If it’s good enough for Partisans front man Phil Robson, we thought we ought to have a look at this handbuilt, luthier made instrument. The only difference: our sample had standard Bare Knuckle Manhattan P90 pickups – Robson’s has Bare Knuckle ‘Mules’. The first thing that strikes you about the J3 is not only the exquisite finishing, but just how beautifully balanced the instrument is – the weight distribution is remarkably even. The body is made up of a Maple/Mahogany centre block with hand carved spruce in-fills, which is then covered by laminated quilted maple back, sides and top. The bottom bout is just over 15 inches wide, while the rims come out at a slim 1.85 inches. The one-piece Brazilian Mahogany neck is fitted with a rosewood fingerboard, mother-of-pearl “wing” position markers and 24 medium/fat frets. To the body there is a Gotoh tune-o-matic bridge and stop tailpiece, while the Manhattan P90 pairing is controlled by a 3-way switch and solid brass Case designed bell knob master tone and volume controls, each fitted with a rubber grip ring. Playing a few chords acoustically on the J3 gives some indication of this instrument’s capabilities.

 Go to www.caseguitars.co.uk

We have been waiting to get our hands on an Imperial for some time now. Peerless confirmed that the first few consignments had all been on back order, meaning that they were pre-sold and we were in a queue. So was it worth the wait? The Imperial comes with a solid carved spruce top and a solid carved maple back. Both are twopiece and, surprisingly, both are braced, but there is no central post as on the earlier pressed top models. The maple neck is scarf jointed and supports a bound ebony fingerboard with 22 medium/heavy frets, while the tailpiece and pickguard are also in ebony, leaving the adjustable, intonated bridge as the Imperial’s only piece of rosewood. The generic black cased floating mini-humbucker has been voiced well into the “mellow” range and is connected to a volume control mounted on the pickguard with a turned ebony cap. The action on our sample was perfect, but the 42mm nut rather cramped my somewhat hamfisted style. Intonation and articulation was excellent. Soundwise, the Imperial is very well balanced and has a beautifully sweet, warm and rich tone with bags of sustain. Perhaps that extraordinary bracing to the back of the body really does help after all. As I was half expecting, Peerless have upped their game yet again and the Imperial is the undoubted current leader of a very playable pack.

For more go to www.peerlessguitars.co.uk

With a name like this, you know it’s got to have something to do with jazz. This little beauty is part of Hayden’s hand wired, valve series produced in the UK. As the marketing blurb tells me, from the moment you plug it in, a Hayden makes its presence felt with a strong and unmistakable core tone that remains intact no matter how hard the amplifier is driven. There’s no endless tweaking of controls – it just sounds great straight out of the box. And they’re right. With a 12” Celestion G12M Greenback speaker, this is one sweet sounding little amp and switching between the Single Ended and Push/Pull modes to empower the EL84-driven output stages, you feel unusually “connected” to the 7/15. And the technology is all in there, from the custom wound transformers, to the defence-standard components and the elegant signal topology. These amps are not only built to sound good, but also built to last, with nonferrous stainless steel chassis, hand machined gold turret tags and ceramic valve bases all inside a marine quality birch ply cabinet. So if you’re looking for a classic tone look no further. For more go to:

 www.haydenamps.com

The Godin Kingpin pays homage to the post-war Gibson ES – 125 full-bodied archtop, with its single P90 pickup, body mounted tone, volume controls and tortoise pickguard. Instead of the laminated maple or mahogany body of the original, the Kingpin is made from laminated wild cherry. And whereas the 125 sported a traditional rosewood bridge with adjustable saddle, the Kingpin has been brought right up to date with the latest technology from Graphtec – an adjustable bridge which (they say) mimics the tonal characteristics of ebony. It’s a fine looking instrument with a 16-inch body and a nicely matched top table showing plenty of wood grain beneath the tobacco/sunburst stain. With an unbound rosewood fingerboard and 21 medium frets, the Kingpin is an excellent player with a typically Gibsonesque neck.

The intonation is spot on and the articulation and separation is excellent. Tonally it is warmer and smoother than its original buddy. But while the Godin branded P90 offers a typical single coil response, it does not have the bite, the punch or the power that you might expect from such a pick-up. I would suggest removing the cover and replacing it with something like the Wilkinson P90 ‘Pro’ model with Alnico 5 magnets that is wired to the original Gibson specs. This would then potentially give you that classic vibe both in sound and vision.

For more go to www.godinguitars.com

The Solea hails from a small independent Lutherie in Kremona, Bulgaria. Handbuilt, with highly figured solid Cocobolo (S.American hardwood) back and sides and a solid red cedar top sourced from the same forests as were the Stradavari instruments, the Solea has a clean, clear tone with exceptional separation and articulation. The smooth Honduras cedar neck and the black marble-like ebony fingerboard make playing a pleasure and on our particular sample, the setup was perfect – somewhere between the classical and flamenco. 

The electric side of the instrument is however the most interesting. Fitted in the UK by distributors Sandarac, the beauty of the active Mi-Si Acoustic Trio system is that it is battery free. No 9 volt . No hassle. And comes with a pre-amp designed specifically to work with the LR Baggs undersaddle acoustic guitar pickup. The marketing blurb tells me that the preamp uses Mi-Si’s custom piezo linearization scheme, to produce the most truthful and accurate sound from the pickup. Amen! In many years of listening, I have rarely heard such a faithful reproduction of the acoustic sound of an instrument. And powering up the preamp is a piece of cake: place the jack end of the Mi-Si Power Charger into the end pin and switch on for 60 seconds. You’re fully charged, with an incredible 16 hours playing time!


For more go to Sandarac.co.uk

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