This was pretty much an impulse buy, mainly because it was cheap! Also, musician’s friend labeled it as Condition 4. The description said ” neck needs adjustment”. Nothing was said about anything broken, so i pulled the trigger and bought it. 4 days later, it arrived.
It came in pretty much brand new, just without the box. It included the hex screws for the bridge adjustments, a 1/4″ phono guitar cord, and an aria manual. It also still had the protective plastic cover on the P-90 pickups and the pickguard.
Upon initial strumming, there was completely no sound but the clunk of the string hitting the neck. I checked the bridge and it was already adjusted as high as it can get. A rifle-hold inspection against the light shows the neck to be arched so far back you can see it bend. NOT GOOD! Immediately i took off the truss rod cover, and of course, the one hex screw for it is not included. Rummaging around i found one that fit, though it kept slipping as i try to make a turn. Seems that the primer and finish had gunked up the hole, making the truss rod wrench slip. A simple firm push and a shove got the hex bit to grip, and slight turns started to straighten the neck to a playable string height.
After a few more adjustments i was able to get the action low enough that it didnt buzz badly anymore doing fretted chords. Oddly enough open chords still buzzed badly, and further inspection showed the height at the night was too low – the fret grooves were cut a bit too deeply. To further compound the issue, the second and third fret stood a little higher than the first, making those open chords buzz and choke.
So armed with a set of files and tools i went to work to shave the frets lower and raise the nut grooves without having to make a new nut. After several adjustments it started to sound better.
After tuning, i started to play, and within 5 minutes my fingers started to get cuts. OUCH! the frets were dressed poorly, if at all! one last thing – i started filing down each fret end to make it smoother, and soon, the sharp frets were gone.
**** if i had bought this guitar full price, id have sent it back. Piss poor fret dressing is enough to stop ANY player from using this instrument. Ive worked on newer cheaper guitars whose frets were flawless. I cant understand how they can charge so much more for poor quality. If its a matter of cost cutting, fret-dressing shouldnt be on that list. Its your all-important fingers we’re talking about here!
Soundwise, the guitar sounds BRILLIANT! The tone coming form the 2 P-90 pickups are nothing short of great. This guitar was tested using a mid70’s Fender Bassman 10, an epiphone Valve junior head and cab, and an epiphone Blues Custom 30. With clean tones, the pickups chime well and provide roundness of tone, on all 3 toggle switch settings. But overdriven, the P-90’s start to growl with that unmistakable single coil chime. Even the neck pickup provides clear and full overdrive, without sounding muddy at all. You want that P-90 sound? you got it here!
The body itself felt balance enough, given its odd mosrite-clone body. Its made of solid alder, a small contributor to its cutting highs. The maple neck with rosewood fretboard with its satin finish allows for an effortless and smooth playability along its length. Its not a thin neck, but not baseball-bat-sih either. It has some meat into it, and felt firm during playing. its not a shredder’s delight, thats for sure, but this guitar ISNT made for shredding anyway.
One thing that sticks out odd is its 2-fulcrum whammy bar. It seemed “too modern”, for a retro looking guitar. It did provide smoother trem action, but playing surf music, you just need the occasional out-of-tune bending, without being too aggressive with it. But i guess that is an option here. I would have prefered a bigsby, or even a simpler tunomatic stopbar and tailpiece. But as it is, i still havent really used the trem bar – any trem effect i do i imply “sit” my palm on the bridge and it floats enough to make that wonderful effect.
The sunburst color was nicely done – no big solid marker between the dark and the clear sections, an even smooth color transition can be seen here. You can even see the suburst effect on the headstock! a nice touch i might add. Instead of a silkscreened or even a painted-on logo, Aria chose to use 2 screws to hold up the thick plastic logo, with a kitschy gem embedded representing the “diamond”.
One other issue i have is the distance of the tone and volume controls from each other – too close! Fat fingered people like me have to tip-toe around the top of the knobs to avoid hitting the other. Theres plenty enough space on the pickguard and cavity, they should have at least set them a little farther apart.
At any rate, full price doesn’t warrant this guitar’s worth, not with the shoddy and very dangerous fret-dressing (or lack thereof). Having said that, once the fret issue has been addressed, the guitar is a joy to play with its satin-smooth neck, and its P-90 goodness. You can play for hours just inventing and reinventing simple chords to rock with. Make sure to overdrive that tube amp – this retro copy is a blast!!!