NGD Sx Furrian Ash P90 - Detailed Review

Discussion in 'Guitars' started by Mossman, Nov 12, 2017.

  1. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    *** WARNING ***
    Like all my NGD reviews, this is a long read... Enter at your own risk.


    Hey, hey! Thanks to everyone who participated in the poll and the discussion leading up to this purchase!: http://www.aguitarforum.com/threads/looks-like-i-made-a-decision.97706/

    Going with the option that got the least amount of votes, I slapped some money down on the Furrian. Mainly because I was extremely curious, having read so many positive reviews (and having owned a couple of SX basses), I really wanted to find out how the guitars were. I had already played the other two guitars on the list (Squier Vintage Modified Telecaster Custom and Epiphone Sheraton II Pro) and knew they were of excellent quality, but the Furrian was the only wild card... and I can't resist a mystery.

    I also wanted a solid-body guitar with P90s, and given Rondo's excellent return policy, it wasn't much of a risk.

    I always thought my solid P90 guitar would be an LP-type. I assumed I would get a 3010SE if they ever got any in root beer with P90s again. But by the time they did, I had discovered that I'm just not an LP guy. I love my 3100MCC to pieces, and hope I never part with it, but I really don't have much desire for another LP type.

    I did, however, have a lot of desire for another Tele! And since I haven't seen a whole lot of Teles with P90s around (I know, Squier has a couple of Customs with P90s, but they're kinda hard to come by used, and I'm not inspired by the limited finish options), so SX became the obvious choice.

    When I first got turned on to Rondo, I was only interested in Agiles. I barely ever looked at the SX guitars. I typically used to be attracted to Gibson-style for guitars and Fender-style for basses, and I loved the two SX basses I bought (though I think the earlier one is a little better), but I would have to become a Tele fanatic before I thought SX had anything to offer me in the way of guitars.

    I wish I had bought one sooner!

    The paint job is unusual, and not what I expected, but it was very striking when I pulled it out of the packaging. Even a passing co-worker stopped in her tracks to comment about how nice it looked.

    I thought it would be like a cherry sunburst, but it's a two-tone burst. It looks like they used the orange and red that would be used in a CSB, but no light amber in the middle.

    This is without a doubt the most difficult guitar I've ever had to photograph. The orange and red just want to oversaturate like crazy, and look hideous under any kind of bright light or flash. One of the best photos I took, where it looks closer to the way it does in person was in my dark room at work:

    959a7c0c4782914e3ed690c980c81292.jpg

    Here's a couple taken at home after a lot of experimentation with lighting. They're not the best photos, but the color is somewhat more accurate. It still looks much better in person.

    bee3887ffadbf1e5b53126a1a936c745.jpg

    b0cc8fb0ef67894d832f4de7eec3fa55.jpg

    I like the new headstock. I think I'll keep it the way it is... SX logo and everything.

    4339520ae9a007251fcc2665e17d6ea3.jpg

    The back of the guitar is slightly less attractive. there's some grey-ish mineral streaking and the grain matching isn't as seamless. It doesn't look this obvious in real life, though... The camera brings it out more. And it's the back of the guitar, so I don't care that much. The grain on the front looks beautiful, and that's all that really matters. :)

    ab9bd8ef3961eb601636e6a5c80e0ad2.jpg

    This is where you sacrifice at the low end of the budget guitar realm. It's not the choicest piece of wood all the way around, but a lot of care was taken to match the pieces for the front, so it's all good as far as I'm concerned.

    The body is 1-5/8" in thickness, which is good enough for me. Before CNC, the thickness of a Fender Tele varied between 1-5/8" and 1-3/4 anyway (some were as thin as 1.5"), so I don't get hung up on that. However, Affinity bodies are 1.5" and I sometimes think that's too thin... Not for any logical reason. I just don't want to go thinner than 1-5/8"

    I am convinced that this body is actually made of 'swamp ash', in that it's light! ('swamp ash' is not a separate species. There's just ash). One of my concerns was that perhaps Kurt might be playing fast and loose with his nomenclature, and I would receive a guitar that could double as a boat anchor (that's why I crossed Harley Benton off my list of alternatives when I was shopping for the Classic Vibe). But this is actually the lightest of my three Teles. The 'Earthling' Tele that I built being the heaviest (made of alder), followed closely by the pine Squier CV. I don't have a scale, but I think the Furrian is probably under 8 lbs... I know the CV is 8lbs. 6oz. (according to Sweetwater) and it's noticeably lighter than that.

    One of the things I was looking forward to with this body were the body contours. I wish I could say that it makes all the difference in the world when it comes to comfort, but I really don't notice them. The slab body of the Telecaster never really felt un-comfortable to me. No complaints about the edges digging into my ribs or forearm. What does bother me is a guitar with binding on the back. My LP Custom and Rickenbacker 360 used to dig into my ribs, but not an unbound Tele.

    The Setup:

    Yes! This guitar actually came with a setup! That means a human being, somewhere along the supply chain took the time and care to set the intonation, action, relief, etc.. How do I know this? The first thing I did was check the intonation. It was dead-on. I've never gotten precise intonation on a guitar in this price range. It's usually nowhere close, to somewhere in the neighborhood, but not exactly dead-on. The Squier was accurately intonated, but that went through the famous (or infamous) Sweetwater 55-point inspection.

    The action was decent. A little higher than I prefer, but if I were to set 'middle of the road' action for some unknown consumer, I'd probably set it up like that too.. Not too high, not too low.

    The bridge saddles were actually radiused to match the fretboard and the pickup heights were set for optimal string balance! When I first started playing the guitar, I noticed that the bridge pickup was closer to the treble strings than the bass strings. I thought it was set that way randomly and made a mental note to adjust the pickup heights later, until I saw that the neck pickup was also set the same way.

    That means it was done dileberately... Comparing the output of the lower strings to the higher strings, it sounded perfectly balanced, and I crossed that off my list of things to do.

    I checked the neck relief with my notched fretboard straight-edge, and found that it had a median amount of relief. A little too much for my liking, but not excessive, either. I made a minor adjustment to the truss rod to flatten out the neck a little more, and it was very responsive. I also lowered the bridge saddles a little as well, and within a couple of minutes, I had it set just the way I like it. Plays effortlessly now!

    The Scrutiny:

    I'm really knocked out by the quality of this guitar! I'm not sure why I should be surprised, though. Both of the SX basses I've bought were very good quality. The hardware on the first one I bought (about ten years ago) was complete trash, as were the pickups and electronics. Everything but the tuners had to go, but the fit, finish and build quality were identical to my MIM Fender Jazz bass..

    After refinishing the neck, reshaping the headstock, filing a couple of frets and replacing everything on it, it's now my #1 player. The second one I bought (about 4 years ago) had better hardware and pickups, but the build was more like a Squier VM. Even so, all the work done to it was purely elective. Nothing had to be changed.

    Since I recently acquired the Squier Classic Vibe, it begs comparison to the SX, and the Furrian compares quite favorably! Fit is tight and clean on both guitars. The finish on the Furrian's body and neck looks just about as nice as the CV. I did find a couple of nicks in the finish on the edge of the belly cut, but I classify that as 'damage' more than a finish flaw:

    5d3a3fd121f80d907c5b1be670269be4.jpg

    I'm going to accept that, though.. I don't feel like hassling Kurt for twenty bucks back on a $180 guitar. I'll just touch that up with one of my art markers and forget it exists.

    Otherwise, I haven't found a single flaw on this guitar.

    Happy happy!

    [Edit]

    There is one other small cosmetic issue that I noticed about the pickguard. It's not glaringly obvious, but on close examination, there are inconsistencies that make it look like the PG was cut by hand. There are drastic changes in the angle of the bevel around the outer edge, and around the horn, the curves are not smooth, and they deviate from the contours of the body. I don't know if you can see it in this photo, but it's there. I took a look at the photo on the Rondo website, and that pickguard is wonky in the exact same way that mine is, so they're all like that.

    158f9542d936bc9e93f2572f0b717ec8.jpg

    It'll be easy to have another PG made, but I'm gonna try to not to let it bother me.

    The Neck:

    Besides the weight, my other big concern about buying this guitar sight-unseen was the supposedly 'chunky' neck. I've heard (read) so many people say that Furrians have chunky necks, I was preparing to either get 'used to' a neck I don't like, swap it out for another neck, or just send the whole thing back. Fortunately, I don't have to do any of those things, because it turns out that y'all and I have a different idea of what qualifies as a 'chunky' neck, I'm happy to say. :)

    When I think 'chunky', I think of a big, round, baseball bat neck, like on a Rickenbacker, or a '50s Les Paul... Or a '50s Fender for that matter. This neck is not as thin as the necks on the Squier CV or the Earthling, but I don't think it's that girthy, either. It's just a normal 'C' profile, I think. I'm not uncomfortable with it at all. When I switch between the Furrian and the CV, I'm barely even conscious of the difference.

    The nut is 1-11/16", which is fine by me. As I mentioned in another thread, I don't feel a difference between that and the 1-5/8" nut on the CV. String spacing is exactly the same.

    I'm on the fence about the binding. As a matter of design, I'm not a fan of cream binding on a maple fretboard. I prefer black binding on maple (like on the '70s Fender Jazz Basses), or no binding at all. But I guess since this is a glued-on fretboard, there was an urge to spiff that up a bit. I don't dis-like it. It gives the guitar a distinct look. It looks different, and I like that. I'm just not used to it yet.

    The fretwork is very well done. Very neat and clean... No high frets. I played every note on every string after I got the action set the way I like it, and I didn't find a single buzzy fret or dead spot on the whole neck.

    The crown and polish looks good. Not as good as the CV, but they look well done and shiny!

    The tuners are adequate. I used to go 'fire-sale' on every import guitar I bought (everything must go!) and replace all the parts with pricey upgrades, but now I keep the stock hardware until it fails. It usually doesn't. I find that except for the cheapest of the cheap, most import tuners are fine. I think most all of them have a gear ratio of 18:1 these days, which is more than adequate.

    Pickups and Electronics

    I took a peek under the control cover, and wasn't very surprised to see tiny pots, a small ceramic capacitor, and an import 'box' switch. At least the soldering looks neat and the wires are decent quality.. Cavity rout is really clean too..

    I'll replace with CTS pots, orange-drop cap and a 4-way switch (now mandatory on all Teles! :) )

    As a lot of people had mentioned, the pickups are actually pretty damn good! And I don't mean "pretty good for a bottom-tier Chinese guitar", either... Or "pretty good if you tweak your amp just right", or "good when distorted". I mean pretty good, period.. I didn't touch the EQ, or adjust my amp at all.

    Like the pups in my Agile 3100MCC, they don't exactly knock my socks off, but they are WAY better than I was expecting.. These pickups do not sound bad in any way. They did sound better with a little treble rolled off, but the tone knob doesn't have a lot of range. It's more like an on-off switch. Just upgrading the cap and pots could make a big difference in expanding the tonal capabilities of these pups.

    I think the neck pickup sounds great, actually. But the bridge pickups sounds a little 'canny' if you know what I mean. They also don't have as much of that 'throatiness' that you expect from a P90. I think a magnet swap to A5s will help that, though. And like I said, I haven't messed around much with amp settings.

    I've misplaced my multi-meter for the moment, so I can't tell what the DC resistance is, but they don't seem overly hot, nor overly weak or tinny. Probably about 8 or 9k if I had to guess.

    If I had no other options, I would not be unhappy with the sound of this guitar at all. It sounds good right out of the box, and there are some things you can do to improve the tone without replacing the pickups... but since @tobijohn made me an offer I couldn't refuse on a set of Epiphone P90 Pros (and I know I like the sound of those pickups), I just gotta try those out. If I like 'em I'll probably do a magnet swap on the stock pickups and put them in something else. They're even good with the ceramic magnets, but A5s or A2s would get it that much better, I think.

    As a concept, I really dig the idea of P90s in a Tele. I really like the idea of a P90 as a neck pickup with a traditional Tele bridge pickup (I think 'something else' just got added to my project list :) ).

    Summary:

    I keep wanting to compare this guitar to the Squire Classic Vibe, because that's what I have, and I'm most familiar with it. But I should really compare the Furrian to the guitar that's closest to its price. The Squire Affinity or Bullet. That's no contest.... The Furrian beats both of those like a rented mule. Fit, finish, build quality, wood type (you have to move up to the VM '72 Thinline to get a Squier Tele made of ash), body thickness, hardware, pickups... you name it. The Furrian's the undisputed champion on all counts.

    I want to say it's as good as a CV, but it's not... It's just not. But it's not that far beneath it. I would actually place this guitar just a notch below a Vintage Modified Squier. Where it loses points is the quality of the wood. If the ash Furrian were a Squier CV, I think the wood would be of a higher grade (it would look good all the way around, not just on the front). And while the neck is very well crafted, the maple is slightly lower grade as well (there's some dark streaks, but it doesn't bother me). Also, the pots and caps in a VM or CV are of a higher quality too... But that's about it. In every other way that matters, this is a solid, well crafted, great playing guitar!. And it costs less than half the price of a VM or CV.

    If all you can afford is a $200 guitar, and you're thinking about buying an Affinity, you'd be stupid not to go for the Furrian instead. It's a much better guitar for less money. We just gotta get on Kurt to start offering some more interesting finishes on the Furrians... Apart from this burst and the natural ash, the rest of them look as dull as dishwater.

     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
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  2. toomanycats

    toomanycats Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the most excellent and detailed review, but I can't see most of the pics.
     
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  3. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, something went sideways with the pics. Not sure what happened there, but it's all better now. :)
     
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  4. Partscaster

    Partscaster Well-Known Member

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    Great review.
    I have an SX Taurus-2 tele,...(one piece swamp ash body is spec), and a furrian thinline. Both great like yours.
    I think QC must be good in SX. My Liquids in same build quality.
    I cant remember if you have a Liquid. If not, thats a good inexpensive SX guitar to have a version of, too.
    That guitar of yours looks great to me. I want one...as usual.

    Maybe a minibucker in bridge ? ..I could do!
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
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  5. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Thanks PC.

    I don't have a Liquid. I could never warm up to the body shape enough to pull the trigger, but I do think about it from time to time.
     
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  6. Partscaster

    Partscaster Well-Known Member

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    I bet the feel would make you a fan.
     
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  7. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    It seems like everyone who has one loves it, so I do get a vague feeling that I'm missing out on something. If they had more finish options available, I might be able to talk myself into one a little easier.
     
  8. MichaelR

    MichaelR Well-Known Member Supporting Member

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    Really a great review. I myself have never owned or played a tele so there's another one on the bucket list I guess. If I do get around to buying one I will give SX a shot.
     
    Last edited: Nov 12, 2017
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  9. Tiga

    Tiga Well-Known Member

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    Great review as always and glad to hear the guitar is a keeper. If it sounds as good as it looks then you got a winner.
     
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  10. basictwang

    basictwang New Member

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    HELLO MOSSMAN and everyone else.
    I have an SX Furrian (T-style) with the two P-90's without the sculpted body....it is a regular tele body of American Alder and with a nicely grained maple neck/board. It is in Surf Green finish. I would like to know your thoughts on fitting a FENDER LICENSED TELE NECK onto the body. It must have the same size specs as yours regarding neck pocket dimensions. Do you think this would be feasible? Thanks in advance.
     
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  11. jjudas

    jjudas Member

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    Thanks for the thorough review. I love my Ash SX Furrian in Trans Blue. It's definitely one of my favorite guitars.
     
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  12. Partscaster

    Partscaster Well-Known Member

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    I bet it is feasible. I did a quick google and found some folks saying SX furrian neck-heels/pocket can be slightly wider than fender spec, but that there could be variances. Some mentioned having had smaller spec on SX. But that seemed rarer.
    One comment was that SX could be thicker top to bottom, so fender might need a shim in SX body if bridge cant accommodate height.

    Someone here must have personal experience at just that.
    Maybe a new thread with issue in title will get a knowledgable response.
    Welcome and good luck.
     
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  13. basictwang

    basictwang New Member

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    I want to thank you for your quick reply and the helpful advice. (basictwang)
     
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  14. brattmatter

    brattmatter Well-Known Member Supporting Member+

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    Imma gonna order the Cliff's Notes on Amazon...

    Great review. Two thumbs up.
     
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  15. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    You've never played a Tele? You don't know the raw power and versatilaty of the mighty Telecaster?? Leo Fender's greatest gift to mankind... You should get yourself to a guitar store as soon as possible and try a few out! You've lost enough time already! :)

    It really does sound good right out of the box. I'm just what you call a 'fussy mother' when it comes to pickups. But to be honest, if TJ hadn't made the offer of the Epi P90s, I wouldn't be looking to replace them right away... but I would have eventually replaced them..

    Yeah, I don't worry too much when it comes to swapping necks on Fender-style guitars these days. There might be a minor gap, or you might have to sand the heel of the neck a bit to make it fit, or as Partscaster mentioned, you may have to shim the neck pocket. But in my experience, most of the time, it's not a problem.

    If at all possible, take a careful measurement of the width of the neck pocket, and make sure the heel of the neck you're planning on using is the same. It should be 2-3/16" if you're using a Fender-licensed neck.

    Man, that finish is hot! I was jealous when you got that!

    Thanks! I often have trouble keeping it brief. It was pretty challenging when I was writing for my magazine, trying to keep my articles to 2,000 words. I had no trouble at all cutting other people's articles down, though. :) (I was the chief editor).
     
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  16. Bullcat

    Bullcat Active Member

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    Great review! Glad to see you had the same feeling about the neck that I did, I really like them. Happy NGD.
     
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  17. CyFan4036

    CyFan4036 Active Member

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    Great review! I’ve been waiting to hear what you thought about the quality of SX guitars before pulling the trigger on an ash Hawk...trigger pulled! Thank you
     
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  18. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, I think it's great. I always liked the SX bass necks. In fact, since they changed the headstock, I ordered an Ursa 2 (Jazz Bass) neck for a future bass project. Not only do they feel good in my hand, but the fretwork is miles better than what you used to get from China in the past.

    Hell, even Korean-made guitars got a pass on wonky fretwork. If your Epiphone Dot had a couple of high frets, you just shrugged your shoulders and said: "well... it is an Asian guitar..."

    Now that I know what to expect, I wouldn't hesitate to buy an SX guitar neck for a build, or replacement.

    Thanks! Glad I could be of service!
     
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  19. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy Active Member

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    Dammit... I shouldn't have opened this thread... now I want one!
     
    Last edited: Nov 13, 2017 at 1:36 PM
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  20. Mossman

    Mossman Well-Known Member

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    Haha! That's why I call guitar forums 'GAS Factories'.

    Their 'product' is desire.

     
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