This is a great instrument, with a flexible tonal palette. Yet it is very traditional while still retaining a unique voice. It is a jazzy Fender that can have a Tele bite or a funky spank. It is absolutely capable of jazz tones yet it can scream with overdrive applied or do the Motown soul thing in spades. The master volume is great; I love Gibsons but dislike the control arrangement for adjusting volume in a performance setting. The Starcaster fixes that. The treble gets a bit attenuated in standard Fender fashion, but this is a good thing and can be used to your advantage as an add'l toneshaping tool.
The Starcaster is like a '335 with the midrange band tuned slightly higher, and a top end that is sharper yet still rounded off. It sounds like Fender's version of a semi-hollowbody. Duh, that's exactly what it is! Imagine that.
Finish is very durable. The 3 bolt neck is not so great, and to my hands the slightly reduced stability is perceptible in the degree of play it has when gently moved for vibrato effects (I do this a lot). I think one of the screws may be closed to stripped, as I can't seem to tighten it perfectly. Also, the screw adjustments on the saddles were a tad corroded, but I mostly cleaned them out. The rest of the hardware, including the chrome on the bridge, is perfect with no blemishes. Using without a backup is not really a question, since you will have a tough time finding and sucking up the cash for more than one of these babies!
Terrific guitar that could be the only guitar I owned if I ever considered owning just one, which isn't likely to happen. However the versatility and unique vibe of the Starcaster make it a candidate for this if the need ever arose. I own 16 guitars at this writing, so I enjoy my variety. The Starcaster gets pulled off the wall very often!