The finish is solid, the frets are clean, the binding is error free and feels well put together.
Sweet blues tones built in.
The look may not be for everyone
Body to neck weight distribution takes a bit of getting used to
Originally designed in collaboration with famed guitar designer Trev Wilkinson, and inspired by an early 1960’s Hagström model, Dan Le Gresley reviews the Maranello Classic MkII – The second generation of the Italia original classic design, now lighter weight with the same amazing tone.
The Italia brand turns 19 years old this year, the UK based guitar maker has stood the test of time and their retro-inspired designs still delight and divide guitarists today. The Trevor Wilkinson designed guitars hark back to a time of the original Supro's, Hagstrom's, Silverstone's, Corals, Harmony's and Teisco's. Indeed Supro's resurgence in this market highlights how popular these guitars still are.
On the stand, today is the Maranello Classic MKII in Red Sparkle. Based on the Hagerstom P46 Deluxe, its Les Paul shape has a longer scale length than the LP at 635mm, a wider waist and reduced horn makes the Maranello look distinctive. The red sparkle finish only adds to the character and let's be honest, it's not a guitar for a shrinking violet.
The MkII features a solid American alder body and maple neck with the back, sides and neck dressed in a thick white Pearloid finish and a top adorned in a thick red sparkled resin, res-o-glass pickguard and cream binding. The finish is solid, the frets are clean, the binding is error free and feels well put together. This comes as a surprise, as on looks alone you may fear a toy like quality, thankfully looks can be deceiving.
The maple neck has a comfortable and shallow C shape and feels pleasant in the hand, the 22 fret solid rosewood fingerboard is flat, with block inlays and well-dressed frets. It feels very comfortable and playable, not a shredder but she's got some soul. The flat fingerboard feels a bit strange at first but my playing adapts quickly and somewhere in that struggle lies the tone.
The Maranello features Tune-O-Matic Bridge with an Italia Stop Tailpiece, plus two ITV-6 humbuckers, a single volume and tone pots and standard three-way pickup switch, standard fare. The only notable variant is the upside down input jack that should help avoid any unnecessary stage embarrassment. The ITV-6 Humbuckers pickups are designed by Trevor Wilkinson and feature a ceramic magnet, which coupled with more turns of wire reduces some of the unwanted highs whilst retaining the earthy warmth of ceramics. The pickups are housed in a removable res-o-glass cover that allows for easy access to the electronics, beneath which the body has been routed to a depth of 25mm. This cavity allows a huge amount of air to resonate within, which should lighten the tone. The other benefit of this cavity is a lowering of the neck profile and reduced distance between the Humbuckers and the strings, this gives more output to those ITV-6's
Strap the Maranello on and she feels a touch neck heavy, the Italia tunning heads, extra scale length and plastic finish are too much for the deeply routed body. Unplugged you can hear the cavity, there is almost a hollow bodied tone, she sounds resonant. That's generally a good sign.
I'm running the MkII through the Prs Sonzera 20 and with a clean tone dialled in on the neck she sounds warm and reassured with soft compressed highs and deep resonant lows. Flick to the bridge and she growls with highs, they cut and scream, but in a good way. The ITV-6's are dirty, they don't clean up well, but that's the point. If you are looking for shimmering clean tones, this isn't the guitar for you.
Switching to the dirty channel of the Sonzera I dial in heavy distortion, it snarls and squeals and doesn't feel happy, it's too harsh, its the wrong guitar for the real heavy stuff. Dial back the gain and adjusting the EQ and we find the sweet spot, where this guitar makes sense. It's in the mid gain arena that this guitar sings and speaks to me, I hear echoes of Dan Auerbach or Jack White, that bluesy uncouth tone that makes up their distinctive sound. There's an awkwardness to the Maranello and her sound, but I think that's the point. She's not an all-rounder, but if you are looking for a striking and resonant blues guitar she might just be the one.
American Alder Body
Bolt on Hardrock Maple Neck
Italia ITV-6 Humbucker pickups