Hi esteemed pickers,
I previously started a thread "Flirting with the 5-string electric mandolin (again)", which implausibly resulted in me purchasing the 4-string Fender Mando-strat reissue. I've read plenty of threads in here re: Mando-strat, but wanted to share some (possibly redundant) observations I've had since receiving the instrument last night.
(Quick note: I played through a '78 Fender Video Champ).
Tone (clean): sure sounds like a Fender instrument. Admittedly I think single-coils are where it's at for electric guitar, so I was pretty pleased when I plugged this baby in. No "weak E," no hum/noise (apart from minimal, standard single-coil noise). I mostly wanted a 4- or 5-string for jazz-type exercises and messing around with ragtime, and the clean tone does not disappoint. My only other solid body mando, a Mann, always sounded a little anemic/flaccid. Thankfully this Fender doesn't have that problem.
Tone (dirty): I ran the Mandocaster (I know, I know..."Mando-strat") through three different dirt pedals; Boss Blues Driver, Crowther Hotcake, and Proco RAT. To put the mildly, they all sounded like sh*t. Single note licks sounded decent, but any kind of chord or doublestop crunch produced a bizarre, unpleasant set of clashing overtones that dissipated rather quickly (maybe half a second?) before the actual notes I was playing in the instrument could be heard sustaining. I made sure to check my settings using my Telecaster, but didn't have the issue with the guitar. It's been a few years, but I'm hazily remembering that I may have had a similar issue with the Mann. Maybe single-string mandos just don't take distortion well? I doubt it though...I've heard some pretty bodacious dirt sounds from Jim Richter's Fender. I'll have to keep tinkering with this, as I play an 8-string with distortion quite frequently and have not had a problem.
Play/feel: the neck is great. I like the semi-V shape it takes on near the headstock. My other mandos don't really have this, but it's a welcome change. Fingerboard feels nice.
Bridge: not surprisingly, this is the real shortcoming of this instrument. Not only is the intonation hard to dial in with the two saddles (on mine, everything plays in tune open, but the A string goes quite sharp once fretted), but the bridge itself feels like it's made out of cheap tin. I will definitely do some hunting for an after-market bridge replacement, as I know many others have done before me.
Overall build: decent? The pickguard on mine seems to have a tendency to bubble out, away from the instrument, in a few places. Upon arrival, the instrument's input jack was coming unscrewed; I fixed it, and it's already coming unscrewed again. As others have mentioned, the position marker dots on the side of the neck are too small, and are horribly placed, being bisected by the different wood colors of the neck and fingerboard. Tuners feel fine to me. Ditto for the volume and tone knobs. While cute and tiny, the instrument is definitely heavier than I expected.
I fell asleep on my couch playing it last night, so despite my qualms with its imperfections, I'm digging my Mandocaster so far. I'd be interested to hear from other 'Caster owners/players as well.