Price Paid: 
$349 US
Country of origin: 
Body wood(s): 
Neck wood: 
Fretboard Scale: 
Number of frets: 


Price paid vs. import Fenders, playability (thin U shaped neck, 12" fretboard radius & extra jumbo frets), tone has a bit more snarl than an American Fender Standard, fretwork is great.


Relic job isn't fooling anyone: the (poly?) finish is applied right over the "wear" spots on it (actually, this amused me and is one of the reasons I purchased it. It's in the "con" column because I doubt "irony" is a motivator to most consumers); the thin U profile neck is a little twitchy and more susceptible to weather related tweaks than other instruments I have owned. I would have personally preferred a rounder neck shape.


I purchased this as a beater for an outdoor gig in October. I leaned on single coil G&Ls and Fenders at the time. My current stable is all double humbucker instruments except for the ST-203. It was playable out of the box. Years later the action has crept up, but as it is currently used for my blues noodling and Chili Pepper funk rhythm excursions that's OK. I have actually gigged with it and it's dependable in a live situation. Stays in tune well, and the pickups aren't as noisy as a lot of pricier Strat type guitars I've used. My ST-203 has a decent unplugged tone. It sounds lively and the intonation was/is spot on as far as I have ever been able to tell. As I mentioned above, the pickups seem to have a little more snarl/bite than the stock Fender American Strats, with decent sustain but not overly bright through my amps. Frankly, it's tough to say anything about the tone other than "inexpensive Strat". You can dial down the tone knob to get a more vintage sound if you want, but I don't know that you'll even feel or hear the need. Stock set up with 9-42 strings has a "shredder guitar" feel. Dinos will take to it, I think. I like baseball bat necks, but I just can't hate the neck on this guitar. Mexican Standard Strats currently street for $499, and frankly this guitar doesn't feel anywhere near as cheap as those...for $150 less! ESP is currently offering non-reliced versions for the same $349 street price, so if you are in the market for a decent backup, or just a Strat in general, I recommend the ST-203. It may not have the sonic nuances of "real deal", but at "close enough" and gig-worthy with no upgrades it's a no-brainer.

Overall Rating: 
Average: 4 (1 vote)