SX SST62+ 3/4/CAR - Short Scale Strat Shaped Guitar

BillDLBillDL Frets: 7483
edited February 17 in Guitar Reviews
Candy Apple Red "3/4 scale" Strat style guitar from SX.

The "Three Quarter" naming convention for short scale guitars is usually a misnomer. Most are larger than 75% of full scale versions. It's actually 94% of the scale of full scale "Strat" guitars.

I've seen SX guitars for several years on Merchant City Music and wondered how they compared with other budget brands around the same price. I assumed for ages it was their own brand, but I then saw them in other UK retailers. The brand is owned by Team International Music Co. Ltd. Taiwan, and has existed as a brand since 1998.  The company has a history of OEM work.

A while back I set up the Lake Placid Blue version for somebody and was impressed by the quality.  Inspired by a recent thread about buying a short-scale guitar for a young person, I bought one for myself in Candy Apple Red.  Merchant City Music were selling them reduced from £199 (hmmm - only ever recall them at £179) down to £149.  I wanted a smaller guitar to play lying back on the couch in Strat styling so I could use a wireless transmitter plugged into a front-facing socket.

The SX website only shows black and sunburst finish for this model at present.
Specs on retailers' websites are riddled with errors carried forward from the SX website. With the "3/4" in the model name as the only way to differentiate it from the full sized model means the specs seem to be muddled up between them.

Specs (points of note ***):

Scale: 610mm (24")
Body: Solid Basswood, Candy Apple Red gloss
Neck: Canadian Maple, vintage tint gloss
Truss Rod: 2 Way, headstock access
Fingerboard: 21 fret, Engineered Rosewood / Rosewood, white dot inlays ***
Machine Heads: Die-Cast Chrome ***
Nut: 38mm, Synthetic Bone ***
Bridge: Chrome ***
Strings: D'Addario ***
Pickups: 3 x Single Coil (SSS)
Controls: 1V, 2T, 5 Way Switch ***
Pickguard: 3-Ply Vintage Green/Black
Accessories: SX EB400/M Gig Bag

These and the full scale counterparts come in brightly coloured boxes aimed at beginners. They are doing themselves a disservice because the initial impression tends to cheapen the expectation.  They may be budget priced, but are well made guitars "not just for Christmas".

It was well packaged and came with the usual high action that's to be expected of a guitar of this price.  The fit and finish of the body and neck is flawless.  All screws and nuts tightened properly.  The fret crowns are the most polished I have ever felt on a sub-£300 guitar and the frets are absolutely perfect in terms of high/low frets with no signs of any having been dressed, so their fretting jig must be consistent.  As should be reasonably expected, the fret ends were a little rough but not sharp, and could be played comfortably by all but the most finicky of people like me.

I'm sure the nut is real bone, not synthetic. Perhaps this is so they might still be considered vegan. It was well rounded off at the edges and the string slots were almost deep enough as is common on most new budget and intermediate priced guitars.  When I set up the same model of guitar for the other person a while ago I hadn't really noticed the narrower nut.  Rather than being 38mm wide, my guitar has a 39.5mm nut.  That's still a bit narrower than Fender spec 42mm, but I've had Yamaha Pacificas with nuts that were only about 40mm and they were still playable by full sized adult hands.

It's really hard to know if the fretboard is a very fine-pored rosewood substitute or composite made to closely mimic rosewood appearance with slightly varying shades.  I'm sure it's not rosewood and think it's artificial, but nevertheless it feels really smooth and dense and looks great.  I haven't measured the radius, but it's quite shallow and probably 12".

The machine heads are split-shafted vintage Kluson style with ferrules, not enclosed die-cast shown in the spec, and in terms of quality I guess they are from the OEM that makes Wilkinson hardware.  They are of apparently good quality and have no slack and tight spots, as some budget machine heads of this style exhibit.

The 6-screw trem bridge has a 52 or 53mm span (i.e. 10.4 or 10.5mm string spacing).  That's fairlyh standard for most full scale "import" Strat style guitars and I'm sure this is why, despite the narrower nut, the fretboard feels much more standard width after you start playing above about the 4th fret.  It's well enough made for functionality in floating mode but the string trees are cheap flat-based pressed ones and better curved-bottom ones would reduce friction.  As is common with cheaper trem bridges on budget guitars the thread tolerance of the screw-in arm is poor and it wobbles.  I decided to add the 3rd supplied spring and have it for downward movement only and have enough spring tension to resist being pulled up when bending strings.  It doesn't need excessive spring tension though, because the stock strings seem to be 9-42 gauge and the tension feels marginally less than a Gibson scale guitar with 9s.  You need to be mindful that your normal pressure to bend strings is going to result in Albert King style bends, but perhaps with 10s (10-42 or 10-46) it would have very similar string tension to a Gibson.  The downside of thicker strings could be a slightly cramped feel down at the nut.

One aspect common with even higher priced and full scale guitars is that the saddle spring on the Low E is sometimes so compressed that you have to cut it a bit shorter to get the saddle back enough for accurate intonation.  Mine has fully compressed that spring and just intonates with no additional rearward movement without cutting the spring shorter.  Strung with 9s the guitar intonates well down at the nut end.  I'm not sure how well it would intonate in the lower closer-together frets at the nut end if strung with 10s.

The spec says 3-way switch.  It's a standard 5-way.  Bridge pickup not connected to the middle pickup tone knob.  Pots work well and feel smooth.  I assume, without lifting the scratchplate, they are mini-pots and the switch a budget plastic-housed circuit board one, but that's what you get with lower priced guitars.  Pickups sound surprisingly good.  At a guess I would say they will be off the same OEM production line as the lower priced Wilkinson ones with unstaggered polepieces. They do the job well.

Ignoring the quirky headstock, aesthetically this is a really nice looking, well constructed and finished guitar. Held against a full scale Strat the end of its headstock is in line with the B string tuning post, so it's not much shorter at all, but feels a good bit smaller.  It's not a "travel guitar", but would be good for a younger person that finds the fret spacing on a full scale "Strat" a bit of a reach and doesn't like Gibson styles.  Ideal for me lying back on the couch. Exactly why I bought it.

I really like this guitar.  At £149 it feels better than it should for the price.  At RRP of £199 I think it would still feel like a better guitar than the cost, but I wouldn't pay more than £250 for it with all the other very strong competition at that price point.
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 7483
    edited February 16

    Stock image that is a very good representation of the body and headstock (neck) tint, but in real life the scratchplate is a little darker vintage green and the pickup covers, knobs and switch tip are more of a parchment shade.

    It's a really nice wee brother of my Candy Apple Red Levinson Blade when standing next to it, but that has a maple fretboard.
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 7483
    Having played this guitar for quite a while now I have found it very easy to transition to the slightly shorter scale, the closer fret spacings, and the narrower nut width / string spacings at the nut.  When you consider that the scale is only 3/4" shorter than a Gibson styled guitar, there really isn't much of a difference other than the narrower nut and given that the string spacing at the bridge is pretty much an "import Strat" standard, it's only really down below the 5th fret that I am aware of the slightly closer string spacings.

    The thing that has surprised me is how much smaller the body feels in comparison to a full sized Strat or Strat copy. Even 1.5" difference in overall length and probably less than that in overall width makes it feel noticeably smaller (no crude jokes please :)

    The pickups aren't shrill and tinny, but are rather more mid-rangey than I expected from generic no-name ones and sound good.
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  • How do you find the neck thickness on these "short-scale" Strats? Are they made slimmer for beginners? My SX tele has quite a fat neck, which I love, but folk seem to think that it's not really suitable for someone starting out, although there's no reason why it shouldn't be.

    As for quality, I have to agree with your positive thoughts on fit and finish - these are excellent guitars, full stop. My new STL50 in LPB only cost £134 which is just plain silly. 
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 7483
    edited February 25
    To be absolutely honest I can play fine on most necks apart from the super skinny profile Ibanez "Wizard" (?) necks, and I'm not really keen on supersized necks that feel like a pick handle.  On anything in between I can easily adjust and truthfully I find it hard to know if I'm playing a "modern C", a "Soft whatever" or any of the in-betweens.  I know the difference in feel and look from a C, D, and V, but other than that I don't really know nor care much.  I just know if a neck feels good for a particular style of guitar and I have a variety.

    I'm not sure how accurate the measurements will be because I have the guitar strung up and I'm comparing it with an unstrung Squier Classic Vibe 60s neck.  The SX Mini's neck feels ever so slightly thicker all the way up, and my measurements confirm this.

    Thickness under 1st fret:
    SX Mini:  22.5mm
    Squier 60s: 21mm

    Thickness under 7th fret:
    SX Mini: 24.5mm
    Squier 60s: 23mm

    Thickness under 12th fret:
    SX Mini: 26mm
    Squier 60s: 23.5mm

    There really isn't much in it.  The full sized 60s Squier neck is marginally thinner and a more consistent thinness along its length, whereas the SX Mini has slightly more taper and therefore has more "stubby" feel to it, but not so obvious as to feel unusual.  So the opposite seems to be true. The reduced scale guitar's neck has not been made skinnier for smaller hands.  The SX Mini has a very slightly thicker neck than a 60s Squier neck, but the Squier neck is fairly thin by comparison to some of my other Strats.  Anybody could play the SX Mini regardless of hand size (within sensible parameters obviously - Afshin Ghaderzadeh and Sultan Kosen probably exempt), and I think the vast majority of people would find the profile comfortable.
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  • Nice summary, thanks.

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