Read the full article
This article was originally published in issue #37
To read the article in its entirety, view the digital magazine
Sussex based James Collins is one of the very few authorised Gibson repairers in the UK. You do not become authorised by Gibson unless you are the best of the best at what you do. This is demonstrated by James's own line of guitars which are no-compromise instruments and truly hand built. Our review sample was one of the quilt maple GTS models, and there are quite a few options you can choose from, any of which can be hand built for you with a few variations of tone wood and finishes (more details on the Collins website - see the Tech Spec box - Ed). The version James sent us featured a Honduras mahogany body and neck with an unbelievably pretty AAA hand carved quilt maple book-matched top which is stunning. James is also fond of cocobolo and walnut in construction which would offer a different overall tone, but we are on safe ground here with the classic mahogany and maple combo we all know and love!
On the face of it this looks like a simple twin humbucker guitar set-up, with its usual neck/bridge/neck and bridge selections, but that's not the case. What we actually have is a stunning array of switching options coming from the highly respected UK firm of Bareknuckle Pickups, in this case Mule pickups, a five-way rotary pot, plus a CTS 500k push-push tone knob which can split the humbuckers. That's a total of 13 switching options, and every single one of them is totally usable and musical! What you are getting here is everything from the Peter Green Les Paul tone, to a Stratocaster, to a Brian May red special to a full fat Gary Moore sound - all available from this guitar and achieved by the very cleverly thought out rotary switch and coil tap. Each guitar comes with a diagram to tell you exactly how each setting is obtained, but I just used my ears and enjoyed the options whilst playing it. For those who really must know we have (deep breath)....
1 Bridge, Bridge split.
2 Neck screw pole pieces and Bridge magnet.
3 Neck & Bridge, Neck split & Bridge split, Neck with Bridge split, Neck split with Bridge.
4 Neck & Bridge out of phase, Neck with Bridge split out of phase, Neck & Bridge split out of phase, Neck split & Bridge out of phase.
5 Neck, Neck split.
In my demo I probably didn't get through every option, but hopefully what does come across is the versatility of this guitar plus the sheer choice of tones available.
The craftsmanship in this guitar is up there with best I've seen. Worth a mention is the incredible maple wave inlay that goes the length of the 12" radius Indian rosewood fretboard and joins the headstock to carry on. This is just flawlessly done and very tasteful in my opinion. The neck is lovely to play because it's a substantial C profile. Bigger necks always means bigger tone and this has a slightly bigger than usual feel to it which I love.
If James builds you a guitar, he will factor in your preferences, but trust me this is the neck you want. The 22 medium 18% nickel silver frets feel great and again are flawless in their installation and make string bends a breeze. The mortise and tenon neck joint has a contoured heel and access to the dusty end is stress free and easy. Another incredibly well done and tasteful appointment are the five pearl inlays denoting the five positions of the rotary switch. The 'Tone Dome' knobs are also recessed much like the input jack of a Fender Telecaster. The whole thing oozes quality and plays and sounds as good as it looks. The supplied hard case is also a thing of beauty too.
James Collins certainly knows how to make a guitar and will try to accommodate within reason any special requests that don't deviate too much from the design of the GTS. I should imagine choosing a colour for this guitar would be a tough one, because with the fantastic quality wood stock that James uses, any colour stain is going to look great. Or you could simply check out in the finished guitars that are finished and ready to go via email or in the flesh. If you are looking for a Gibson style guitar that really delivers on all aspects and yet offers the ultimate in tonal flexibility coupled with the exclusivity that having a truly handmade guitar gives, then maybe you should give James a call. In fact you definitely should.