Notes on the upgrade process & lessons learned:
I did quite a bit of research on what components I should get and what will fit into this guitar as apparently, these Squier Affinity guitars don’t use standard Fender sizes when it comes to body and cavity size (important for the bridge and block sizes), tuner holes, pickguard, knobs, etc. I honestly don’t know how these Squiers are licensed by Fender if everything is a different size. So I had to dig into a lot of the Amazon comments & reviews to decipher whether a component would fit into my Squier or not, and even then it’s a hit and miss as different year models have different sizes.
The best way to minimize all these issues is to look for components that have sizing diagrams (not all of them did) and measure everything on your existing guitar and components before ordering. Luckily that paid off, as almost everything fit near perfectly with little modifications required. The only ones I had issues with were the output jack plate (had to try 3 different ones before finding one that fit with a new hole that needed drilling), and the nut (I accidentally ordered an acoustic one instead of the one I intended to order in the first place).
As for getting things working, test your pickups before closing everything up! I spent a whole day putting everything together only to find out that no sound came out of the pickups. The next day I had to disassemble it and test everything. Luckily I found a minor grounding issue with the output jack cavity which I managed to fix easily.
Another painful lesson I learned, is to take it slowly and gently with anything that’s being stubborn. When attempting to remove the old nut (which had apparently been superglued into place), I spent half an hour or more gently tapping away at it with a wood block. In a moment of frustration, I tapped a little too hard and sent a chunk of the headstock flying off (you can see the fracture line in one of the closeup photos of the headstock above the nut). My heart stopped beating for a few seconds and my stomach dropped out. Luckily I managed to salvage the damage done by supergluing the piece of wood back on and letting sit for a few minutes to settle back into place before installing the new nut. That left a small gap between the wood and the new nut, but luckily it doesn’t seem to have affected the stability of the new nut. I might have to figure out how to fill that space with something in the near future.
The final lesson (for now) is having realistic expectations. I thought the sound of the guitar would be massively different and instantly noticeable which would launch me into blues/rock stardom! The problem with that is, I’m only a beginner guitar player and can’t really differentiate between subtle differences in sounds and tones. Obviously, my guitar-playing skills haven’t changed due to the new upgrades, but shining, polishing, and smoothing of the frets and fretboard, and performing a full setup of the guitar has made playing it and practicing with it much more pleasurable (it was literal torture before because the frets stuck out so much that they shredded my left hand).
That being said, I did notice a huge improvement in sustain thanks to the new tremolo brass block, the absence of hum thanks to the electrical shielding and the noiseless pickups, the lack of annoying pinging/twanging of the strings thanks to the graphite nut and the saddles, and better tuning stability thanks to the locking tuners and graphite nut. I also noticed that the annoying nose dive I used to fight with all the time had disappeared after the upgrade. I weighed the guitar, and the results explained the reason for that. Before the upgrades, it weighed 3.2 KG (7 lbs), after the upgrades it was 3.54 KG (7.8 lbs). The majority of that weight increase is due to the ObsidianWire Harness and the thicker tremolo brass block, which must’ve increased the body’s weight enough to counter the neck dive.
Allowing myself at least a week of just playing this guitar, to become better acquainted with its sounds, tones, and feel along with lots of tweaking of the truss rod, action, pickups, and saddles and even changing the string gauge (switched from 9s to 10s) has allowed me to dial-in some beautiful sounding tones which are still noticeably recognizable as a Strat but with fuller mid-ranges and less ear-piercing chimey twangs.
So overall, it’s been a great learning experience that’s enhanced my appreciation for great-sounding guitars and great-quality components which has reignited my love for playing my Squier Strat that I had shelved since I got my Epiphone Les Paul. So now I’m fortunate enough to have two guitars that I love to play and practice with