Blade California Classic

The Classic's body has slightly thinner, pointier horns than those on a Strat. It comes in a conventional gloss finish – in this case Purple Rain (don't laugh!) which under dark lighting looks close to jet black and in brighter stage lighting a deep galaxy-like metallic purple.

The three pickups and controls are all mounted on the black/white/ black scratchplate, although a passive tone control replaces the VSC mode switch and we have a vintage-style vibrato. So far so Strat, right?

Well yes, but at least the output jack, as on the Climax, is moved to the side (both guitars use chromed metal 'football' plates) and both guitars also feature typical Blade twists like a chamfered heel area, E-Z Access truss rod adjustment at the end of the fingerboard and a height adjustable string tree on the headstock.

The vibrato is standard but with a deep-drilled steel block and small 'V's in the saddles to regulate the string spacing.

The necks feel very similar too; if anything the Classic's is slightly thinner in depth and less detailed in terms of final finish and the headstock outline – a little more pointed at the tip with a less deep yellow tint to the finish.

Strangely, too, the pearloid dots are larger on the Climax. We can live with that. Both guitars use the same pickups: a Levinson HD-4 humbucker and two VS-1 single-coils.

"The HD-4 humbucker has slightly more output than our standard LH-55 humbucker and uses an Alnico 5 magnet and 43 AWG wire. The VS-1 single-coils again use Alnico 5 magnets, but with 42 AWG enamelled wire. The Classic also uses a push-push switch on the tone control that splits the humbucker, voicing the screw coil only."

Sounds

It's quite rare to have the exact same pickups on two really quite different guitars. Needless to say the two sound different, but they remain within a pretty similar ballpark.

First up the Climax impresses with a really resonant acoustic ring that is more old Telecaster than Strat. Amp'd, that character changes a little as the HD-4, which according to Blade offers, "fat power chords to screaming solos", doesn't disappoint, although it is much more mid-heavy and crisp in the highs than a lower output PAF-alike recipe.

But there's a good detail and texture to the sound and with any mid-to-heavy gained amp it drives it very nicely. There's plenty of wood from the single-coils too, perhaps at the expense of highs.

They're a little darker than we expected but create some good earthy Strat voices even though position four (bridge and neck) sounds a little peaky.

The Classic is different in weight, bridge, saddles, finish, humbucker-mounting, and that's before you look at the set-up (which we have to say was rather sloppy on delivery).

The acoustic sound is slightly brighter and brasher and that comes through the amp.

Some of the differences were caused by different pickup heights but even with these unified on both guitars, the Classic's humbucker sounds boisterous and there's more edge, and less depth, to the single-coils.

The coil-split adds another two sounds: on its own the bridge single-coil is a little bright, but mixed in with the middle pickup offers it can also be used to tweak your guitar to suit your rig and to a certain extent your style. Just remember the single-coils will pick up hum when you add a boost of any kind.

MusicRadar Rating

3.5 / 5 stars
Pros

Good price; neck and bridge pickup sounds; neck shape finish options; details.

Cons

The poor supplied set-up.

Verdict

No, it's not a vintage Strat-alike but the Classic's more modern take works well with some good classic-to-modern sounds, modern finishes, proper vibrato and coil-split. Try one.

Available Finish

Black, Vintage White, Purple Rain, Blue Metallic

Bolt-on Neck

Yes

Cutaway

Yes

Fingerboard Material

Rosewood

Fingerboard Radius

320mm

Fretless

No

Guitar Body Material

Alder

Hardware

Blade M-54 Vibrato Bridge, Enclosed Tuners - Chrome Plated

Inlays

Pearl Dot

Left Handed Model Available

No

No. of Frets

22

No of Strings

6

Pickguard

Yes

Pickups

1 Humbucking Pickup (Bridge) 2 x Single-Coil Pickups (Neck/Mid)

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.