First off, let me say I have been a loyal Thomann customer for years, having bought six or so guitars and a plethora of music stuff from them along the way, always been happy. Something must have changed though... I pulled trigger on this beautifully looking blue Squier telly, it looked simply irresistible. Delivery was super fast – advised to arrive presumably on Thursday or Friday, it actually reached my doorstep as early as on Wednesday. After the usual unboxing chore, I set off to inspect the actual object of desire. At 222 EUR, I was not expecting miracles, yet I do and did have a couple of Squiers in my life and there was an expected standard level in my mind. Sadly, what I looked at and touched this time failed to meet this standard by leaps.
I thought I would send the instrument back right away. I finally decided otherwise and embraced the challenge, considering it yet another deep DIY remake bench project. Minor gripes aside, such as that both the steel control knobs fell off the pot shafts at the moment I turned the guitar upside down, there were more worrying flaws to tackle, the most critical one being that the strings ran totally off axis, almost popping off the fretboard at the highest neck positions. The neck seems to be sitting in the pocket nice and tough, the problem is obviously on the bridge plate side, which had been installed some 3mm off the central axis. How could this have slipped Fender’s QC attention is a mystery to me.
Another huge annoyance is the neck itself – advertised as satin back, it is actually a rough-cut, unfinished something I would not dare touching without previous fine sanding and oiling. Same goes with the fretboard – it has not seen any lube in its life, is totally parched, almost as if coated by mould and already suffering from minor cracks. The neck also feels chubbier than the proclaimed modern C that I have on my other guitars, the frets are rather on the jumbo side, unfinished and uncrowned, there are visible rough machine tool scratches on their tops, no levelling or polishing has obviously taken place. Frets are also unevenly high, making the sound die totally at certain positions when the strings are bent. To my surprise, the fret edges could have been worse, they seem to be reasonably smooth, as if somebody took special care to address this very issue and left all the others unanswered.
To sum up – I will keep the guitar, because the blue finish is rare and awesome, I do like it. Plenty of work will have to be put in though – unmount the bridge plate, seal the five screw holes, re-drill them in the right positions and reinstall the bridge assembly, fine-sand the back of the neck and wax it, level the frets, polish them and set up the action, lube the fingerboard, restring for something reasonable, the stock strings are total rubbish, tune up, plug, play and see what happens. There is promise in the dry sound of the guitar, so will see, perhaps she will be a winner after all this hassle...
• body finish – very nice colour and fabrication
• strings through the body
• solid unplugged sound coming straight from the tonal woods
• octaves in tune
• smoothed fret edges
• strings not aligned with the neck
• bridge plate mounted off axis, in need of complete reinstall
• back of the neck is rasp, almost scaled-like
• frets unlevelled and unfinished
• fingerboard dry, already displaying minor cracks
• neck feels chubbier/clumsier than advertised
• pot control knobs do not hold in place
• as received, the guitar is unplayable and overall feels unfinished
• does not inspire musically as is
• contrary to the manufacturer’s claim, definitely not recommended to beginners or someone who cannot perform relatively substantial repairs and adjustments on their own
Here comes my verdict – it is okay to make “cheap” instruments (even if I have seen many cheaper ones that were executed better), it is not okay to make them with elementary construction flaws and sell them in an unplayable state.
UPDATE of 30/9/2021
Here comes my brief progress report on the blue Telecaster project. Over the couple of months I have owned this guitar (as you can see, I still have it, which is a good sign), I have gradually removed or fixed the flaws identified above. I started with the bridge readjustment, where I had to unmount the bridge assembly first, seal the original five holes, drill new ones and reinstall the plate in line with the neck. While at that, I have replaced the bridge pickup, which sounded okay but nothing special and a bit on the weak side, with DiMarzio Chopper T – a whole world of improvement. The electronics as such have been replaced using a prewired harness with full size pots and cap and a five-way Fender switch, allowing for the neck pickup to be also swapped for a spare nineties Yamaha double-coil splittable PU that produces a massive thick sound and offers two additional sound options. I intended to rescue the original Affinity neck, too, so I sanded it to thin its profile a bit, oiled it, polished and crowned the frets, reinstalled – just to find out it was still not quite to my liking, perhaps a bit too wide, so I have ended up putting in a nice Classic Vibe telecaster neck I got cheap from ebay – a fantastic, MIJ-like player! I am really happy with the guitar now, it can do stormy blues/rock stuff and country chirping more than adequately and feels real solid at the same time. So a happy ending at the end of the day - thank you Thomann as usual, now it is five stars no doubt, only the investment has been a lot higher than originally thought it would be. Keep rocking guys!