Review: $89.28 California Classic Series Guitar from Monoprice.com
What can you buy with $89.28? That’s probably close to your monthly unlimited* smartphone bill.
In gear land, $89.28 could buy you an overdrive pedal, maybe a nice strap and a good cable — or 357 25-cent guitar picks!
But can it get you a fully functioning, brand-new guitar?
Monoprice.com recently got into guitar sales. Of course, I’m aware it's not the only online retailer offering guitars for budget-minded players, but what drew me to this company was its 30-day return policy and the claim that each guitar is set up by a tech before it is shipped out. What do I have to lose?
The California Classic series is Monoprice.com’s take on the Stat. It features 22 frets (not 21), three single-coil pickups with a familiar five-way pickup selector, a Volume/Tone/Tone setup, a three-spring tremolo bridge, a basswood body and a bolt-on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. The California Classic series is available in red, black, white or sunburst.
So Dennis, my local UPS driver (Yeah, we’re on a first-name basis), dropped off my California Classic. First things first, it was well packed with plenty of cardboard and wrap inside the box to keep it from shifting. It was even wrapped again inside the gig bag.
Included with the guitar is a gig bag, Allen keys for adjustments, a whammy bar and a signed certificate of inspection. Right out of the box, it played great. No sharp fret edges, comfortable action, zero buzzing. It was even close to in-tune after its trek from California to Pennsylvania.
In terms of dimensions, weight and looks, it’s very comparable to the Strats I own. In person, the red is its own shade, brighter than Candy Apple but darker than Fiesta Red. I have no complaints with the stock strings, either. A big pet peeve of mine is dreadful stock strings, you know, the ones with the tension and resonance of a gummy worm. Not the case here. Along with a slew of other accessories, Monoprice.com sells its own branded strings, which you can buy separately.
If I had to gripe about one thing, it’d be the gig bag. Most guitars in its class don’t come with a gig bag, so I applaud Monoprice.com for including it. It will work great for storing purposes or “light travel," but if you plan on regularly taking this guitar to jams, gigs or lessons, I’d suggest getting something with a little more padding.
So it looks good and feels good. How does it sound? Below are two audio clips to help you decide for yourself. In my opinion, it does the Strat thing well. My recording setup was the California Classic straight into a Vox mic’d with a Shure SM57. For the dirtier clip, I cranked up the amp. For the clean clip, I just rolled back the master volume on the guitar ala Jeff Beck.
Optional Accessories: Headphone amp, $19.77; 12 pack of celluloid picks, $1.93; strings, $4.97; guitar stand, $6.35
You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but Billy Voight is a gear reviewer, bassist and guitarist from Pennsylvania. He has Hartke bass amps and Walden acoustic guitars to thank for supplying some of the finest gear on his musical journey. Need Billy's help in creating noise for your next project? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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