Great platform for upgrades.
I ordered this guitar from Sweetwater before Christmas and it arrived Jan. 2. (Holidays made it a slow go for shipments, not Sweetwater's fault.)
My initial impressions upon unboxing: "Wow! It's one of the good ones."
I can actually make direct comparisons to another popular budget-minded Strat: the "Classic Vibe 50's" model. I own a "Fiesta Red" model which I purchased at a local shop over a year ago. There are many things about this MIJ Fender which are superior to the Chinese-made Classic Vibe series.
First off, the body and neck feel slightly more "substantial." The headstock in particular is thicker and probably more "vintage correct." The wood on the MIJ seems to be selected from a superior timbre with beautiful flame on the neck and headstock and one stunner of a sunburst body.
Next, the neck is similarly contoured but, the MIJ is wider at the nut due to the much more correct string spacing at the bridge. Also, unlike the CV model, the MIJ has beautifully rolled fingerboard edges. Both are a "vintage 'c'" shape, except for the slightly heftier feel of the MIJ neck due to the wider string spacing. Lastly, the MIJ has a perfectly level fret-job with vintage-accurate 7.25 radius and those low, small vintage frets. (The CV is 9.5 radius with medium frets and, actually, has an equally impressive level of fretwork.) Neither guitar has sharp fret-ends or fret-poke.
The hardware on the MIJ is far superior to the CV. The tuners feel much more solid (even thought they look the same). The trem block is much larger in the MIJ. And, lastly, the input jack feels of higher quality. There's a little added confidence giving the trem a little workout in the MIJ.
So, I'm only giving the MIJ LTD '58 Stratocaster 4 stars. Why? Because this guitar does not come with 100% quality components. The problem? Really inexpensive electronics and pickups.
The electronics: for shame. The pots all need to stay turned up all the way to retain and treble. (Yes, no treble from a Strat with a beautiful, chimey unplugged tone.) I pulled the pickguard and the quality is really poor. The volume knob, for example, does nothing until about 7 or 8 and then it's almost on full. (Tone knobs are the same.) Also, the 5-way switch utilizes a plastic housing.
As for pickups: the CV actually comes with vintage sounding pickups which can "Chime", "Sparkle", "Quack" and all that other "Stratty" stuff.
This MIJ has those despised cheapos with the big ceramic bar on the bottom (remember, I pulled the pickguard) and almost no "quack" or "sparkle." This would be fine for hard rock with gain but, for a classic Strat sound, it's a little weird.
Ultimately, I love the guitar and I'm willing to upgrade the electronics but, for those looking for good Strat tone at an affordable price, the CV is actually quite good.
One last option would be the MIM "Classic" series of Strats. While these offer the "vintage" neck radius and small frets, the "v" shape is not for me (even though I like to play thumb-over chords).
Therefore, this really well-crafted Japanese Strat is actually a great deal for those who are willing to accept the low-quality electronics as part of the equation. (I'm dropping in a pre-wired pickguard with some "69" era pickups from a good company.)