Overview: So I was in the market for a new budget 7 string, and I decided to give the Sterling version of the John Petrucci models a shot. This guitar particularly caught my eye because of how aesthetic it looks. The Island Burst finish combined with the baked maple neck looks quite attractive, and I do have to say they delivered on looks. Quality on the other hand is somewhat disappointing, and leaves a lot to be desired. Lets go over my initial impressions... Aesthetics and finish: The flamed maple veneer is very nice on the guitar, it has a lot of detail and depth to it. The veneer and grain on the mahogany body looks very nice with the Island Burst finish. I can't find any weird looking issues with the body wood itself. There are a few finish flaws near the control cavities but very minor. The baked maple neck has a pretty good satin finish, not the smoothest but overall pretty good. I was hoping that the neck profile would be the exact same as my Music Man Petrucci, but it feels a bit chunkier with bigger shoulders on the neck profile. There is some ugly (In my opinion, purely subjective) figuring on the fretboard. I know this is purely cosmetic but it bothers me. Some may find this cool, but to me it looks more like a stain than cool figuring. Fretwork: Here is the most disappointing part of the guitar. The frets are very poor quality and will require serious polishing. You can literally hear and feel the scratchyness while performing bends or vibrato. This is really disappointing especially considering the price point of $729. There are also many rough fret ends. Rough fret ends happen on imports sometimes but isn't the "baking" process of the neck supposed to suck out all the moisture to prevent shrinkage / warping / fret sprout? Hmm..... Hardware / electronics: More of a let down here. I knew the pickups aren't great on these guitars, but It's not only the pickups. The potentiometers feel very cheap, the volume and push / push gain boost potentiometer has almost no resistance to it, it spins very freely. You'd easily knock your volume down by just brushing against it. The gain boost works fine but again feels very flimsy. Other components like the pickup selector and saddles feel very cheap, and have that "chromed" cheap plating on them. The nut seems fine, it's cut pretty clean. The locking tuners seem okay as well, they turn smoothly and have a decent ratio. The string access holes on the back plate look like they were cut with a dremel lol Very cheap pot metal trem block. It's very thin. I think these bridges are proprietary so I don't think this could be upgraded unless something custom was made. The routing on the back also does not allow even spring spacing, You can see here that a spring would not even fit on the bass side of the tremolo if you wanted to add a 4th. Also the claw is clamped down all the way (Even with stock strings, 9's I'm assuming) Factory Setup: These guitars, all though Indonesian made are supposedly set up in California by Sterling. While the out of the box action was decent..check out the bridge setup.. So as you've probably guessed by my initial thoughts, I think I'm going to be returning this one. I think it could make a good modding platform and with a lot of extra work it could be fairly nice, but for $730 I expected much better quality in terms of fretwork and hardware. Was I expecting a perfect guitar? No, but this guitar feels very similar to a $400-$500 Indonesian Ibanez, probably made in the same factory. By the time you upgraded pickups, hardware, cleaned up the fretwork etc you'd probably be close to the price of a used Music Man or something comparable. Just my 2 cents. Allthough I'm most likely returning it I figure I would post up my experience in case others were wondering about it.