Vigier Excaliber Surfretter Special
Review – Jahloon, June 2004
Manufacturer: Vigier Guitars
Purchased: Percy Prior’s, Salisbury, UK. June 2004.
Cost: £800 (pounds sterling) ex-demo inc. gig bag.
The Surfretter range has been on the market since 1997 and the list of artists using this instrument is impressive. It has taken me a long time to get hold of one and see if all the reports and marketing lived up to the instrument itself.
For those of you unfamiliar with the Surfretter the fingerboard is made of Delta Metal, a close kept secret metal alloy to offer greater sustain. It does look similar to brass. The guitar certainly looks very nice and feels incredibly well balanced with no tendancy to be neck heavy.
The first thing you notice is the incredibly low action, 1.0 to 1.2mm at the 12th fret, and the incredibly straight neck and perfect bridge set up, and then you notice the 24th fret markers on the side of the neck and realise this guitar can do two octave slides. The jack cavity is the nicest method of attaching a cable to a guitar I’ve ever seen. The neck feels excellent, but what about plugging it in?
This was the big test for me as many people complain about poor sustain on fretless guitars, including me I’m afraid. Well I plucked a note and it went on and on and on and then on some more. So I tried a few more, then some slides up the neck – with notes still sustaining just fine. This guitar has incredible sustain, right up the neck, on the high notes, on the top strings, and if you nail stop the strings the sound just rings on and on. So I got out my very best guitar just to compare sustain, after all I might be just confused by all that shiny metal. OK, so I counted seconds of decay and tried different notes around both instruments and if the sustain decay on my very best guitar was a six, the sustain decay on the Surfretter was a ten.
Pickups / Tuning
Now down to the pickups. This model was fitted with DiMarzio’s; a PAF Pro on the neck position, an FS1 in the middle and a Tone Zone on the bridge. This gives a whole range of flavours from a crisp lettuce salad to a thick fillet steak. The tonal range achievable is breathtaking, you can make the notes ring beautifully, thanks to the long sustain you can do multiple slides and stops just like a pedal steel. Intonation is very accurate and precise, for some reason it seems very easy to play chords accurately on this guitar, and gauging microtones off the normal scale is also a lot easier. Another nice bonus is the guitar is tuned down to D-G-C-F-A-D which gives just that little extra deepness in open string / drone string playing.
All in all this is a stunning guitar. If you already play fretless it will open doors you didn’t know existed, if you don’t you really should check out the fretted Excalibur. The combination of sustain / action / tonality puts this guitar a long way ahead of anything else on the market. It is almost as if Patrice Vigier built this guitar ten years in the future and sent it back in time to completely amaze everyone.
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