Oct 7, 2014

Rogue Rocketeer Review

          When I saw the Rocketeer by Rogue on sale as the "Stupid Deal of the Day" at Musician's Friend, I knew I just had to have it.  Seriously, a full size electric guitar for $60.  It couldn't be that bad, right?

          Surprisingly, no.  I received the Rocketeer within a week and opened it up, frankly expecting some major issues right out of the box.  Nope, the neck was straight, action acceptably low, and no glaring defects, or even small ones, anywhere the eye could see.

          Except that it was purple.  Now, it's not a huge issue, but the color shown is clearly blue.  It was labeled as blue, which is what I ordered.  While there is a 'purpleburst' option, that is not what I received either.  Instead of the nice navy blue pictured, in reality it lies somewhere between purple and black unless the lighting is really bright.  Overall impression of color - "meh."

          Despite the tasteless choice of color by the manufacturer, the finish was okay otherwise, although the glossy paint is just a bit streaky looking when viewed from a certain angle.  But still, for $60, it's pretty good.  For $100, (the normal price) a Squier has a nicer paintjob, but this one would still be acceptable.

          While I'm still nitpicking about the paint, one more thing irritates me about the quality of the finish - it is an absolute dust magnet.  To someone just a little bit OCD like myself, trying to wipe off the clinging dust gets old really fast.  But enough about that.

         Build quality is actually pretty good overall.  It does have a bolt on neck, but it is very secure with no fears whatsoever there.  The body is very solid and surprisingly dense, probably because it has several billion layers of paint on it :P  And the hardware seems acceptably durable as well.

         While the design is pretty obviously Strat-based, it does deviate noticeably.  The horns are shaped differently and the body is much more blocky, compared to the curved sides of a Strat.  I wouldn't exactly call myself a Strat purist, but the changes are almost all for the worse - albeit in ways so small it really doesn't much matter.

          The design is ultimately something of a hybrid - maybe 70% Strat, 30% Les Paul/other; the main differences consisting of the thicker body and the humbucking pickup.  

         Playability is where this guitar really surprised me for the price - the neck is natural and unfinished and lightning fast, probably one of the fastest I have ever played.  It really does make you wonder what in the world compels some manufacturers to put glossy lacquer on the neck.

          The tremolo is pretty decent, and shockingly sensitive compared to the one on a Squier Strat - dive bombs go just about as far as on a Floyd Rose - the only downside being that tuning stability suffers from it.  After just a few dive bombs it will need retuning, depending on how hard the trem is used.  However, it is still really fun to mess around with in any case :)

          Now the ever-important sound quality test - how good does it sound?  Since the tone comes mostly from the pickups, switching them out would certainly change most of this, and likely for the better.  However, if you do keep the stock ones, here's the gist:

          Output is pretty moderate - for the humbucker it is fairly high and will get some nice natural clipping, and the single coils are half that.  While on their own this might not be too bad, compared to the humbucker, they feel a little weak.  But I like a powerful pickup, so it could just be personal preference.

          The most noticeable characteristics of the stock pickups are their lack of clarity and mid-heaviness.  For classic 60's-80's rock this fits the vibe pretty nicely, the rounded sound making the tone warm and a little fuzzy.  For modern metal, not so much.

          The controls are pretty nice and responsive, but don't feel all that useful because of the tone as it is straight from the pickup - since it already sounds a little mellowed, lowering the tone usually only muddies the sound, and the output isn't that high to be turning it down further.

          The overall sound and style that this guitar puts out is clearly 80's rock and specifically Eddie Van Halen - the pickups are dark enough to give some of the "brown" tone, and the fast neck and whammy are very suited to such playing.  For that playing style it is pretty damn good, at least for the price.

          For clean sounds it is a little less fitting, as it is too mid heavy and feels lacking in bassy punch and treble sparkle.  It's okay for cleans for the most part, just not fantastic.

          Taken as a whole, the Rocketeer is a run-of-the-mill beginners guitar for $100.  It isn't outstanding, but does have some features that differentiate itself from more typical Strat copies.  If you can get it at $60, however, it's one heck of a bargain, and guaranteed to trump any First Act, any day.

Fast neck
Fun whammy
Decent bridge pickup for classic/hard rock lead

Single coils are a little weak
Paintjob kinda sucks

Overall 7/10 stars for MSRP $100, or 9.5/10 stars at $60

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