Jimmy Vaughan Strat....first impressions

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by VaughnC, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    Well, I just received a new Jimmy Vaughan Stratocaster on approval today and I spent most of my afternoon getting to know her in my den….so I thought I’d post a few first impressions of the guitar.

    General specs: alder body, one piece maple neck/fingerboard, American hardware, hot Tex-Mex pickups, medium jumbo frets on a 9.5" fretboard radius, tone controls assigned to bridge & neck only, and factory straplocks.

    Eye candy: Being somewhat of a Strat traditionalist, I ordered the sunburst finish ($50 extra) but I think white would be cool for this model too. Right out of the gig bag, I was quite surprised how light the guitar was….7.2 lbs. according to my scale. Another VERY BIG surprise to me was the ONE PIECE alder body….not what you’d expect to see in a Strat in this price bracket.

    Body: The two tone sunburst is nicely done and the color looks similar to a ’54 model. The poly finish is perfect and smooth as glass. The single layer pickguard is a little cheezy but I suppose they did this to keep the price down….not a big deal to me though as long as the pickups are stable. The neck pocket is very tight….paper won’t even get into the joint!

    Neck: the neck has a flat, slightly tinted finish and, with no sharp edges, it has sort of a broken-in feel to it with practically no drag. The medium jumbo fretwork is perfect although not highly polished, and there’s no fret sprout. Typically, I don’t care for jumbo frets because so many I’ve played felt like I was playing on railroad rails….but these are very nice and not overdone. I tried a John Mayer Strat not too long ago and the frets on that guitar actually got in my way, which made the guitar not too much fun to play. Perhaps I got a bad one, I don’t know….but this JV Strat plays soooo much better than the Mayer I tried, and even better than the SRV I once owned. The nut is cut perfect but I need to lubricate it as there’s a bit of string pinch on the higher strings. The fretboard is a little wider than most Strats which is very nice for someone with large paws like me. The neck carve is a chunky soft V…..not quite the baseball bat of a Nocaster but fairly substantial and feels great. Setup was perfect out of the gig bag and I doubt that I’ll change anything other than pulling off the 009 guage strings, installing a set of 010’s, and checking the intonation.

    Tone: I have to say up front that I never really cared for Strats with maple fretboards because they tend not to have the nice bottom thump of a good rosewood board Strat and their top end is generally too glassy for my taste….but this guitar has me rethinking that. The pickups in the JV have a very interesting voice with a big bottom AND a full top end….all of which gives any amp a lot to work with. Some Strats are dark with no clarity while others sound glassy with no bottom end….but this Strat has both thump AND sparkle...."Thurkle", if you will! As a matter of fact, I can even feel the thump from the back of the guitar’s body against me….and not many Strats I’ve played did that. When I set up may amp, I had to dial down the treble one notch from my normal Strat settings but it’s better to have a little too much than not enough as long as there’s enough bottom to balance out the tone. One important thing I look for in a Strat is the response of the wound strings. I like the wound strings to have focus AND oomph, and not a lot of Strats I’ve played have both. The low E string on this guitar almost has the oomph of a bass guitar but with the clarity of a good Tele….piano-like would be a good tonal description. The pickups are supposedly overwound, and they are fairly hot….but I don’t hear the mud typically associated with overwound pickups like say Fender’s Texas Specials. However, the bridge pickup is a little darker than the neck & middle one's.The quack tones have slightly less tonal bite than the single pickup tones but, nonetheless, very Stratty in the classic sense.

    Final thoughts: Did I happen to stumble upon an excellent example of this model? I don’t know because it’s the only one I’ve played…..but I now understand why many say that the JV Strat is an excellent bang for the buck Strat. It is much better than I expected….but I have yet to gig the guitar so we’ll see where that takes me. This guitar gave me the warm fuzzies from the first few notes so I hope it gigs well, as well. Anyway, if you like thump & snarl in a Strat, check one of these out….you might be as surprised as I was! IMHO, the JV Strat can hold its own with Strats in ANY price range. I’d rank the JV Strat several notches above the Mayer and a notch or two above the SRV. This guitar also questions the theory that a guitar needs a nitro finish to sound good! Good job Fender, I’m impressed.
     
  2. buddastrat

    buddastrat Member

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    Congrats on the strat! I agree usually the strats with rosewood board have a bit more bottom in general, but you never can tell with wood. Sounds like you got a good one. nice choice on the sunburst too.

    My wife is buying me a Robert Cray for Xmas. I think there are some killer MIM strats out there.
     
  3. Mullet Kingdom

    Mullet Kingdom Senior Member

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    They're very happening guitars.

    I'll probably own one eventually--though I'm quite happy with the strats I've got right now.

    Nothing cooler than a new axe! Glad to hear you like it.
     
  4. CitizenCain

    CitizenCain Member

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    You just described my JV Strat, except mine is Oly white :D Congrats! I believe the JV to be the best value in Fender's current Strat lineup.
     
  5. axpro

    axpro Member

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    Congrats on the JV! It's my favorite strat, bar none!
     
  6. sanhozay

    sanhozay klon free since 2009

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    Wonderful review, Vaughn. Congrats. Yep, Fender gets romped by the Goblet drinkers {I'm a guilty slut, so no stones by me.} but they deliver excellent goods at all price ranges. The JV, Highway One & Muddy Water's Telecaster are serious pro instruments. Good stuff!

    Hope you keep hearing the magic, I'm surprised that you like the pups so much. Damn my sorry ears...
     
  7. bluesbreaker59

    bluesbreaker59 Silver Supporting Member

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    I knew you'd like it.

    Those pickups are great, which is why I'm not touching the ones in mine ever. Too much clarity and detail, and they're not "too bitey". And great ringing clarity on the bass notes on mine too.

    They really are great guitars.
     
  8. A440

    A440 Silver Supporting Member

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    cool! glad you found a good one. they are there if you hunt around :)

    I've pulled a number of these off the rack and found these a bit too heavy (some may like this)

    one note - I think these are poplar bodies, not alder
     
  9. JohnK24

    JohnK24 Supporting Member

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    You pretty much nailed the typical JV sig. strat. I've had two (white and recently a two tone burst)...both are excellent, great necks and the stock pups are wonderful in that guitar (I know, I changed them out in my last JV to a more vintage output and was never happy). I dialed the pups down lower to the guard and it had a super Hendrix tone.

    Great guitars,

    J
     
  10. theelectic

    theelectic Guest

    FYI if your JV is like mine, the body is two (or three) pieces with a thin veneer on it to make it look like a 1 piece. I was surprised as hell as well to find a one piece body in that price range, but when I was doing some work in the trem cavity I discovered it was two pieces (grain inside didn't match up either). No big deal really but it explains the lower cost.

    My JV is a real player, I replaced the neck (because of damage - my own fault) and pickups, but it's still my favorite go-to Strat.
     
  11. jonny guitar

    jonny guitar Member

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    I went to buy one locally that was going cheap and I really wanted to love it but I it just felt dead in my hands. I don't know if I tried a bad one or if I am just looking for something different. I really wanted to buy it.
     
  12. Johnnytone

    Johnnytone Supporting Member

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    Huh? Are we talking nut width here? Fender says 43mm (1 11/16) for the JV and USA Strats (and lots of others).
     
  13. CitizenCain

    CitizenCain Member

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    Just like any guitar line, there's duds and champs. I think there's probably more champs than duds in the JV, but they're out there. When I was shopping for mine, I found a dud at one store. Just a lifeless, thudding piece. Went to the next place and they one they had was a champ! It's mine now :cool:
     
  14. Bruce O'D

    Bruce O'D Member

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    Fender's original neck width was 1-5/8, which the SRV, Vintage Reissues, and many others have. If you are used to playing a vintage neck, the regular necks feel alot wider.
     
  15. benb

    benb Member

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    I thought the same thing...The one I bought a couple of years ago certainly is poplar, but after further "research" (at fender.com) it looks like they've switched over to alder...hmmm very interesting
     
  16. keith_t4e

    keith_t4e Member

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    tell me this. I tried one yesterday and it was used about a 96 or so. The neck was extremely large. Have they changed over the last eight years or so. This thing was huge dudes. I think they are cool especially if the player likes a big neck. I like smaller necks. I'm now considering a 70s reissue or a 57 american vintage.
     
  17. A440

    A440 Silver Supporting Member

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    I'm postive the earlier ones were poplar. I just got the sweetwater catalog and they list it as alder now. hmmmm....I have an old warmoth neck I've been looking to put back on a strat. may be a good candidate :)
     
  18. VaughnC

    VaughnC Supporting Member

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    Pre gig adjustments: the stock 9 guage strings felt too wimpy too me so I put on a set of 10's. Then, out of curiousity, I got to playing around with the setup and found I could actually set the strings too low without any fret buzz! So, I set the action up to about medium, set the trussrod for about .010 relief, reset the trem tension, reset the intonation with my strobe tuner, and added a little lubrication to the nut to cure some slight string pinch on the unwound strings. Then, with my amp at gigging volume, I felt the pickups were a little too agressive so I lowered them a bit to take off some of the edge.....which gave the guitar a little more of a classic Strat character while maintaining the big tone inherent to this guitar.

    At the gig: While I still prefer the feel of a rosewood fingerboard, this JV Strat continues to impress me. This is not the best Strat I've ever played....but I will say this: it is the best maple fingerboard Strat I've played to date. The tone is wide & full which allows my amp better control over the tonal color I like. The mids are not overpowering so I didn't have to worry too much about mud control....which can be difficult to dial out. Once I got the bottom/top balance right, most of my focus was on the feel....a maple board with medium jumbo frets are very foreign to me so that may take some time to adjust to. While I could hear some of the classic Jimmie Vaughan tones in the guitar, I still sounded like me and the guitar seemed to sit in the mix very well. The neck & mid pickups sounded like a fat but classic Strat tone, and the bridge pickup had just enough heat & extra mids to be useable for popping out a solo without wimping out. Thump & sparkle keep coming to my mind!

    Two more gigs this weekend so, at this point, adjusting to the feel of the guitar seems to be the biggest issue to me as I can't complain about the guitar's tone & playability. Laminated alder body or not, the bang for the buck factor of this guitar is amazing. Some of the best Strat tones and playability I've experienced in a long time.
     
  19. Killcrop

    Killcrop Supporting Member

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    Vaughn, The JV Strat is kinda like a poor mans EJ Strat. Almost the same specs. I've always wanted to try one but felt it was too good to be true.
    I guess it's not exactly rocket sciene to build a strat. They have rockets in Mexico don't they?

    I'm glad you took the time to review the JV for us. I may try one.
     
  20. JeffD

    JeffD Very slow but persistent Supporting Member

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    Nice review; thanks for taking the time to write it. Sounds like a real nice guitar.
     

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