With a career legacy like Alan Entwistle—a genius guitar designer responsible for a host of successful guitar lines and accessories—who better to redesign the new generation of Rapier guitars? Nick Jennison takes a closer look at the latest new release from the range in the form of the Rapier Taurus.
Rapier Guitars is on a real hot streak right now. It seems like every time you blink; they have a new model that's completely different to the last one but equally cool. The brainchild of UK luthier Alan Entwistle, Rapier as a brand came into existence with an updated recreation of the original Watkins Rapier - a much-loved British "catalogue" guitar from the 1960s and one that's very close to my heart.
The Taurus is the latest design to come off Entwistle's workbench, and it shares the same "'60s cool" aesthetic but with a completely different body style, bridge and electronics. IItslong, sweeping body horns and narrow waist create a sleek, aggressive silhouette, but one that's more James Bond than Jason Bourne. The oversized pickguard houses the three equally oversized single coil pickups and a pair of pickup selectors that offer no less than seven unique sounds.
The "Alan Entwistle Double Switch System" is something we've seen on several guitars from the JHS family this year, and it's a clever and elegant way to get a whole bunch of sounds. The first switch operates like a traditional three-way selector, offering bridge, neck and a combination of the two. The second switch acts on the middle pickup. Set this second switch all the way to the "neck" position, and the middle pickup is out of the circuit. Put it in the "middle" position and the middle pickup is added to whatever setting you've chosen with the first switch - neck/middle and bridge/middle sounds are like a bigger sounding strat, while all three pickups on sounds massive, wiry and thick all at the same time. Set the second switch to the "bridge" position, and you just get the middle pickup on its own, no matter where the first switch is set. It's a ton of tones, for sure, but all of them are useful and sound great in their own right.
Playability is surprisingly modern for such a vintage-style instrument. The Taurus's neck is slim and wide, with a 12" radius and 22 medium-jumbo frets (with a zero fret for good measure - a very underrated feature!). It may not be a "shredder's guitar" in terms of tone or visuals, but you can certainly "go" on the Taurus is that's your thing.
Hardware comes in the form of an original Rapier "Hi-Lo" vibrato system. It's a mysterious-looking device that's visually evocative of the frankly awful "out of tune lever" tremolo systems found on the '60s catalogue guitars that inspired the Taurus, but functionally this couldn't be further from the truth. The Taurus trem is smooth, has a lot of range and stays in tune flawlessly, aided ably by a set of 6-in-a-line Wilkinson machine heads.
The Rapier Taurus is a welcome addition to the Rapier line of '60s-inspired guitars. It has a visual and sonic identity all of its own while still offering massive sonic versatility. If you're looking for a retro-style instrument that plays great and has a ton of tones available, this might be the guitar for you.
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