Gear Review: Firefly FF338 Guitar

Street Price: $139.91

Hey folks!  Here is a follow up to my Firefly FF338 First Impressions post a few weeks ago.  I’ll call this a thorough review now that I’ve spent some time with this guitar.  I’ll just cut straight to the chase: this guitar is the best bang for the buck I’ve ever played.  BUT! It will need some work to be gig worthy.

Before I dive into it, they’re actually in stock right now!!  I’ll do my best to keep these links up to date as they go out of stock or if more come in stock.  Click on the picture of the color you want and be whisked away to Amazon! (these are affiliate links).

Transparent blue is sold out!

Red is sold out!

Sunburst is sold out!

Only black is left!   Firefly FF338 Gloss Black   

Ok, now that I’ve got that out of the way.

The Good

Playability

To me, playability is priority number 1, especially with a set-neck guitar.  The neck on this guitar is very comfortable.  It’s not too thick or too thin, a real middle-of-the-road neck.  I’ve played a lot of guitars in this price range and they usually have a cheap feeling to it.  I know that’s hard to explain, but usually when you play a cheap guitar, it just feels cheap.  This neck is smooth and feels solid in my hand.  I did have to add a slight bit of relief to the neck with a truss rod adjustment and the truss rod operated as it should.  It even came with an allen key for adjusting said truss rod.  No matter how many sets of allen keys you own, the size you need is always missing, so this is a nice bonus.

Freebies

The guitar also came with a 10ft cable, the aforementioned allen key for the truss rod, and a baggie of picks.  I’ve been using the cable when playing at home, and so far so good, but I have seen posts from other owners indicating these cables didn’t last long.  I’m not showing up to a gig with just this cable, I’ll put it that way.  I’m also very picky and my picks (pun intended), so those picks are just sitting in a bag still.  For a beginner guitarist or someone who hasn’t amassed a large collection of cables and picks, it’s a nice bit of swag.

Speed Of Delivery

These are only sold new on Amazon.com.   Amazon seems to be able to get any product anywhere in the Continental U.S.  almost immediately.  I ordered mine in the morning and it was delivered the next day for free.   If you buy a used one on eBay, this will probably not be the case, so don’t expect that.

The Questionable

Fretwork

The fretwork is good, yet not perfect.  It’s good in that there aren’t any dead frets.  The frets were leveled and well crowned.   There weren’t any sharp fret ends either, which I experience on about 75% of guitars I’ve played in this price point.  The guitar also doesn’t fret-out when I bend notes.  However, they needed a final polishing.  When I bent a note or put a little vibrato on it, you can feel and hear the string dragging on the frets.  That’s nothing that a little .0000 steel wool couldn’t fix though.

Sounds

When I buy guitars in this price range, I usually almost immediately replace the electronics.  When I did my Firefly FF338 First Impressions post, I hadn’t yet played at band volume.  I’m actually ok with how the stock electronics sound in this guitar.  It’s a very mellow sound, as you’d expect on a semi-hollow body guitar of this style.  The humbuckers are a medium output I’d say.   However, as I’ve recently found out after playing this guitar at gig volume, the pickups are microphonic.  Meaning that any considerable amount of gain and volume will have considerable feedback.  When I filmed my Youtube demo up above, I was just chalking it up to being a semi-hollow body.   After seeing some other videos posts about this guitar, I can conclude that it was indeed from the pickups being microphonic.  I worked with it though, kind of had a blast of feedback before each song like those old Black Flag songs.  My gigging days are about to be on hold for a while, so I’ll probably hold off on upgrading these pickups since I do most of my home playing through headphones now.  

Finish

I put this under “Questionable” because it’s not a bad finish job, it’s commensurate with a guitar of this price point, but there are flaws.  I’m also not picky on stuff like this.  But the gold sparkle looked great under the lights.  Guitarists in the crowd paid compliments to how it looked (and sounded).  The only flaws I could find on mine were a slight scratch on the lower bout, and the binding job in the F-holes was sloppily done.  But you have to really be looking at the guitar to notice them.  I’ll just say for the price of this guitar, the finish is great, but it wouldn’t pass the quality control of companies selling $1,000+ guitars.

The Bad

Hardware

The tuners were unuseable.  They were jumpy.  I would do about half a rotation on the tuner with no change in pitch, you could see the shaft that the string is actually wrapped around not moving as you twisted the peg, then suddenly it would jump.  I immediately changed the tuners with these Wilkinson Tuners (on Amazon.com here or eBay.com here).  These tuners fit right in, didn’t break the bank, didn’t require drilling any new holes, and seem to do the job.  There are more expensive tuners, but I couldn’t justify $50+ tuners on a $140 guitar.

The bridge is also a little suspect.  I was able to intonate and set the appropriate height, but when I play it unplugged, I can hear it rattle.  I haven’t noticed it coming through the pickups, but it’s noticeable if you’re just sitting on the couch noodling away while watching TV.  I may replace it, I’m not sure yet.

The Nut

4 of the 6 nut slots were way too high.  When nut slots are too high, you’ll get no intonation on the first 3-5 frets.  What this means is the open string could be in tune, and bar chords further up the neck could be in tune, but any open chords in those first few frets just sound way out of tune.  Even when I did bar chords down there with the band, I noticed my pitch sounded sharper than the rest of the band.  This is fixable with some simple files and a little bit of elbow grease though.  After I played a gig with this guitar, I filed down the slots and got some pencil graphite in there.

Final Verdict

For $139.91, this is a great guitar.  HOWEVER, it will need some work.  If you’re not comfortable doing these adjustments yourself, expect to dish out probably close to what you paid for this guitar to get it in tip-top shape (if you want to replace the pickups too).  That’s how this guitar is sold so cheap, they skip some of the fine tuning at the end of the manufacturing process.  Those little things like thoroughly polishing the frets and properly filing the nut slots takes time.  I’d rather they spent a few more dollars during the final assembly to do these two simple processes instead of the money they spent on that “free” cable it shipped with.

Let me reiterate this: this is a great guitar for the money.  It will need work and at least a tuner upgrade when you receive it to be a solid player.  This is true of any guitar in the price range.  If you’re playing at band volume with any amount of gain, the pickups will probably need to be replaced too, unless you love feedback.  At this point, you’ll be looking at a $300+ guitar by the time it’s all said and done if you don’t do the work yourself, but it will be a great playing/sounding/looking guitar, and still worth the price of admission.

Cheers,
Chuck

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