absolutely floored by the quality of the instrument. The sunburst on my Hawk is fantastic (to be honest I was a little worried). While the wood on the neck is a bit "knotty" (a little wood humor there in case you missed it), it is smooth and feels great. Appearance wise, this baby is gorgeous. I was truly surprised when I opened up the box.

So... how does it sound/play? Again, this was quite a surprise. I came in to this project expecting to immediately gut this guitar and start over with brand new pups, electronics, tuners, etc. I am rethinking some of these purchases at this point. I'll probably still do all of that stuff, but its not something that I feel has to happen right away. In fact, I'm planning on buying an SX PJ bass and Tele before I ever start modding the Strat.

The setup out of the box isn't perfect, but is more than playable. To give you an idea of what I'm talking about, I will start to compare the SX Hawk to my first guitar which is an Epiphone Les Paul Standard. To get perspective we are talking about a $100 SX vs. a $500 Epiphone.

The action on the SX Hawk was leagues better than the Epi LP. While the strings on LP were/are miles too high, the SX strings were/are pretty much perfect for me and my playing style. Some people like their strings right on the fret board, but I like mine at around the standard string height recommended by Fender. Again, very happy with the action right out of the box. I do have to make some adjustments at the bridge to adjust string length, but its actually a hell of a lot closer than my Epi.

One of my primary concerns. I have had nothing but problems with my Epi and I expected the same from this but worse. I was pleasantly surprised. My LP has Grover tuners and I'm constantly retuning. My low E string goes in and out of tune depending on how hard you strike the string so its impossible to tune properly and there is so much binding at the nut on the G string (yes, thats what she said) that it is impossible to get the string in tune (and that is with lubing the nut with graphite). In contrast, the SX has been a dream to tune. While there is a bit more play on some of the tuning machines than I would like, they stay in tune for days and I've had few binding issues (with stock strings and no lubing of the nut).

These are pretty decent actually. A bit generic, but it sounds like a Strat. Admittedly, quite lifeless, but this is where I expected the guitar to let me down. At the same time, I can say the same thing about my LP. The pickups function, but they aren't something you pee your pants over every time you strum a chord. This is my first single coil guitar, so I was a little annoyed with the 60 cycle hum, but it was something I expected. I'll probably swap out the stock pups with Lace Gold Sensors. These pickups cost more than the entire guitar and with an entire electronics overhaul, I plan on sinking quite a bit into the guts of this little guy ($200-$300). But if I can get this inexpensive Strat to sing, it'll be completely worth it.

All in all, I couldn't be happier with my purchase. I've only had it for a week, but I feel like I've already gotten my $100 out of it. I look forward to modding it and seeing what kind of sounds I can get out of this baby. I plan on doing a few recordings with stock gear and tracking the progress as I make upgrades, so keep your eyes pealed for that.



Anonymous said...

"Wood humor?" LOL. You're adorable. ^_^
Reading this makes me really, really wish I knew a thing or two about guitars, because you make it sound fascinating and exciting (even to an instrumentally retarded person like me).

Anonymous said...

The setup on the sx hawk I got was terrible. I'm still trying to get it right almost a year later. I think I need to put a shim under the neck. I can't bring myself to pay a guy to do the work for me because that well cost more than the guitar is worth! Hah