Rock Band Fender Squier Stratocaster Pro Guitar Review
Back in 2005, Guitar Hero hit stores and the plastic music instrument genre blew up overnight. It wasn't the first game of it's kind, but Guitar Hero popularized plastic guitars in the North American and European markets for rockstar wannabes.
Following the release of its sequel, Guitar Hero 2, the Harmonix team was sold. They promptly began work on a spin-off game--which would ultimately become more popular than its predecessor--named Rock Band. Rock Band brought forth a few new instruments into the mix: drums, a microphone, and eventually a keyboard. The third installment of Rock Band was an effort by Harmonix to re-spark interest in a genre that began to fade away from the spotlight. The team decided to take the game to the next level by emphasizing the use of real instruments--you could add cymbals to your drum kit, attach your own keyboard (or buy the custom designed Mad Catz one), and finally, plug in a real, custom-built, Fender Strat guitar to the game.
The Hardware, a.K.A The Fender Squier Stratocaster for Rock Band (retail $279.99 USD/CAD)
The Fender Squier Stratocaster Pro Guitar for Rock Band is essentially the budget line of Strats from Fender, but there are some important differences, the biggest being the midi-out port that's built into a guitar. While the guitar does have a regular analog out jack to plug it into an amp, the midi-out is a great feature that allows you to plug it into a PC or Mac to record and edit your music with ease (helllllloo Garageband!).
You'll also notice a bunch of little colored buttons on the guitar, a directional pad, and two bigger left and right arrows. These are used to navigated through the in-game menus from your guitar. The buttons are colored instead of being labelled because the guitar actually works on the Xbox 360, PS3, and Wii; not having to buy a separate guitar for each console is a big bonus.
There's also a black bar that looks like a line of velcro. Pressing down on this bar makes it spring up and mute the strings. Why would you want to mute the strings? Because the game is highly sensitive and detects even the most minute vibration--if you strum too hard, the game might detect more than one strum.
The body of the guitar is fairly solid, except for the fretboard. It's an actual Fender, so the size is bigger than your plastic guitar and it weighs considerably more--roughly the same as a real electric guitar. As I mentioned previously, the fretboard feels cheap; it's made out of plastic and looks like it might break off at some point--but we haven't encountered any issues, nor have there been any major reports in the online community. Despite the quality of the fret, it does play a lot better than my old Japan-built Fender. You might need to open the battery compartment when you first buy the guitar to adjust some of the strings, namely the high E; I didn't need to, but there have been reports from other users who had to do it. Don't worry, this is part of maintaining a real guitar.
Wait did I say "battery compartment"? Yeah, that wasn't a typo. The guitar requires three AA (included) batteries if you're going to play it on a console. The batteries are not needed if you use it as a real guitar.
There is no whammy bar on Fender's Rock Band Squier, so the game auto-whammies for you. It does, however, have motion detection so you can still tilt the guitar to activate overdrive. Speaking of which, the detection is a LOT better in this guitar over its plastic counterparts.
Rock Band Squier Buttons
1) Midi-Out (not pictured). By plugging in the supplied midi cable, you can attach your guitar to the midi Pro-Adapter, a midi interface device, or if you use a midi-to-usb cable, you can even connect it to your Mac or PC (I've tested this with GarageBand on OSX Snow Leopard and it worked perfectly).
2) Digital Pad: A standard Up/Down/Right/Left digital pad used solely to navigate through Rock Band's menus. One little note: since you're looking down on the guitar, the up and down arrows are inverted and there's no way to change this. It's easy to get used to it, though.
3) Start Button and 4) Select/Back Button: Used solely in Rock Band to mimic the start/back/select buttons on Xbox, Playstation 3, and Wii.
5) Volume Control: A regular volume nob that's used when plugging the guitar into an external amp. Sorry, you can only crank up the volume to 10.
6) Analog Out: Use this to plug your guitar into an amp, tuner, or whatever else you'd plug your normal guitar into.
7) Colored buttons: These buttons automatically map out to your four standard buttons on the Xbox/PS3/Wii.
8) String Muter: You'll probably want to push this button down so the muter pops up and mutes your strings. If you don't do this, you might have a hard time beating songs in Rock Band due to the string vibrations being registered more than once. Just make sure that when you're ready to jam in the real world, you push this button down, or you won't hear a thing.