March 7, 2011

Fender Wooden Stratocaster Replica Review

Fine.  Be a plastic rock star with your little plastic guitar. That’s cool with me. But some of us need a little more than that.

Sure we’ve all played the Rock Band 1 & 2 plastic Stratocaster. With one of those slung around our necks we looked like some rock n roll giant who had equipped the comically undersized, plastic guitar after looting a small child’s bedroom. We stood there, shredding our favorite Rock Band songs with a child’s toy. Don’t shred too hard — the strum bar may begin to fail! Don’t throw your guitar across the room after failing Freebird again (guilty as charged, senor) — it may snap in two!

I didn’t know Rock and Roll had rules

The average lifespan, from my experience, of a standard Rock Band controller is about 5 months. I’m not even talking about smashing the guitar, or even mistreating it outside of normal usage. I’m talking about the “Trust Factor”. This is simply how much my trust will fluctuate for my Rock Band Strat between the moment I unbox it and 3-5 months down the road when I’m missing notes I’m not supposed to be missing. The Trust Factor is jeopardized because of one glaring issue: quality. After normal wear and tear the Rock Band Strats hardware will start to fail ever so slightly until it has reached unacceptable levels, “fail”, and at this time we just buy a new one.

The decline in the Trust Factor is a product of strum bar misses or double strums, fret buttons not registering (or requiring more than modest use of force to press them down in order for the game to register), whammy bar breakage- internally or externally, and star power tilt sensor failure. This is in no way the fault of Rock Band or companies that produce these peripherals. I mean, if they made an everlasting guitar, they wouldn’t make nearly as much money because we wouldn’t ever have to buy a replacement guitar! We need something more reliable than a plastic axe that that will take a nosedive in the trust department twice a year. Would you buy a car that would degenerate over an incredibly short period of time until it was practically undrivable? Of course not! So whether it’s a $60 investment, or a $35,000 investment, we all want our expectations to be met.

I’m all for giving away money every 5 months, but …

Frankly, the Rock Band Stratocaster has not met my expectations. Aside from the quality issues we covered it just feels like a toy in my hands. Rock Band is all about having fun and pretending to be a Rock star. Ultimately, Rock Band itself is just a big toy -granted, but with so much cool Rock Band stuff on the market right now you can come close to making it one heck of a simulation! If you already own (or want to own) the Rock Band Stage Kit or Rock Band Ion Drum Set then you consider Rock Band more than just a toy and have already began moving down the “Rock Simulation” path. Welcome!

A guitar you won’t have to constantly replace

Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce the Wireless Mad Catz Fender Wooden Replica Stratocaster. Yes, a wooden Rock Band Guitar! The only plastic on this guitar is the pickguard. This fully sized replica of an authentic Fender Stratocaster weighs in at about 7 pounds and is the absolute Cadillac of 5 button Rock Band guitars. Per this excerpt of the product description from Mad Catz:

The guitar neck sports a high-resolution ‘Rosewood’ finish decal, concealing two sets of premium Fret Buttons. The premium Fret Buttons and Strum Bar deliver quiet operation and reliable game play, and have been extensively play tested to ensure that it is possible to achieve a 100% score in ‘Expert Mode’ should the players ability be up to the challenge.

Jeff already reviewed the Sunburst model, but this one is metallic candy apple red. And this guitar, my friends, is built to last. Long after you are inducted into the Rock Band Hall of Fame this guitar will still be functioning the way it was always supposed to. Straight out of the box the Red Candy Apple finish on the guitar was absolutely glowing.  Holding the guitar in your hands you can really feel the weight of instrument. A Fender Stratocaster built for the world of Rock Band! Real tuning pegs on the headstock, 10 low-profile fret buttons in their traditional Rock Band locations, a Guitar Hero style strum bar that gives the convincing “click” feels solid as a rock, 5-way effects switch, the Back and Start buttons disguised as a Stratocasters volume and tone knobs, an authentic metal bridge complete with real string saddles and traditional Fender tremolo system, and an output jack.

If you saw this guitar from far away you would think it was a real electric guitar without strings. Actually, that’s exactly what it is! Take all the guts out and replace with the Xbox electronics, take the strings off, and add a strum bar. BOOM! Now you’ve got yourself a Rock Band guitar you deserve! Every detail just screams quality. This guitar is made to last. It’s made so that you can play your ass off and not have to worry about how it will perform the next time you pick it up. I mean, if you’re not smashing TVs with it or crushing a burglar’s skull with it (I have 100% confidence that this solid wood guitar would win both of those fights). In other words, normal wear and tear will not be a problem for this guitar.

But how does it play?

The low-profile fret buttons allow you to play fast and fluidly up and down the neck. They don’t require much pressure to engage them and don’t make much of a sound when you push them into the neck. The strum bar is not of the mushy Rock Band variety. It’s the Guitar Hero click-click strum device that is louder than the Rock Band strummer, but is much more effective in providing physical feedback when strumming. I prefer the Guitar Hero style strum bar for that reason, and I believe it helps keep my playing accurate. Even when I can’t hear the clicky strum bar I can feel it. There are three ways to engage Overdrive. Just like the Rock Band plastic Strats you can:

Only three concerns worth noting here.

  1. The guitar may be a little heavy for some when having it strapped on for extended playing sessions. The best way to combat this is to buy a comfortable strap. I’ve had the same PlanetWaves locking guitar strap since my band playing days and because this guitar has genuine, metal strap buttons (the plastic Strats have, you guessed it, plastic strap buttons) a real leather or locking guitar strap will work perfectly.
  2. The position of the whammy bar is a bit awkward. Though it’s mounted in the correct position at the bridge, the bar can be fully depressed and touch the pickguard.  When you’re rocking out hard using the whammy bar it’s easy to accidentally press the bar into the select button, which will trigger your overdrive if applicable. The solution to this is to slightly alter your whammy technique. I find angling the bar more towards the ceiling as I prepare to use it so it will clear the Select button and not trigger any ill-timed Overdrive power!
  3. The regular plastic strats have the auto-calibration camera and mic feature onboard; calibration on this wooden guitar is totally manual.

Now go and be a Rock n Roll Giant!

The guitar really plays great and after picking up a few of my old plastic Rock Band guitars I really can’t imagine going back to using them on a regular basis. After playing Green Grass and high Tides on Expert guitar with my old plastic guitar and then this guitar I saw an increase of 3% in my instrument score. BOOM. This guitar means business! If you need a solid guitar that plays better than the stock Rock Band guitars this guitar is for YOU. It will not disappoint — and it’s also on sale for $99 while supplies last from the Mad Catz Store in Candy Apple Red and Sunburst.

The Trust Factor is alive and well!

Awesome Review!

March 9, 2011 at 11:05 pm

I’ve had the GH WT guitar controller for about 3 years now and always on expert. It has never missed a single note. That thing is as reliable as can be. I even put a special skull n roses skin on it after a year of owning it and it never stopped working. Looks pike it’s time to upgrade to a RB guitar, GH now being dead and all that. Awesome review!! Looks like I’ll be picking up the Apple Candy Red since I already have a sunburst Hofner Bass, which has also never failed me since release :p

March 15, 2011 at 10:18 pm

Glad to see this site active again. Nice review of that Strat replica. Makes me want to drop that $100 on the gameshark sale.

March 17, 2011 at 10:22 am

This is a great addition for the total rock band experience. Just a shame its still so expensive though, especially compared to the Squire which is a proper guitar too.

March 19, 2011 at 12:37 am

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