Dave Friedman and Grover Jackson are both world-renowned for products of the very highest order, so it comes as no surprise that the Grover Jackson designed Friedman Cali is a guitar that just screams quality. With each piece of wood hand-selected, there are no compromises here, just superb craftsmanship. Phil Short steps straight back to the '80s as he reviews the full-on power spec'd super-strat, The Friedman Cali.
Friedman has become not only a household name in the amplifier world, but a recognised juggernaut of tone, especially amongst those who love hard rock and the brown sound of the late 1980s. With a wide range of amplifiers now on offer to suit all players of any style, the only thing missing from their shop was a guitar of their own design! Of course, with Dave Friedman being the tonal wizard of the century, having built amps for the likes of Steve Stevens and built rigs for none other than the king of tone himself, Eddie Van Halen, only a legend in guitar building would do to carry forward the quality and uncompromising tonal quality of the Friedman brand.
Enter guitar building heavyweight, Grover Jackson! Responsible for some of the most highly-regarded guitars in the rock and metal world of the 1980s, Mr Jackson knows a thing or two about how to build a guitar. Having built guitars and designed guitars for some of the most famous players in the world (Randy Rhodes under the Jackson brand and for Dimebag Darrel when Jackson moved on to work for Washburn in the 1990s) it only made sense to work with someone who knows what a high-end player wants from their instruments.
Over the last 5 - 10 years, there has been an increasing trend of players leaning more and more towards vintage-styled guitars, with more and more people falling back in love with some of music's earliest and most original guitar sounds. This is where the Friedman guitar line sits so perfectly. The problem with a lot of vintage gear is that it's not actually that well suited to a lot of modern players needs, who want the modern playability of more contemporary guitars, but prefer the tone and aesthetic of the earliest vintage designs.
Now there have been a large number of companies who have been offering instruments of that nature for quite some time. Big-name boutique builders like John Suhr and Tom Anderson have been major players amongst others, so what makes Friedman different from the rest of their competition?
A number of small, but significant factors, give Friedman guitars their own unique vibe. Enter the Vintage-S. The relic finish is nothing new, but the level of detail to the relic'd finish and the dual colour coat is really quite exquisite, and is often only found on custom shop guitars at a much higher price point. Many boutique relic'd guitars still have very smooth and 'finished' feeling necks, that despite their old school appearance, still feel pretty modern to the touch. The Friedman's differ here with a much rougher feel, that feels genuinely worn in, and earthy in the hands.
The other significant factor is the voicing of their own pickups. These are truly vintage in both voicing and output, and have a very familiar sound to the original stylings of vintage spec'd Fenders. They differ with a little more bass and slightly less top end, but the difference is marginal and still leaves us with a truly vintage tone that is dynamic, bold and sweet.
The instrument also sports a compound radius fretboard and a slim C shaped neck, which feels comfortable, not too skinny but not too big either for those who like to shred. The frets are vintage spec'd, so this lends the guitar a slightly more traditional feel despite it's slimline neck profile, but the fretwork is immaculate, and all instruments are set up with the fabled Plek machine for optimum string clearance and action height. A goth 510 two-point bridge offers modern performance whilst the vintage saddles offer vintage looks and tone, complimenting the vintage-style locking tuners that complete the look without any of the hassle.
All models are available to custom order through a registered dealer, with your choice of finish, woods and pickups. There are just enough custom options so that you can have something more tailored to you, but not so many options that you suffer from option paralysis.
Tonally, we're able to get everything from authentically vintage strat tones, all the way up to authentic Van Halen esq hard rock tones. It won't djent, but I don't think the "djenters" amongst us will mind. A truly versatile high-end workhorse that will please the most discerning of professionals in their quest for ultimate tonal authenticity and modern reliability and performance.
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