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User Review

A Travel Guitar that is Gig Ready - plays well and sounds excellent - Reviews Strobel Guitars Strobelcaster

Value For Money : Excellent Audience: Anyone
Take a Fender Stratocaster, reduce its body mass to make it lighter, make it headless for better sustain, give it a detachable (interchangeable) neck for even more compact transport for travel/carry-on, route out the body for a bigger tone and an even lighter weight, and what do you have? The STROBELCASTER™ Standard, designed in the USA by Russ Strobel.

Now, the above does suggest some fantastic features, but I want to focus on the sound and playability first, since that is what interests gear heads the most. The accompany demo certainly covers a number of tones using all the pickups, from sparkling clean, to somewhat dirty and hard rock.

Before getting into those aspects, do note that I have experience with Strat and Strat-like guitars, including a 1979 American Fender Strat and a custom-built Hendrix-style Strat with custom-wound Brian Porter pickups. The American Strat is no longer in my collection, as it had a very ‘tight’ and thin tone, both due to the solid maple body and its pickups. I did have those pickups changed to Gilmour-style pickups and I still didn’t meld with it (and it was bloody heavy!). The custom Strat has more life and dynamics, although I find it noisy (typical single-coil issues). Now enters the STROBELCASTER™.

When I was told the STROBELCASTER™ Standard (there are Plus and Custom models) could stand up to any typical Strat, I was intrigued. I do a lot of gear reviews and nearly always play through a humbucking guitar; however, many people want to know what gear sounds like through single-coils as well. I needed such a guitar for demos and did not care for the single-coils in my studio. Taking a chance on the STROBELCASTER™ definitely was worth it.

As mentioned in the intro, the STROBELCASTER™ has a bigger open sound, thanks to fully routed out solid poplar body. Certainly, all the pickup selections are very Strat-like in character, as would be expected, but full tones with every selection and with its Belcat BS-01 pickups. The guitar’s sustain also is quite excellent, a common trait among headless guitars. The STROBELCASTER™ is rather low noise, considering it has single-coils. Also, you can change from one pickup selection to the next without any popping or crackling (in that regard, the Volume and Tone controls also are very quiet with smooth operation).

The playability is very good, with decently low action. The solid Canadian maple neck, with its dual action truss rod, has a typical Strat profile, with a 12” fretboard radius, 24.75” scale length, 21 medium jumbo frets and somewhat buttery in feel, thus making string bending in the upper registry easy and accommodating. The neck is actually closer to a Les Paul (typically 12” radius and 24.5’ to 24.75” scale length), as opposed to a Fender neck (ranging 7.5” to 12” radius and 25.5” scale). The finish of the neck and fret edges also are spot-on and of high quality… no burrs or rough edges. The body’s finish, as well as the pickguard are flawless with a professional finish/cut. All routing and drilling are well done. Moreover, the STROBELCASTER™ also comes with a 1-5/8” adjustable nut, for those die-hard slide players.

Although the STROBELCASTER™ appears to be a simple travel guitar, it is 100% gig-ready in every respect, from playability, sound and construction. It’s size, weight (under 5-pounds) and ability to be disassembled is what makes it so perfect for traveling abroad, or simply taken to a local gig or outdoor recreation area for some leisurely picking. Totally assembled, the STROBELCASTER™ measures only 30-inches, and easily detaches via four thumbscrews (that you loosen or tighten with a dime or similarly small coin). Although it comes with a quality gig-bag, disassembled you can place the 17.5” neck and 15” body into a duffle back, backpack or briefcase. Disassembly takes a minute or two, whereas assembly takes a touch longer (to retune the strings). The accompany demo illustrates how the STROBELCASTER™ appears disassembled and then assembled (the reverse of how the neck is removed from the body). There is a patented StringKeeper™ that keeps the strings organized, as well as a patented StringCatcher™ to protect the body’s finish from the strings (that wrap around the body for storage and transport). Of course, you can keep the STROBELCASTER™ in the gig-bag without removing the neck from the body.

With its patent innovate design, the STROBELCASTER™ also boasts state-of-the-art locking tuners, a fully adjustable Tunomatic bridge, expert, proprietary luthier fabrication, and the Standard model can be upgradable with the STROBELCASTER™ PLUS model (different colors, different pickups, etc.), or you can request custom changes.

Overall, the STROBELCASTER™ Standard is a highly likable guitar, from playability, to sound and to its portability. At $749 USD one would expect a quality instrument, and that is what the STROBELCASTER™ Standard provides. Its reduced footprint may suggest ‘less’ of an instrument, but don’t let that fool you, as it plays and sounds great, and certainly put the challenge to the two Strats I’ve played over the years. I do have the Strobel Rambler® Classic Travel Guitar (with humbuckers) that I enjoy, but I have a stronger connection to the STROBELCASTER™ Standard. And that says a lot, since I’m typically a humbucker guy.
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