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This article was originally published in issue #53
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There is plenty of detail and dynamic range here for complex chords and subtle picking, but they don’t get overly muddy when paired with more gain. Thanks to the vintage style output, rolling the volume controls back cleans things up nicely without losing too much high end clarity and tuning stability is rock solid thanks to the quality machine heads.
Exceptional value for money
Useful design additions to the classic 335 shape
Very well-made guitar
Great factory setup
Vintage has been producing some terrific guitars at very low prices for a while now, one of their latest iterations being the VSA500CR, a take on the classic 335 shape but with some interesting design choices and a surprisingly high-end feel. Tom Quayle checks the Cherry Red variant out and gives his verdict.
The VSA500CR forms part of Vintage’s ‘Reissued series’ – the company’s take on classic electric guitar designs, at highly affordable prices. Vintage often surprise us with just how good their instruments can be at these wallet-busting prices and the VSA500, finished here in classic Cherry Red, is no exception thanks to some excellent design choices and superb, Wilkinson hardware.
In true 335-style form, the VSA500 is constructed using an all-maple, semi-acoustic body and a set-in, Mahogany neck plus Rosewood fretboard, complete with acrylic dot inlays. The body and neck are finished with cream binding and finished with a well-executed Cherry Red stain and Gloss. The design is somewhat different from the symmetrical 335 classic though in that the horns and body bouts have been slightly deepened and offset from one another for an asymmetric look that really suits the body shape and aids upper fret access. To further aid your journey up the dusty end of the neck the VSA500 also features a lovely offset heel design that drastically improves the feel past the 17th fret. It’s a bold move to mess with classic designs but, in this case, it pays off well with a guitar that could definitely be said to be more user-friendly than the original.
As with all Vintage Reissued guitars, the VSA500 sports Wilkinson hardware for exceptional quality at this price point. Here you get Wilkinson Deluxe WJ44 tuners with vintage style buttons, a Tune-O-Matic bridge, and Stop Bar Tailpiece plus a pair of Wilkinson Alnico Double Coil Humbuckers – all finished in classic chrome. The design is finished with a black 3-ply scratch plate, 3-way pickup switch and the obligatory compliment of volume and tone controls for a 335-inspired guitar.
Construction is excellent for this price point, more than surpassing expectations. From the superb fret finishing to the well-executed neck joint and carve, the VSA500 feels like a guitar costing two or even three times as much. As crazy as it seems, at times you could be forgiven for forgetting that you’re not playing a full-fat 335 from the big ‘G’ here (albeit it with offset horns or course!). Playability is equally excellent thanks to a very nice factory setup with a very even and low action plus the friendly neck profile. The gloss neck may put some people off but, unlike a 3-grand Gibson, you would be forgiven for sanding this neck down given the price point.
Tonally, the VSA500 is a great performer too thanks to the pair of Wilkinson Humbuckers. Vintage in nature, these two can provide a wide range of tones from fat and warm jazz to rockabilly and throaty blues, all the way up to heavy rock and saturated lead tones if pushed hard enough. There is plenty of detail and dynamic range here for complex chords and subtle picking, but they don’t get overly muddy when paired with more gain. Thanks to the vintage style output, rolling the volume controls back cleans things up nicely without losing too much high end clarity and tuning stability is rock solid thanks to the quality machine heads.
It's tough to find anything negative to say about the Vintage VSA500CR. As long as you’re not a brand snob there is a huge amount to recommend here regardless of the price and, once you factor in the incredible affordability into the equation, it becomes hard to ignore just how much value, and quality is on offer here. If you’re in the market for an affordable semi-acoustic for pretty much any style, Vintage have you covered here, with a guitar that is not only as good as the competition but in some ways exceeds it for a remarkable price. Highly recommended.
Maple with maple top body
Wilkinson alnico double coils
Tune-O-Matic with stop bar tailpiece