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I have old Ibanez GIO Fat-Strat copy and I somewhat like it (the colour and body shape). The frets are worn and keys (tuning machines) are bad quality. Will replacing whole neck (with keys and nut) and electronics with professional quality parts make it feel and sound like expensive one?

By this I mean, will it have good sound clarity, low string action and will I be able to use the tremolo bridge without detuning guitar?

Regarding the question about motivation: I would like to upgrade the guitar in steps and not spend a whole bunch of money at once.

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    Upgrading the pickups will certainly make it sound better. I don't think changing the neck will do much for the sound. It will make it feel better. – Neil Meyer Apr 2 '16 at 12:55
  • If you spend that much money replacing the neck and the electronics, why not just buy a new or higher quality used guitar? Of course the guitar will sound different with different electronics and play different with a new neck. Not so sure about the tremolo system. – Rockin Cowboy Apr 2 '16 at 14:15
  • @RockinCowboy I had bad luck on second hand market while buying things. Anyway used guitars are quite expensive in place I live (90% of shop price) – teodozjan Apr 2 '16 at 14:33
  • IMO, the neck is a major part of the playability of the instrument. If you're generally comfortable with the neck you have (width, profile, finish), I would recommend that you take the instrument to a luthier and have him do a fret job - grinding down the frets until they're level again, or putting in new ones if needed. A professional fret treatment is what allows for low action without excessive fret buzz, and there's no guarantee that a new neck will have come with a good fret setup. Replacing the tuners afterwards is a low-risk affair. – Richard Metzler Apr 11 at 11:11
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Short answer: Yes, but...

The first guitar I bought was a Peavey Predator, a bottom-of-the-line, budget Strat clone. Several years later I came across a good deal on Fender Custom Shop Strat pickups, so I got them to put in the Predator. Yes, it did improve the sound a lot, but like your guitar the frets were very worn, the tuning machines were terrible, and the sound still wasn't quite right. So, I bought a new neck online and new locking tuning machines. That improved the playability and feel a lot, although it didn't do much for the tone. But now I play that guitar a lot more often than I used to and I've used it on stage and in recordings before.

So yes, you can piecemeal upgrade a Strat copy and get incremental improvements as you go.

There are some caveats, though:

  • Parts won't always fit just right. I had to play around with the pickup covers on the Fender Custom Shop pickups because they didn't quite fit in the Peavey pick guard slots and the Peavey pickup covers wouldn't fit over the Fender pickups. I also had to shape and trim a piece of wood to go between the neck and body because the Peavey neck slot is about 3/8" deeper than a Fender Strat neck slot.
  • The tone is better, but not yet where I want it to be. Everything affects tone, so I would have to replace the bridge, pick guard, electronics, and body before I would really get a huge improvement in sound. That's the same as a whole new guitar.
  • The neck I bought came with a pre-slotted nut (not all do) but the slots were cut very shallow (very high action) since the neck manufacturer has no idea what kind of action people want or need or what works for the guitar. I actually have played around with guitar building so I had some nut slot files and I was able to deepen the nut slots fairly well to make the action playable. Others may have to take the new neck to a pro to have the nut slots adjusted which adds to the cost of buying a neck.
  • In your particular situation, if you buy a standard Strat clone neck, it won't help very much, if at all, with detuning when you use the vibrato tailpiece. Using locking tuners and getting very smooth string trees would help more, as would a graphite nut (which would probably have to be professionally shaped). Or you could get a neck with a Floyd-Rose style locking nut and that would make a huge difference in tuning stability, but you'd probably have to replace the bridge also, since locking nuts require tuning adjustment at the bridge.
  • In the end, once you have replaced all of the parts of the guitar, it probably won't be quite as good as if you had saved up and bought a higher end guitar all at once, and it will cost about the same or even a little more (based on some math I've done over the years to see if it's really worth it). If that's a concern for you, I would suggest you make your own calculations, but I think you'll find it's not the best possible way to end up with a better overall guitar.
  • Thanks for answer. I will do hybrid solution. I will fix the most terrible things: tuners and the nut and save some money for second guitar – teodozjan Apr 2 '16 at 16:13
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If you LOVE the guitar getting it set up properly and fitting new parts will improve its playability. But it will still be a cheap guitar.

PS even cheap guitars can sound wonderful played by the right guitarist.

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I am "mainly" a bassist, however, I also play guitar and a few other instruments. I prefer mid to higher end instruments and over the years I have been blessed enough to acquire a decent home studio and some very nice equipment and instruments. My American Standard Strat is my favorite electric guitar. So here is why I'm replying.... my Mom is a 78 year old widow who leads a very active life. Her favorite hobby is thrift shopping, buying and reselling used items, others peoples junk... whatever you wanna call it. A couple of years ago she ran up on an old "Spectrum" strat copy for $5. Since is was so cheap she just HAD to buy it for me. She was SOOO proud of her self. Well... it instantly became sentimental to me so I decided to upgrade it no matter the cost. Long story short, I was experimenting, so I decided to start out spending as little as possible. I wound up spending less than $200 for Floyd Rose Tremolo Bridge system with locking nut, new pups, new tuners, and new hardware. The guitar now can hold its own with any of the guitars in my studio ranging from $600 to $2000 in cost. I couldn't be happier with the results. So I would say YES. If you like the guitar, go for it. You ABSOLUTELY can upgrade the guitar and make it sound, play and look better. ...and I disagree with the guy who said it will "still" be a cheap guitar... in a few short weeks mine went from a $5 guitar to a $205 guitar. If I want it to be, it can be a $2005 guitar.... see where I'm going with this? But yeah... go for it man. Start out cheap on ebay or whatever, and see where it takes you. In the end, when you get it kickin ass like you want, you can say you "built" it and no one else has one like it. Good Luck Bro.... and keep on modding! ...Bullet

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