Sterling guitars is like Musicman guitars budget company. It is like their Epiphone or Squier. These guitars are pretty much made to the same specs but made overseas with some cheaper parts so the guitars are much cheaper. The design is basically the same as the Musicman version. You get the soft superstrat shape. The body is made out of basswood like the early Petrucci models. It has a bolt on maple neck with a rosewood fretboard. The fretboard has 24 jumbo frets. Up top you get that traditional musicman 4x2 headstock. The bridge is the Petrucci non locking tremolo which is a good design and holds tune well. This guitar does not have the piezo like the USA models but hardly anyone uses the piezo anyway. The pickups in this example where swapped out to make it even more like a true USA Petrucci model. This example had a Dimarzio Crunchlab and Liquifier in it which is what Petrucci currently uses in his guitars. The controls are simple with a volume and tone with a 3 way switch.
This guitar plays great. It has the same exact neck dimensions as the USA model. So you get an unique neck carve that fits your hand perfectly. The neck is super thin as well so you can really shred on it. The back of the neck also has a satin finish on it to help you play even faster. I am not a tremolo guy but their tremolo holds tune very well. It is about on the same level as what you would find on a PRS SE guitar. A good non locking tremolo. The body of the guitar has all of the same comfort bevels that the USA model has and Petrucci specifically designed all those to make the guitar super comfortable to play.
With the real Dimarzio pickups this guitar sounds exactly like a USA model. The Crunchlab in the bridge is crunchy like its name says. It is the perfect pickup for progressive metal playing. The tone from the Crunchlab is super thick and heavy. It is a bit noisy as a pickup through which is a trait that these style pickups have had since the Dropsonic. The Liquifer is an awesome lead pickup. If you are into shredding and like that super smooth fast sound this pickup is great for that. It has a super smooth sound but with enough bite that all your notes come out clearly and you dont have a lot of mud in your lead tone. I do not know what the stock pickups were like but if you are getting this guitar you are obviously a Petrucci fan so you might as well get the pickups he uses to go in it.
Unless you are a high end professional player it is hard for me to recommend the USA model when these models are around. The specs are pretty much identical and with a simple pickup swap you can have the identical tone. This guitar is identical to the early Petrucci signature models. The newer Ball Family Reserve models use more exotic tone woods and construction so those guitars will have a unique tone all their own but if you just want the traditional Petrucci tone that comes from a basswood guitar this guitar can do it with a simple pickup swap.