First Act SFA Edition Sheena CE240

Sunday, August 31, 2008| by Will Chen

First Act may be most well known for their bargain bin guitars geared towards beginners sold in national retail chains. However, the Boston based company has been building guitars since 1995 including many high end custom models. This month we’ll take a look at the SFA Edition Sheena CE240.

The Sheena’s unique shape really sets it apart from the crowd and most likely will find polarized opinions on whether it’s a beauty or a beast. In my opinion, the deep funky single cutaway looks very cool. I initially thought the design was purely for cosmetics. However, the outward curve of the lower bout is incredibly comfortable when sitting down and playing and hugs your thigh perfectly.

The customized uniqueness of the Sheena doesn’t end with her cool body contours; our review model had a translucent black finish which subtlety revealed a flamed maple laminate, flawless pearloid binding along the body, neck, and extended headstock, a maple on maple set neck adorned with offset art deco inlays, and a unique string through body design masquerading as a stop tail bridge assembly. With all the beautiful custom shop appointments, I was slightly disappointed to find several areas on the guitar where the finish feels slightly rough.

Strapped on, the guitar is light weight and well balanced. Out of the box, the Sheena was in serious need of a setup as action was pretty high. Additionally, when changing strings, the hook at the end of the headstock makes it a little difficult to tune of the high E string.

Upon first strumming the Sheena, I was surprised by how alive the guitar felt. I assume this is due to the combination of the extended headstock and string through body allowing a great deal of transference of string energy to the body. Needless to say, I was excited to hear the Sheena into an amp.

With a P90 style neck pickup and humbucking bridge pickup, I was expecting the guitar to be extremely versatile and right up my alley as I love the warm yet clear tones of single coil neck pickups and the midrange chunk of humbucker bridge pickups. Additionally, I really like the control configuration of a master tone and dedicated volume for each pickup.

I auditioned the guitar using an AXL Akita AT30, Tech 21 Trademark 60, and a Digitech GNX3000 direct to PA. In all scenarios the Sheena performed well, but I definitely preferred the neck pickup tones to the bridge pickup. Clean the neck tones are beautifully warm yet articulate; feed it a little gain and it loves to sing. The bridge pickup isn’t bad just not quite as inspiring as the neck. It will definitely appeal more to those seeking jangle rather than chunkier rock tones. However, I think I would have preferred a pair of the P90 styled neck pickups rather than the mixed pickup configuration.

With her unique cosmetics and good playability, the First Act SFA Edition Sheena CE240 is a solid offering in the affordable guitar arena. While these guitars list price is near $400 USD, the only place carrying stock online in America was JR.com. Which as of this writing has them for $159.99 with free shipping; an extremely good deal for such a unique instrument in my opinion.

Price: ~$160 USD
Pros: Cool cosmetics, great neck tones
Cons: Slight finish flaws, slightly limited access to high E tuner

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Filed Under: First Act, Reviews