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This article was originally published in issue #48
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The Gibson 335 has always been a great looking guitar and the 2016 Memphis version is no different.
Top quality hardware, woods and features
Stunning looks and sounds
Unique neck design and super cool pickup combination for ERG playing
Fanned frets might not be for everyone (but they're optional)
Ormsby's 'multiscale' guitars are among the hottest properties on the bespoke guitar scene but getting your hands on one has previously been expensive and tricky. Now, newly teamed-up with Korean masterbuilders, there's a range of much more affordable models that you can actually try and buy in guitar shops. We asked Sam Bell to check out a stunning looking Ormsby multiscale 7-string.
The world of extended range guitars has developed hugely over the past four years, due to the demands of new styles of technical Metal to ambient math rock (are you making these names up, Mr Bell? - Ed). Many commercial manufacturers, as distinct from bespoke luthiers, have come up with extended range instruments and some are pretty good. However, given the nature of ERGs (Extended Range Guitars), most of the players who have chosen to specialise in them have opted for custom builders to create instruments that resonate properly with certain tunings/string gauges and even woods and pickups to accent certain qualities of the tone they are looking for.
The downside of this approach, of course, is that custom builds are usually very expensive, take time to be made and sometimes you can't be sure what you are going to be getting. Whilst production model ERGs are great, sometimes they miss the spot with certain aspects of the design, build and quality of the instrument.
Australian ERG specialist, Ormsby, seems to be breaking the mould with its approach to creating affordable production models with custom quality and features. The company keeps its ear to the ground and communicates very closely with its customers via the Ormsby GTR run Facebook group. Using social media, Ormsby is able to find out about the latest design trends and has completely up to date knowledge of what the specialist musicians who would be using the guitars are looking for. It's almost like designing by a committee of customers.
Using this information has allowed Ormsby to offer frequent runs of guitars that have all the features that ERG players are looking for at that time, all whilst making it affordable but without cutting costs on quality hardware, woods and electronics. How? Well, it has done what some of best known high-end brands have done before and had affordable production models made by the South Korean company World Musical Instruments. You might not have heard of World Musical Instruments, but you will almost certainly have played one of their guitars if you have previously handled a South Korean made version of a luxury US brand. World Instruments is reckoned to be the best in the world at what it does, so Ormsby has made a wise choice, it seems.
Once manufactured and assembled in Korea, using components like US-made custom Hipshot hardware, the guitars are then shipped back to Australia to get a final set-up then re-exported around the world from there.
Which, finally, brings me to the Ormsby Multiscale 7-string I have just been getting to grips with!
Obviously, the very first thing that stands out about this guitar is its appearance. It’s certainly very different from your average superstrat! Ours came in a fabulous Tropical Blue and it was obvious from the moment that I took it out of the box that it was going to be something very special indeed.
Our sample GTX featured a multiscale neck which has a variable scale length from 25.5" on the high E string down to 27.8" on the low B. This helps keep the tension and resonance of the strings even down to the lower registers, reducing the need to buy crazy string gauges for the lower strings, increasing the resonance and clarity in the low end and making it easier to play lead lines on the higher register with the shorter scale length.
Having this multiscale design means the frets have to be slanted, and so does everything else, including the awesome Hipshot bridge, one of the best solid bridges on the market.
If all that multiscale stuff sounds a bit off-putting, well, don't let it be. Ormsby offers standard scale versions if you feel that getting your head around fanned frets and multiscale lengths is too much.
One thing I really love about this guitar is the pickup selection. It features one of Ormsby's own Nunchucker A8 humbuckers at the bridge and a single coil Old School A2 in the neck. These are custom built pickups for Ormsby in Korea, but the company says they are the same as the ones it builds itself. I love the sound of them for this guitar, and I especially love seeing an ERG with a single coil in the neck and a coil-split option for the bridge pickup via the push pull tone knob!
The tone of this guitar is resonant with plenty of clarity and that lower-mid growl that you want from a 7-string. This guitar sounds gorgeous! The pickups are controlled via a three way toggle switch and the tone and volume knobs feature 500k pots. No detail in the quality of this instrument has been spared which means that the asking price is actually incredibly reasonable for a professional grade instrument of this level.
The GTX SX features a laminated rock maple set neck and ebony fingerboard with jumbo stainless steel frets which are incredibly sturdy, playable and add some brightness to the tone. The neck itself has a unique shape which thins out towards the higher strings but is slightly thicker towards the lower pitch strings. This makes getting your thumb ‘behind’ the neck incredibly easy and helps making the fanned fret neck feel effortless. The guitar has 24 full frets, but due to the fanned design they have added another five frets that really only cover the higher pitch strings which is practical and makes the upper neck access absolutely incredible. Alongside the Hipshot bridge we also Hipshot's locking tuners on a really cool headstock design. Often the headstock design can aesthetically make or break a guitar, but this really works for me! The body is made from mahogany with a lovely tropical blue finish, it is possible to get an upgrade with a different top to the mahogany wood for a little extra cash.
I don’t really feel I need to mention the incredible playability of this instrument. It plays how you would expect a Ferrari to drive - with ease and speed. It looks stunning and it feels so solid - and check out our video to hear for yourself how amazing it sounds. If you are really serious about ERG playing then you owe it to yourself to try one of these stunning guitars. And value for money? Superb, considering you are getting a state of the art almost bespoke guitar for production guitar money.