How will this budget friendly loaded pickguard sound when loaded into my experimental Squier Strat?
Cost: $27.70 from Musiclily.com!
I first found Musiclily after I stumbled into a few facebook groups that they host and run, mostly centered around guitar modifications. To be honest, the prices of their products is what got my attention more so than anything else, so I’ve been pretty anxious to see if the quality matches the attractive price. Musiclily was kind enough to send me this pickguard to install and review, though just like my guitar and pedal reviews, I don’t accept any payment for the article or advertising. So with all that out of the way, let’s dig into how loaded pickguard stacks up to stuff I’ve tried from Guitar Fetish or 920D!
Ease of Installation: High
It probably took me like 15 minutes to get this new pickguard into my Strat, which is super convenient. I am not exactly great at soldering, with plenty of mistakes made on my previous partscasters, so if I could do this quickly you definitely can too. All you have to do is solder hot and cold wires to your guitars output jack, and then solder the ground wire to back of the bridge as you would on any strat. That’s a total of 3 total soldering points, none of which are within the nest of pots/pickups that often intimidates novice guitar modders. Take note, this pre-loaded pickguard didn’t actually come with its own output jack, so I grabbed one I had laying around in my parts jar. One thing that really made me happy is how Musiclily cut this to the exact Fender/Squier measurements. It fit perfectly on my Strat with 9 out of the 11 screw holes perfectly lining up. This should be an easy install for even the most nervous guitar modder!
Sound Quality: Medium
You’ll find a short clip below of some clean and dirty sounds at all 5 pickup selections. Overall, I’m not disappointed in how these hot rails sound, especially for the price. But do I think they sound so good that I’d have to use them over my favorite GFS stuff? Not really. They’re certainly an upgrade on the normal Squier Affinity pickups and I think they are an excellent option if you have a bare bones budget guitar and need to take it to the next level. But if I had a Squier Classic Vibe, Mexican Fender, or something similar, you are better off keeping the stock pickups or investing in something higher quality. My specific criticism is that these pickups just don’t have that much body to them for hot rails. The first loaded pickguard I was sent was defective so this is the second of the two, and while it is certainly working, it isn’t has “hot” as I would have hoped. Musiclily did do a nice job in terms of how clear they are, with good note to note definition. But for me, these Musiclily pickups sound closer to normal Strat pickups than hot rails.
Value For Money: High
At the end of the day, this whole pickguard retails for about $30 or less, depending on if you go with a white, pearl, or black pickguard color. I really think this would be the best way to cheaply upgrade an Affinity series Strat from Squier or another cheap Strat copy from a smaller brand. They aren’t bad sounding pickups by any means, they just lack the punch of my go-to alternatives. The cheaper your guitar, the more value for money you’ll get from Musiclily’s dual hot rail loaded pickguard. Plus, at this price, why not experiment with them? For most people, they can afford to grab this product and still go back and upgrade again if they’re not satisfied. With that reasoning, I can overall recommend these to most guitar mod enthusiasts, as long as you don’t expect too much!
Final Verdict: Worth A Look If You’re On A Tight Budget, But More Strat Than Hot Rail Tone