Review: Grote .strandberg* copy

Grote Strandberg copy

Okay this is gonna be interesting… I found this .strandberg* ripoff on eBay for 299$, so I thought: what could go much more wrong than it being a total disaster? So I placed my bid (as the only person) and after somewhat 2 weeks, a yellow wrapped styrofoam package arrived home, which I could literally hold between my thumb and one finger as it was so light. I additionally paid 27€ for import taxes, which means I spent around 300€ in total to get this. It’s been a while since I was so stoked opening a parcel, really.

As always, let’s check the specification list first before we take a look at our ripoff-berg:

  • Model: electric guitar headless playing so cool (according to the eBay item title, I’m not kidding)
  • Construction method: bolt-on
  • Scale length: 25,5”
  • Body: looks like mahogany I guess?
  • Neck: probably maple
  • Top: flamed maple veneer
  • Finish: natural satin
  • Fingerboard: rosewood
  • Inlays: offset dots
  • Headless hardware system: “Licensed by KD Patent”
  • Frets: 24 frets
  • Original pickups: Grote passive pickups (2-conductor)
  • Replacement pickups: Ibanez V7 / V8
  • Controls: 1 volume, 1 tone (currently unconnected), 3-way switch

Feel

Right away: I expected it to be really bad. And the truth is: it isn’t. Actually it’s quite decent. The finish is pretty smooth, somebody did take some time to sand that thing. The neck feels great, it’s a pretty thick, round C shape. The fretwork on this is surprisingly okay for the pricerange, not perfect, but the frets don’t bother your playing (the high string just once got stuck under the 24th fret but I mean shit happens right?). The maple veneer looks much nicer than on the eBay picture. Oh right, I did not get the exact instrument that was shown online. Mine came with pickup rings. If you could imagine how much I hate pickup rings… and they were so unnecessary on this, really. But okay, let’s not complain, issues like that are to be expected.

The neck is super straight and string action is, after some tricky adjustement, very good. The bridge is a bit clumsy at first, but one gets used to it very quickly. Oh yeah, a word about the hardware. The strings are put through the headpiece and wound up on the bridge. The system is actually not so stupid at all, apart from the tuning pegs, which are absolutely impossible to turn with your fingers, which means you always have to tune the guitar with a allen wrench. But this being done – it stays in tune! I adjusted the intonation too, which is really nice now. The string set I have on it right now (008-057) in drop B is not great since the high string is way too loose for fast playing, but I guess with a proper set that’s gonna be improved.

The balance is amazing on this thing, I feared that the playing is gonna be weird because of the missing weight from the headstock but it’s super comfortable. Talking about comfort, it’s the lightest guitar I’ve ever had in my hands: 2.5kg to be exact. As impossible as it sounds, the general feel of the guitar just doesn’t match its price. I’m surprised everytime I hold it. Don’t get me wrong, it isn’t comparable to the feeling of holding a 3.000 euro custom shop in your hands, but keeping in mind that there’s a zero missing on the pricetag, it’s excellent.

Sound

Let’s get to the even more interesting part: what does it sound like? Well there’s a short answer: with the stock pickups pretty shitty.

That however wasn’t really surprising, I knew that I was going to change the pickups anyway. So the same day I got it, I removed the pickups and those bloody frames, which of course left screwholes in the nice veneer. Now the following is absolutely non-professional but the result is satisfying my personal liking. I filled the holes with toothpicks, which I then cut off with a razor blade. I personally prefer seeing these little wood dots than those black plastic frames, the dots really aren’t that noticeable, even if you’re playing.

I then installed a set of Ibanez Prestige pickups (V7 and V8 Custom) which were lying around anyway, since I’m modding my RGD2120z (project still unfinished, will post as soon as done). They’re not bad pickups though, they sounded great in the Ibanez, so I was wondering how they would do in the Grote. I love twiddling around like that, so I had a good time drilling holes for the pickup screws and installing the pickups. Unfortunately the Ibanez bridge pickup is F-spaced – so it doesn’t fit perfectly, but I honestly don’t mind for this guitar. I also didn’t reconnect the tone knob, since I was too curious to finally hear the result and also because I think that tone knobs are stupid on modern guitars.

The result is pretty good I must say! Open chord palm mutes sound nicely big, although they sound a bit weird when fretted (maybe the string action is too low and the frets aren’t perfectly leveled). Lead sounds on the neck pickup sound nicely warm. Clean isn’t too bad either, especially on the middle position. I’m thinking of installing a coil splitting switch instead of the unused tone knob, but for now I’m pretty happy with it. I think the best way to get an idea of the sound is just to watch my review video on YouTube.

Verdict

The guitar is totally usable in every situation. I haven’t gigged it yet, nor rehearsed a lot with it, but I know that it is able to. Even at home I’m playing it every time I come into my home studio, I’ve even started writing songs with it. And that means a ton to me. There’s something unmeasurable with guitars that makes them interesting for me – it’s the inspiration that the guitar gives me. It’s probably because this is something pretty new to me, I’ve played headless guitars before, but never owned one.

Nevertheless, in the end, I’m not gonna say: go ahead and buy such things. I’m sure that it was pure luck that I got an instrument that was okay to play – there’s always the risk that you get really nothing for your money. Especially if you’re a beginner, don’t even think about it. Get some Ibanez or so for a bit more money if you want something solid that lasts for sure.

This is something you should only do if you already have decent and serious instruments to work with and if you have some spare money that you can spend without crying afterwards if you receive some horseshit in exchange. This is definitely not an alternative to a real strandberg. And don’t forget to add the price of new pickups, electronics etc. I’m not sure if I would spend 200 to 250€ for a set of Duncans or Bare Knuckles to put in a guitar that was almost as much.

  • Phill

    Is the body chambered?

  • Pavegud

    You got lucky. Mine was unplayable.