Johnson 2005 Stratocaster Copy (JS-800 AXL) Reviews 5

I'm guitar player and teacher since 1970, sold and repaired guitars throughout the 80's.

I like just everything on this cheapo: Read the review and you know why. But first of all I like the sound: Due to its stiff quartersawn neck and nicely resonant body, it has the "big tone" why some people try all Strats they can find in a shop for a long time. I gave it a fret job, waxed the pickups and got a really, really cheap "custom shop guitar"...:) But this may have been pure luck (although the other Johnson Strat I know personally has the same quality).

All "Johnson" instruments need to be "finished": They need at least a setup job, some need a full fret job. But it's worth the additional effort. The pickups on mine are slightly "microphonic" and need to be waxed or replaced for hi-gain use.

Apart from the initial action/factory setting, there is absolutely nothing to complain about my specific example: The body is really 3-piece massive alder, has no "pool routing" under the pickguard (SSH routing instead) and it has a medium weight. The body shaping has the typical rounder edges of a 60s model. The maple neck w/ rosewood fingerboard has 21 "vintage" size frets, which don't have too sharp edges and none of them stuck out of the fingerboard sides. The fingerboard is a whopping fat 8mm slabboard type. The neck itself is rather thick, stiff and absolutely perpendicular quartersawn (!), contributing to the amazing tone and sustain of the guitar. Sounds like a description of a "Custom Shop" guitar neck...but it's true. The tuners are exactly the same ones you can find on many other cheapos, including Squier. They are often said to be bad, but they are not - they hold the tuning just as reliable as Schaller or Gotoh tuners and they're running smooth after a few turns. The vibrato bridge is just the thing we know from 1000 other Strats with two exceptions: They sport massive die-cast saddles (unlike the vintage 7ender sheet metal saddles) for better tone distribution and the outer saddles have shorter height adjustment screws so they won't stick out so easily. The "EMG designed" pickups are slightly overwound (6,1 kOhms) and have a somewhat fatter tone as expected. They resemble the ceramic type pickups found in "Made in Mexico"-Fenders, with a ceramic bar magnet under the polepices. Unfortunately, despite they sound pretty good they are microphonic and start to whistle at high-gain or high-volume. They also used 3 pickups of the same size and coil winding, unlike traditional pickup sets which have i.e. slightly more output on the bridge pickup and a varying polepice spacing according to their position (neck/middle/bridge). The other electric components are quite good, the pots adjust very smoothly volume and tone, practically the whole range from '10' to '1' has effect. The pickup selector switch is NOT the plastic covered part found in most cheapos but some strange sort of metal shielded heavy-duty switch. A friend has a similar Johnson Strat since years and this switch seems to be build for eternity... The finish is flawless and resembles remotely the "Lake Placid Blue" color of its role model. It seems to be the infamous "polyester armor", but it's pretty thin.

They are considered "entry-level" or "beginner" instruments. But there's no use in giving a beginner a guitar that has a bad action and needs refinements. But the base quality is worth investing a few bucks to make them really good instruments. A JS-800 plus a professional fret/setup job is still cheaper than a "Squier Standard", but definitely the better buy! I claim that they can be even better than MIM Strats, which come with light hardware and 4 or 5-piece bodies.

StratDude rated this unit 5 on 2007-11-13.

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