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
“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
, 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