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This article was originally published in issue #3
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There are certain guitars you could buy unseen and unplayed and know they're going to be superb. For example, I can't say I have ever encountered a bad Music Man, Suhr, Tyler or PRS. The Vigier GV Wood we have on review here exudes just the sort of quality and confidence I would expect from that class of American makers - which is saying a lot.
But Vigier, in case you don't already know, are French - not a country you immediately associate with great Rock guitars. All the same, Vigier can certainly make a great guitar! The most recent example I tried belonged to Guthrie Govan. It was a fretless, a fine guitar, and great fun to hear him play it!
Over the years, I've tried quite a few Vigiers and they have always been great, but I have to admit I've never taken the step of actually owning one. That could be purely because when I was a kid, I had posters on my wall of various guitar heroes, who would inevitably be playing a Strat or a Les Paul. Those early impressions run deep in my bones and all these years later, I'm lucky enough own a 'few' guitars, all of which were made in the US and span 50 years of guitar making. But that makes me very narrow minded when it comes to guitars, particularly when it comes to me parting with my hard earned-cash - at which point I always end-up hunting-out something rare, and American.
But there's really no excuse for being as dumb as me, because if the Vigier GV Wood I was loaned to review is anything to go by, you'd definitely be dumb not to consider it alongside the world's best.
From the moment you pick it up, you know the GV Wood is a quality guitar. Acoustically it rings and sustains really well, which means no matter what the pick ups are like, it's going to sound good when you plug it in. And it turns out that the pickups do sound good. They're hand wound and respond nicely to my usual trick of working the volume pot. They also are switched to single coil mode on positions four and two on the five-way selector, making this guitar more versatile than your average twin humbucker guitar, with full-on Les Paul tones in position one and five. In positions two and four, you get the same pickups but cut to single coil mode, giving a nice Fender type twang. In position three, it's classic Telecaster country. It's all really very convincing soundwise and more versatile than your average Gibson - in fact, putting it right into PRS territory. This is one of those guitars that will give you back more than what you put in: and it will certainly hold its own against the big brands.
Hopefully, the clip of me jamming with this guitar illustrates some of the more expressive sounds you can squeeze out, in ways that it's difficult to put into words.
The build quality here is superb. The carbon fibre reinforced neck has a chunky feel to it, which fills the palm of the hand nicely. It's not silly-big like early Jeff Beck Strats, but sort of just right (although I love those Jeff Beck necks!) The Phenowood fretboard, with its zero fret for more accurate intonation, feels nice and wide, which makes string bending and huge Zakk Wylde vibratos feel effortless, I think helped by the fantastic feel of the frets. These are perfectly domed and just the right height, with no feel of the fret tangs as you slide your hand along the edge of the board. Guitars with unseasoned wood often suffer fretboard shrinkage, leaving a nasty feel as you slide over the protruding fretwork, but there is none of that due to the quality of the workmanship employed and, of course, the use of Phenowood.
OK, this Vigier guitar is not cheap. In fact pricewise, it's is pitched up against the very high-end American makers, whose instruments we all tend to gravitate towards. But that's the only negative thing I can find to say about this superbly made and crafted guitar. And, fair or not (after all, why shouldn't Vigier charge as much for their guitars as Gibson or PRS?) a guitar in this sort of price bracket is a very serious investment indeed. God forbid you fell on hard times and had to sell this purple beauty, because the resale value compared to your initial outlay, could be quite a hard blow to take. If instead, you'd spent your money on something rare and American at least you stand a chance of getting some outlay back, and in certain cases, you might a profit. It's tough - but musicians have to think that way!
But really, you shouldn't let that put you off. This really is a fine instrument which combines many of the best tonal qualities of Gibson and Fender very well. What's more, Vigier as a brand is now really starting to be recognised, is gaining name endorsers quite rapidly and it's probably only a matter of time before Vigiers command premium secondhand prices in their own right. Frankly, if it wasn't for those damn posters, I would probably buy one myself!