REVIEW: Gordon-Smith Graduate

The following is a guest post by Jacob Mannik. Thanks Jacob!

What happens when you decide that you want to get the same guitar as one of your favourite guitarists? Stick around and I’ll tell you the story of how I got my latest guitar in my collection.

 

It started one day when I was in my flat with my guitar, playing along to my Reel Big Fish DVD, admiring the guitar work of Aaron Barrett, as always wondering who made his guitar and where I could get one. That day I decided to investigate and I quickly found the Aaron Barrett Wikipedia page. Within that document it listed his guitar as a Gordon-Smith Graduate. I had never heard of Gordon-Smith, so off to our friend Google I went and in short order found myself on the company’s website. What I found was a guitar company who have been around a long time making all the usual Fender and Gibson styles with a few of their own style designs thrown in. The ‘About’ section on the main page read as follows:

 

“Gordon-Smith Guitars are handcrafted guitars made in the small town of Partington near Manchester, UK. Established for more than 25 years now, it is the longest running contemporary guitar company in England.”

 

Upon reading this my heart started to sink. I am not a wealthy man so a handcrafted guitar good enough for a rock star to use would surely be out of my price range. Still I clicked through to the section of the website that held the guitar of my gear lust and I was pleasantly surprised. The guitars are all in GBP naturally, but the prices are still reasonable especially for a handcrafted guitar.

 

The guitar I was lusting after started off at a base price of £888 before you selected options. There were a few options listed on the website and I knew which ones I was after. So I decided to email the company asking how much it would cost me to get a copy made of Aaron’s guitar. Being an English company the time difference meant I had a day wait for a response.

 

The company is run by John Smith and his wife Linda, John being one of the original pair who started the company. My email was responded to by Linda who was very friendly and helpful, but more to the point she knew exactly the guitar I was asking about and even let me know that Aaron had just ordered a new one because he had broken his original one. I was very pleasantly surprise that I received such a quick and helpful response, but unfortunately my financial situation did not permit me to put in an order at that time.

 

Three months later it was tax time so I decided I was going to order one of the guitars. In those three months I had decided that I would make a few changes to the guitar to make it mine. So I sent another email asking for a revised price for my guitar with the changes I wanted and made the deposit into their bank account. The guitar I ordered had the following options:

 

Graduate

–          Double cutaway

–          Matching headstock

–          Maple fretboard

–          Tune-o-matic bridge

–          Chrome pickup covers

–          Right handed

–          Sunburst black to emerald green paint

–          Moulded case option

 

I had taken the plunge and ordered a guitar that I had never played before from another country. The build time was to be approximately three months. I couldn’t wait.  For those gear heads, here are some of the other specs as taken from the company website:

 

– Pickup Impedance 9.4 K-ohms

– Pickups are made by Gordon-Smith and are coil tapped humbuckers

– Scale is 24.75 or 25.5, dependent on headstock style.

– Nut width typically 45mm (base of neck 54mm) and compound radii 12/14″. Thickness of neck typically 21mm at first fret, 24mm at last fret.

– Fret size 1.5 x 2.5 mm.

– Distance between Bridge Post centres 3¼”.

– Carved Spruce top with a maple cap

 

The day it arrived and I picked it up from the courier I was incredibly excited. My new guitar had arrived and I wanted to hurry up and get home. There is always a chance when you buy a new guitar unseen and especially when you have not even played a guitar of the same model before that the guitar will not suit you or you won’t like it. Thankfully the guitar is more than I could ever have hoped for. The neck feels perfect for my tastes, thick enough to be comfortable, C-shaped profile so the edges of the fretboard don’t dig into your hand, and the action was set very low. There are a few details that stood out to me. First was the nut is made of brass. I found this very unusual but it gives the guitar a unique amount of sustain on open strings. The guitar feels very well balanced but very heavy. I have no way to weigh the guitar so I can’t give you an accurate weight.

 

Plugged in, the guitar has a huge amount of sustain. It is impressive how long the notes ring out for. The bridge pickup with the tone on 10 is brighter than you would expect from a Les Paul style guitar, but it still has the fat full tone that puts a gigantic smile on your face. Pull the tone knob out and you have a coil tap, giving the guitar a very Telecaster-like tone. On the neck pickup you get a very full tone very much like a Gibson Les Paul. But the tone I like the most from this guitar is the neck pickup while coil tapped. It gives a very clear smooth and bright tone – it’s clear and doesn’t get muddy.

 

This guitar is one of the most versatile I’ve ever played. The range of tones you can get out of it are amazing and it feels amazing to play. Being that it is a hand made guitar there are signs of imperfections in the finish – paint bleed here and there etc. But this doesn’t detract from the guitar at all. It gives the it a character and personality that you just don’t get with off the shelf guitars. The guitar is capable of almost any style of music although I don’t think it would be suitable for death metal.

 

I play through two guitar rigs primarily. The small rig is a Strauss SVC-30 1×12 combo, using a Digitech Bad Monkey overdrive pedal to boost the dirty channel when needed. The big rig is a Mesa Dual Rectifier Roadster 2×12 combo which I use with no pedals, only the amps built-in four channels, and this guitar sounds amazing through both. I have also gone straight into PA systems with a DI box and the guitar still sounds amazing.

 

But what are the parts about the guitar that I don’t like? Honestly the only things I could nitpick the guitar for are that being hand-built it takes months to get to you, and that import duties are somewhat painful. This guitar overall ended up costing me $2310AU including all costs (options, gator case, import costs) and to me it was worth every cent.