Durban Guerrilla Part 6: The Final Countdown

Guitarist’s Dave Durban is a musician on a mission. He is searching for a sonic grail: the ultimate guitar tone and he’ll stop at nothing to get it. During his quest he will encounter all manner of wonders and obstacles: gigs in far-flung places, studio sessions, guitar mods, amp tests and sea monsters.

Welcome to the world of a dedicated gearhead, the Durban Guerrilla – and every week he’ll be sharing his candid journal with you. This week Dave’s completed his pet project to mod a Squier 60s Vintage Vibe Stratocaster (that earned a glowing review in the current November issue) to create an intermediate guitar worthy of a champion.

It’s done, over, am I pleased with the outcome?

Initially I had grandeur ideas of ageing the neck, changing the bridge and chopping out the tuners. But once I’d started the project, I found that the expense of making those changes would outweigh the point behind this project.

So, with that in mind I went for a simple setup job and an electronic revamp using a blend of high-quality Amalfitano and Lindy Fralin pickups, CTS pots, vintage cloth wire, an orange drop cap and a good set of quality heavy gauge strings.

Now, whom do I get to review the changes made to the Vintage Vibe? Well none other than the main man… Guitarist’s Simon Bradley!

Simon says…

“I reviewed the Classic Vibe Series back in GIT308 and, as has been the case with Squier over the last few years, I was blown away by their quality – especially considering their price point – and their vibe.

I ended the review with the phrase “Of course, each guitar is ripe for upgrading and their construction is more than robust enough to allow for a Wilkinson brigade and a trio of so-called ‘name’ pickups.” And, as Dave’s series here has shown, it doesn’t take much to make a decent guitar a genuine contender.

One downside with inexpensive guitars is that corners are unavoidably cut; not necessarily with the organic materials but with the fixtures and fittings...the bits, in other words. Although there’s nothing inherently wrong with the Squier’s innards, the pots that Dave has upgraded them to make a great deal of difference, both in feel and even a subtle improvement in tone.

Nothing polarises players more than the subject of pickups (where’s my Seymour Duncan Hot Rails, fercrissakes?), but the upgrades here do make a great deal of difference too.

How a guitar feels and plays is arguably the most important part of any buying choice simply because the profile of a neck is far more difficult to change that the bridge pickup, for example, but the simple exercise of a decent set-up and ‘proper’ strings sets the guitar off to a tee.

It didn’t take long to do but, with a smidgen of thought and a steady hand, that already excellent Squier is better than it possibly could have thought of being when it was a tree. Or something...!

So, a pretty good review. The changes took me only a few hours and the cost ran into around £150, but I feel this guitar has been greatly improved. What has shocked me is the level of improvement from doing the simplest of modifications, proving what a great guitar this truly was from the off.

Now it’s time for me to fly back to my roost for the festive season. In the New Year I’ll be continuing my quest for tonal heaven, while playing bass in the alt country band, which is going really well so far.
As a guitarist there’s also a studio session booked for me to work with a female singer songwriter. And as usual I’ll be buying more gear than I should be.

There will be lots to talk about.

But until then…

Happy Christmas and have a great New Year

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