Staying on the cutting edge of guitar technology is a difficult task. A huge number of companies, large and small, have sprouted up over the past several decades, all vying for a piece of uniqueness and notoriety in the industry. Hailing from the city of Grigny, France, is Vigier Guitars, a company that has already left such a mark in the trade. Vigier is often credited with being one of the first companies to implement carbonfiber technologies into guitar necks, yielding an instrument that is tremendously strong and durable. Moreover, in 1982 the company introduced the first guitar to utilize a microprocessor in the body to store program sounds. Not a company to rest on its laurels, Vigier also helped innovate the fretless guitar, introducing the Surfreter fretless model in 1980 (garnering the attention of such greats as Shawn Lane and Ron Thal). Almost thirty years later, the Excalibur Ultra Blues model, Vigier’s representation of past-meets-present, aims to continue their tradition of impeccable design and extreme attention to detail.
From the first glance after opening the case, this particular Excalibur model is unquestionably stunning: The blue flamed, closely matched maple top is exquisite, as if you were looking into a natural pool of water. Running your eyes over each aspect of the flame reveals a dense range of apparent valleys in the top that reflect elegantly against the light. This, backed with a fine piece of alder, gives the Vigier a nice balanced weight, not too light, yet not to heavy on the shoulder when slung at waist-level. The Vigier finishing process also demonstrates their obsession with detail, as the varnish is dried for a minimum of five weeks. The guitar doesn’t stop at the “eye candy,” though. Attached to the dazzling body is one of the most comfortable necks a player could hope to come across: a one-piece, sealed maple/ carbon composite material with a matte varnish. The ensemble is topped off with a Teflon nut and matching headstock, weighted down by a custom set of Schaller locking tuners made especially for Vigier (oversized to enhance sustain). The Ultra Blues is equipped with a tried-and-true trifecta of Dimarzio pickups, consisting of two Virtual Vintage DP401 single coils and a Virtual PAF humbucker in the bridge position. Interestingly, the fiveway switch employs an unconventional wiring scheme that never coil-taps the humbucker; rather it combines it with either the middle or neck pickup in certain positions.
As you know, some basic unplugged characteristics of an electric guitar that are apparent upon first inspection tend to become major factors in what the guitar will sound like plugged in. If the instrument can sustain well without being amplified, chances are it will sustain very well when projected through a nice combo or stack. The Ultra Blues certainly has these qualities, notably due to the addition of the oversized Schaller locking tuners and the superior bridge design. The bridge pivots on ball bearings, not the traditional knife-style setup. The reasoning behind this is that knife-style pivoting works quite well when the bridge is newer, but wears out rather quickly, and can be very detrimental to tuning strength. Unamplified chords project quite well, and can be discerned from several feet away, while open strings rang out loudly.
I should mention that when we removed the guitar from the shipping box, the handle broke off of the case almost immediately, which resulted in the case, and the guitar inside, hitting the floor from several feet. Granted, this might have been due to the shipping from France, or perhaps a fault in this particular case. Sometimes, however, curses can turn out to be blessings, because the accident helped solidify Vigier’s construction reputation: the guitar was perfectly setup with no fretting issues. On top of that, it was perfectly in tune, even after being shipped halfway around the world only to have the case fall off of the broken handle.