Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #2
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Patrice Vigier and his team of French guitar builders have been producing high-end guitars for just over 30 years and have a well deserved reputation for quality and innovation. The company is also starting to gain some very serious endorsements from the Rock and Metal fraternities. The Excalibur Kaos we were sent for review is designed as an all-out metal and shred guitar - but it also has enough versatility to appeal directly to players from other genres, too, we found.
The Kaos is equipped to a very high spec, with no custom options to choose from. This is done to keep costs down for the consumer, so no flame tops or elaborate binding are available on this model, unlike the other Excaliburs in the range. What you get is a two-piece, centre jointed alder body with a piano black finish.
Vigier guitars have some unique features, one of the most exciting being their use of carbon in the construction of the necks. Patrice experimented with wood/carbon combinations for extra stability and strength in his basses and guitars, finally settling on a combination of 10% Carbon to 90% maple in place of the traditional truss rod running down the centre of most other guitar necks. The added carbon is run as a strip down the centre of the wood stretching all the way up the neck and from back to front up to the fretboard. This prevents the neck from moving, regardless of humidity and temperature, so is a superb option for the travelling guitar player plagued by needing to make constant adjustments to compensate for weather conditions. It helps tonally too, giving constancy across the range of the neck, with no dead spots to speak of.
The neck is incredibly smooth to play, with the D shape fitting very comfortably into the hand. The matte varnish feels silky, giving a slippery feel that's great for fast playing and swift power chord changes. Vigier also puts a zero fret after the nut on its guitars giving better intonation and action. The nut is Teflon, allowing the strings to glide over their slots smoothly. In combination with the locking tuners and super smooth trem, the guitar stays in tune well even with aggressive dive-bombs. Vigier uses oversized locking tuners designed to increase sustain. Combined with the reverse headstock design, producing a slightly increased tension on the lower strings, this makes the guitar exceptional for power chords and chugging riff sessions.
Plugged in, the Kaos certainly impresses with its Amber pickups in H/H configuration. Both humbuckers are mounted directly onto the body for added sustain and can be split using the 5-way switch for some very convincing single coil sounds.
Starting with a clean tone, the neck pickup has a clear, glassy quality that's superb for chordal playing and splitting the neck pickup allows convincing funk and Strat-like tones. This is certainly a versatile guitar - much more so than it's looks would suggest. Moving down to the bridge position gives a punchy tone that's not overbearing or shouty and sounds superb with the addition of some light overdrive. Great for blues or that clean-yet-dirty overdriven tone.
With a dirty sound, the guitar can do the range of sounds from classic Rock to all-out detuned madness, with punch and clarity on each of the pickups. When using the neck pickup you can achieve a creamy singing lead tone without getting muddy. Moving to the bridge setting, you can get a screaming lead sound and seriously chunky power chords. Back down the volume and the sound cleans up really well. Check out our video for a demonstration.
The Kaos also features a kill switch just above the volume control for rapidly switching the signal on and off at the jack socket. It works exactly as expected and with some practice can be a very creative tool. One small nag I had was that the kill switch was tiny and hard to spot in dark lighting. There were times I'd go to hit it and yet miss completely.
Overall the Kaos is a superb instrument with some very innovative features and world-class construction and specifications. It's most definitely a guitar aimed at metal and technical players but is a supremely versatile guitar that shouldn't be overlooked by players in other genres. I'm struggling to find negative points other than the lack of finish options, though be aware that for those of you obsessed with keeping your guitar clean, the piano black finish attracts fingerprints and dust incredibly quickly.
Vigier has deliberately placed this guitar in the same price range as some PRS, Suhr Pro and some of the high-end Ibanez models - but the unique features of this and all other Vigiers makes them an option that should be taken very seriously. It's not only a fine guitar - it's also very well priced for what it offers.