Some of the most iconic guitars in the history of punk and grunge have been born out of circumstance – namely, whatever was cheap and widely available in pawn shops. In the modern era, players looking for great guitars no longer need to look to pawn shops, but nor do they need to spend a lot of money, either.
Case in point, the Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic. On the face of things, this is a guitar with serious attitude, that also happens to be affordable. In this KillerGuitarRigs Review, we’ll be taking a look at this unique Squier model to find out whether it’s really a punk rock rebel, or just a marketing masterstroke.
Read on to see what we thought of the Paranormal Super-Sonic.
Who Is This For?
The Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic is an import guitar made in Squier’s China factory. This goes a long way to helping to keep the cost down. At under $500, it’s relatively affordable for a wide range of players from beginner and up.
While the styling is frankly awesome, and the price point is enticing, as you’ll learn through this review, there were some limitations that we think will reduce the appeal of this guitar to working musicians and advanced players. But, for novices and intermediate guitarists, the quality is a step above Squier’s entry level models, and for that reason is still very much worthy of consideration.
Appearance / Features / Controls
Our test guitar had a fantastic Blue Sparkle finish, which was extraordinarily well applied. We’re old enough to remember the days of budget guitars with hastily applied paint, including overspray and runoff, so we were quite in awe at what Squier had managed to accomplish in this case. Unfortunately for some, this isn’t really a model for those looking for a subtle guitar, as the only other finish is Shell Pink.
Both finishes come with Indian laurel fretboards, which we think were actually one of the weakest areas of this guitar. The wood itself was dry and a little lifeless. Of course, that’s easily remedied with a spot of lemon oil or fretboard conditioner and some elbow grease.
Like most Squiers, it came with a poplar body. It tipped our scales at a hair over 7lb, putting it on the lighter side. The body shape itself is a bit of a hybrid – it was said to have been inspired by an image of Jimi Hendrix playing, believe it or not, a Fender Jaguar. Like his Strats, it was upside down and strung in reverse, but the offset body played upside down was a striking look. The Super-Sonic isn’t quite as simple as an upside down Jag, however. It was slightly broader in the waist, and it felt just that little bit more compact than a Jaguar.
The neck had a Slim C profile, which was all told, suspiciously similar to the Fender Modern C shape. We found it to be just as quick, and thanks to its extremely thin satin finish, we never felt any hang up or stickiness. The fretwork was mostly very good, too. We did notice that the 19th fret on the bass side was a little rough, not sharp enough to cause injury, but it was definitely noticeable when running fingers down the neck.
It had a synchronized tremolo bridge, with the typical Squier stamped pot metal saddles. They weren’t of any detriment, but they were an obvious area in which costs were kept down.
Like the rest of the Paranormal series, the Super-Sonic had some surprising features, too. The most notable example was with the electronics. It had a pair of Atomic humbuckers, and instead of tone and volume controls, it simply had individual volume controls for each pickup, something we haven’t experienced on any other model.
Performance / Sound
Unlike many of the reverse offsets we’ve played, we found this body to be extremely comfortable. Being a Squier, it was quite a lot thinner than a Fender equivalent would be, which kept the weight down significantly. The proportions were just right, and even though the treble side had the higher horn, the cutaway was just about even on both sides, which maintained the upper fret accessibility.
It had Squier vintage style tuners, which performed surprisingly well for fine tuning, but struggled to hold tune against heavy trem use. When we left the vibrato alone, we found it was actually quite stable, but if a guitar has a component, we do think that it should work as intended without causing issues elsewhere on the instrument.
Tonally, the Paranormal Super-Sonic was quite strong. The Atomic humbuckers were fat, and performed exceptionally considering the price point. They handled high gain and distortion without skipping a beat, and even gave us some really nice cleans. When strummed aggressively with the volume knobs cranked, they broke up with ease, and when easing up on the attack, they cleaned up nicely. Similarly, with the volume rolled back just a touch, both the neck and bridge pickups delivered decent clean tones.
The bridge position was where we spent most of our time. We found that it was quite clear, no matter how much overdrive we pushed, earning it a big thumbs up. Unfortunately, the neck had a tendency to sound muddy, particularly at higher gain.
Other Guitars to Consider
If you’re thinking that Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic won’t mesh well with your playing style, there are some solid alternatives at a similar price point that might be a better fit for you.
Squier Paranormal Cyclone
The Squier Paranormal Cyclone is a Mustang/Jaguar chimera that costs the same as the Super-Sonic. Although the similarities end there. It’s a SSS model with the fantastic 3 switch Jaguar pickup selector that just adds mountains of versatility. The single coil pickup arrangement is ideal for those looking for sparkly, glassy tones, and its short scale makes it a fast player that’s comfortable for players of all sizes.
Epiphone Les Paul Special
The Epiphone Les Paul Special is an affordable version of the classic Gibson model that, over the years, has become a punk icon. It offers snarling P90 tones, rock solid build quality, and timeless looks. Sure, it’s not as out there as a sparkly blue Squier, but if you’re looking for something discreet, they don’t get much better.
Final Thoughts on the Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic
The Squier Paranormal Super-Sonic was absolutely packed with potential. Out of the box, we still think it’s perfectly good for beginners and intermediate players, but for advanced players and those who make a living from their guitars, it would need a few hardware upgrades in order to bring it up to speed.
Even just blocking off the trem system and upgrading the tuners would make a huge difference. That being said, the playing experience did remind us of an old “unpolished gem” of a pawn shop find, and for that, we really enjoyed playing it, and we think you will, too.