When I reviewed (and fell in love with) the SX SST57 Stop Tail back in the May 2008 issue, I knew eventually I had to get my hands on one of the STL models. If it was half the guitar the SST was, it would be well worth the modest price. When I decided to write an affordable Tele styled guitar roundup this issue, the SX STL62 was first on my list.
The SX STL62 is in every way a Tele tribute in a very traditional sense; with a bolt on rosewood on maple neck with six inline tuners, classic single cutaway, oversized bridge base plate, dual single coils with a three-way switch, and master tone/volume controls. The only upgrades over the classic design are, rather than employing the traditional inset jack cup (which is prone to failure over time), SX has opted for a more modern screw mounted jack plate and the bridge features a six saddle string-through design rather than the traditional three-barrel design.
The finish is absolutely gorgeous. The “CAR” suffix, in addition to abbreviating the color (candy apple red), also alludes to the subtle sparkle in the finish and the lively nature of the tint, which seemingly changes colors in different environments. In darker lighting, it appears a deeper maroon. Coupled with the black pickguard, it looks tough and aggressive like a bouncer in a dark alley ready to brawl. Conversely, in sunlight, it’s playfully scoping out the Betties on the beach.
Like their SST model, the neck has a nice and chunky C-shaped contour. A sticker affixed to the back of the headstock boasts a dual expanding truss rod. Fretwork is good, with a few slightly rough ends towards the top of the neck; easily remedied by five minutes with a triangular file and some steel wool. This neck was just a hair too wide for the neck pocket, as you can feel (and see) an extremely slight overhang of the neck heel at the joint. This doesn’t affect playability by any stretch of the imagination, though it is slightly distracting if you happen to graze it while playing up high on the neck. I expect this is a flaw unique to this guitar and not a general sign of a design issue. However, that does bring up the question of consistency of quality at this price point. Quality was clearly also sacrificed on the tuners to cut costs. The gear action isn’t consistent from string to string with the high e-tuning machine being the worst; which seemed to require almost twice the rotation of the others to alter pitch. The nut is cut clean and there were no binding issues. Setup out of the box was subpar; the bridge saddles needed to be lowered significantly. In spite of this and to my surprise, I was able to lower the action extremely low without any buzzing; indicating the frets were nice and level and the neck had the perfect amount of relief without adjustment. However, once setup the saddle adjustment hex-screws were protruding significantly. They’re not at all sharp or rough, but whenever palm muting they make me a bit paranoid that I might scratch up my hand.
The pickups are a mixed bag. The bridge has the bite and twang you’d expect from a Tele with a modest output and balanced midrange and lows, perfect for nailing country and classic rock tones. On the other hand, the neck is simply passable and exhibited some muddiness, depending on amp settings. However, I should add that I feel it’s somewhat difficult to make a really good traditional Tele-neck pickup which complements the bridge pickup perfectly. I’ve been equally disappointed by some replacement models from the bigger names in pickups. The volume and tone knobs are effective across their entire sweeps. However, the tone knob could be a bit smoother, as it becomes exponentially effective as it’s rolled back, making the last quarter turn difficult to dial in precisely.
SX has another diamond in the rough with the STL62. Though not without some minor flaws (tuners should be immediately upgraded), this is a player’s axe which will likely make you feel a bit guilty for being able to get so much pleasure out of such an affordable guitar.
Price: $109.99 USD
Pros: Good playability, nice finish
Cons: Poor tuners.