Monday, 17 March 2008
The 40 Quid Str*t
Just after Christmas my 12-year old nephew was making noises that he'd like to get a guitar, although his mum and dad weren't too sure about spending a lot of money on something that he might possibly lose interest in after a while and end up not using. I suggested that he "borrow" one of my guitars and that if he took lessons and made progress with it then he could keep it permanently. However, a little while after I regretted this slightly as the guitar I had offered - a Washbrun Idol WI64DLX - was actually well suited to down- and drop-tuning, something I'd been recently playing about with. So, I had it in the back of my mind to look out for another guitar for my nephew.
Now I get these regular weekly emails from a company that mainly specialises in recordable CD and DVD blanks as well as various computing items, a few electronic items, toys and things like that. Well, I received such as email last Thursday - it looked like they were having a stock clearance with hard disk and DVD recorders for bargain prices, and also - I noticed - a Jaxville Custom Series "relic" S-type guitar for £39.99 with free postage and packing.
OK, a cheap and possibly nasty guitar, I thought... but at that price, still very tempting. According to the specs the body was made from basswood, which whilst not as desirable as certain types of wood, is a perfectly good solid material from which to build a guitar. So, I reckoned, as long as the body and neck were sound I could always upgrade the hardware and get a workable good sounding guitar for peanuts.
I placed the order Friday morning. The guitar came today. Upon opening the box I admit I was very impressed. It is indeed a solidly-built nicely constructed guitar. The neck is nice and tight in its pocket - no huge gaps like some bolt-ons; the neck appears to be good quality and with what looks like a very dark piece of rosewood for a fingerboard (so dark, I suspect it may have been dyed). The "relic" finish is actually artwork - the guitar hasn't been deliberately dinged and knocked about like custom shop relics. To the touch the body actually has a smooth satin finish. I can't figure out if the relic artwork been printed onto the body or if it is some kind of transfer. Whatever, it is quite nicely done; the look seems to have been influenced by Stevie Ray Vaughan's now legendary beat-up Strat. Cream-coloured pickup covers, knobs and selector switch tip in a black scratchplate complete the look.
Did I mention that the action was nice and low?
So far, so good. You know the expression "If it looks too good to be true..." - well I was desperately looking for the catch. Plugging it in I discovered that the pickups didn't sound half bad either. Obviously they're not the best units in the world but are perfectly serviceable and will certainly suit my nephew's needs. If there is a weak link I think it might be the machine heads. They felt cheap and are not the smoothest turning tuners I have ever come across. I think they'll do for now - possibly I can swap them out for something better later.
So, yes... I've been very pleasantly surprised. This should make a very nice starter guitar, and as I've already pointed out could be upgraded with pokier pickups and quality machine heads if desired. Let's see what my nephew makes of it.