New Guitar – Van Halen, Anyone?

I don’t remember how this came up but I decided to look at Van Halen guitar replicas on Aliexpress and before I knew it I had ordered one! The price was very right ($370 CDN) and I saw a few reviews that said the guitars were generally ok. Not great, but ok. But it looked SO GOOD I just HAD to have one, even if it ended up being a display model I couldn’t really play.

I ordered it around the end of October and it arrived Dec 5th, even though they said it wouldn’t arrive until Jan 1 2024. They packed it in a box-shaped Styrofoam case completely covered with packing tape. Fairly clever and it worked just fine, this time, at least.

Unboxing it was absolute joy!! It absolutely looks the part! I’m sure people will point out small differences but I don’t care. Pretty close is close enough for me!

The bad news is it was unplayable. It wouldn’t stay anywhere close to in tune. And the fine tuners on the fake Floyd Rose can’t be turned with my fingers, and they are very important when you have a locking nut. And the volume control was a fairly cheap pot that was almost just on and off.

But now the good news: I oiled everything up and worked it in for a while (because I couldn’t stop playing it in front of a mirror anyway!!) and it got better and better. I adjusted the neck a bit but later adjusted it mostly back again. I also had to do major adjustments to fix the intonation but I don’t really expect them to do everything perfectly for that price, so no big deal.

After a day it was staying almost in tune! Then I remembered I had my own Floyd Rose II in an old Squire Strat I wasn’t using any more so I swapped them. It really didn’t stay in tune any better at first but at least I could use the fine tuners on this one.

Another odd thing that caught me off guard was the pickup selector. Eddie didn’t even have his neck pickup hooked up so I wasn’t sure if this one was even real and didn’t think about it for a day. Then I decided to try moving the pickup selector that is stuck in where the middle pickup normally goes (a copy of what Eddie did) and the sound changed! The pickup is real and the switch works! It was on the wrong pickup the whole time! So now it sounded even better and I knew the neck pickup had a nice bright strat-like sound, although it was extremely inconvenient to switch between them.

Then I ordered a new volume pot (a good audio taper CTS 250K), got a momentary switch for on-off effects and a small switch for pickup selection. There were already 2 extra holes in the pick guard so I just had to make them a bit larger to add these two items.

By the time I finished all that it was staying in tune much better. In fact by a couple of weeks later everything seemed to be worked in and it stays in tune pretty darn well!

So how is it now, a month later? I ABSOLUTELY LOVE IT!!! It’s my favorite guitar!! It’s so much fun to play, feels great, sounds fantastic (to me) and it’s making me practice a LOT! Now this doesn’t mean that every guitar you get from AliExpress will be this nice, but I’ve certainly changed my opinion. We’ll have to see how it holds up over the years but for now I can’t say enough positive things about it. Even if I had to buy a new Floy Rose the total cost would still be well under $1000 for a guitar I really love.

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