Remember that Mad Catz full-size Stratocaster guitar controller? I couldn’t resist its siren call. I am now the
embarrassedproud owner of my very own sunburst fake Stratocaster.
The first thing you need to know about the Mad Catz Rock Band Wireless Fender Stratocaster Replica is that IT IS ENORMOUS. It is made from an authentic Stratocaster body, so it is truly a 100% full size guitar. Those other guitars you thought were “authentically sized”? Not even close! See for yourself:
That’s the Mad Catz Wireless Fender Stratocaster Replica next to the previously reviewed Logitech Wireless Guitar and the classic GH3 Les Paul guitar controller. (I didn’t show the GH5 / GH4 guitar, but it’d be a bit larger than the Les Paul.)
The Mad Catz Strat isn’t just full size, but full weight, too. It tips the scales at over 7 pounds with strap.
OK, yes, it’s huge and expensive, but it is also a thing of great beauty.
It even comes with a Fender strap (the same one that’s included with the much cheaper Wireless Bass, but who’s counting.)
Everything here is authentic — all metal bits and real knobs throughout. There’s even a connection port for the overdrive pedal (the guitar includes the necessary 1/4″ step-down adapter.)
All the standard Rock Band 2 guitar features are present and accounted for, including the effect switch. The strum is of the clicky variety, with the premium Mad Catz “2.5 million cycle” switches.
Flipping it over to the back, we can see the battery compartment (takes 3 AAs, included) and a back cutout. I was initially a little perturbed by the frankenstein-like patchwork on the back of the guitar, but even a real Strat has a similar (albeit smaller) back cutout, as you can see in this picture.
The headstock, like the body, is from a real Strat guitar, so of course it includes real metal tuning pegs.
The only part of the guitar that’s plastic is the fretboard; the back of the neck is wood, but the front face is plastic. This is a Rock Band guitar, so the buttons (both solo and normal) are of the standard flat Rock Band variety.
If you’re concerned about the strategic use of plastic in the fretboard, don’t be. It looks fantastic, and the faux wood effect with metal detailing is first rate. In fact, one of the things I didn’t like about the Logitech Wireless guitar was the odd (and visually jarring) melding of real wood and plastic in its fretboard. The Mad Catz Strat neatly sidesteps this problem by making the fretboard one seamless length of cleverly detailed plastic. The fret buttons themselves feel identical to those of any official Rock Band 2 guitar, with the same action, stop edges and tiny embossed finger position dots.
OK, so we’ve established that this is a guitar so handsome that it utterly blurs the line between fake plastic guitar and real guitar. But how does it play?
The first thing you need to decide is whether you prefer your fret buttons flat (Rock Band style) or embossed/raised (Guitar Hero style). If you love or hate a particular button style, this guitar, despite its awesomeness, will not change your mind. Yes, the “premium” strum mechanism is a bit stiffer and perhaps a bit clickier than a stock RB2 guitar, but it’s a Rock Band guitar through and through. It plays pretty much identically to any other Rock Band style guitar, except it’s substantially larger and heavier. So how much you like it will depend on how you feel about flat fret buttons.
Beyond that, this guitar is large. Did I mention that it’s large? Yes it is VERY LARGE! And HEAVY! I thought I was a fake plastic guitar tough guy, having played with my own custom weighted guitars, and the 6 pound Logitech Wireless guitar with no problems at all. But after playing my first 10 song set with the Mad Catz Strat, my shoulder was killing me. And that’s with a nice aftermarket guitar strap!
If you want a truly full size guitar, be prepared to pay the price in training in your body and shoulders to handle it. Given the size of the neck, you may also need to stretch to reach the fret buttons a bit more than you’re used to. It’s not a deal-breaker (for me at least), but it does take some time to get used to it. And that goes double if you’re a smaller guitarist!
The only real difficulty I had when playing with the Mad Catz strat is with the whammy bar. I guess this is an artifact of the real guitar component locations, but it’s ridiculously easy to hit the back and start knob with the whammy, and it takes some conscious planning to use the whammy without hitting any knobs. The whammy also hangs down much more freely than I’m used to with my other guitars, so it has to be wrangled a bit in use. Don’t get me wrong, overall the whammy works great, but you will have to adapt your whammy style to this particular guitar.
Is this guitar worth $299? If you absolutely love Rock Band style (flat face button) guitars, and you want an awesome looking and great playing full size axe, then absolutely. Well, assuming you’ve got $299 burning a hole in your pocket!