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Based in Denver, Colorado, Viktorian Guitars was founded by composite-materials expert Diego Grinfeld, who was lucky enough to have as his mentor an illustrious luthier by the name of Boaz Elkayam. And though you wouldn’t know it by looking at the Grace Status reviewed here, Elkayam is about as old-school as a luthier gets. Hailing from a family of violin makers, Elkayam began crafting guitars before he hit his teens, and since then he has travelled to some relatively far-flung corners of the globe to study the art. Along the way, he picked up lutherie chops from some of the most resourceful instrument makers in the world. The ability of those luthiers to work with the materials on hand—and by hand, sometimes using nothing but a knife—probably had a lot to do with Elkayam’s minimalist approach to construction. This unlikely pairing between high-tech and tradition helped Grinfeld lay the foundations for Viktorian Guitars.
Sought primarily by materials engineers for its high strength-to-weight ratio, carbon fiber typically finds its way into things like tent-poles, space shuttles, and speedboats. Because carbon fiber can handle the considerable loads from string tension and take a serious beating, too, it also makes for an extraordinarily resilient guitar-building material. And in the hands of a highly skilled luthier like Elkayam, carbon fiber can also possess a unique singing resonance and excellent responsiveness. Those properties are the soul of Viktorian’s hollow Grace Status.
Of a Piece
The Grace is cast in a single mold and is, thus, entirely a one-piece instrument—a nearly seamless guitar from headstock to endpin. Once you get past the marvel of the unibody construction, one of the first details you notice is that the 22-fret neck has no truss rod. So how would you intonate this thing? Well, according to Viktorian, you probably won’t have to—aside from minor adjustments on the chrome Tune-o-matic-style bridge. Needless to say, necks made of wood are subject to all sorts of temperamental changes due to humidity, temperature, etc., and anyone who’s flown with a guitar knows how frustrating it can be to land and have to perform with slip-shod intonation before a show. Theoretically, the Grace sidesteps this hassle via sheer, unshakable structural rigidity. When it came my turn to test this premise, true to form, the Status rang with perfect intonation right out of the box, despite zigzagging across the U.S. on its way to me and spending who knows how many hours on a delivery truck.
Aesthetically, the Grace Status is bold, to say the least, with a sunset orange, micro-sparkle finish. An exposed carbon fiber racing stripe runs the length of the guitar, revealing the fascinatingly attractive weave of the material. The body shape is modern and a bit irreverent and unconcerned with tradition, with hints of Telecaster and some of Guild’s more oddball designs from the ’70s.
Sporting dual Viktorian Modern Classic humbuckers, the Grace has a 5-way pickup selector that doubles as a coil tap at the second and fourth positions—a highly dynamic configuration that also lets you blend the ’buckers in the middle position. Interior electronics include new-old-stock paper-in-oil capacitors, Bourns Pro Audio pots, and cloth-covered wiring. A brass alloy nut caps the C-shaped neck, and the headstock—which looks like a mix of PRS and Rickenbacker elements—are adorned with tuners of Viktorian design.
Hollowbody at Heart
When you pick up a Grace, you immediately notice how readily it conforms to your body. The sharp, lower-body cut rests comfortably on your leg if you’re a sit-and-strum guy, but throwing a strap on and slinging it over your shoulder reveals more about how incredibly well balanced this guitar is—and it’ll stay on an even keel whether you’re holding the neck or not. The Grace also weighs a little under 5.5 pounds, which borders on feather light for any guitar, but especially for an electric.
Even before plugging the Grace into an amplifier, I noticed an extraordinary amount of resonance and sustain when playing chords or single notes. But these qualities are exponentially enhanced when you plug into a nice, clean amp like the silverface Fender Bassman used for this test. With this setup, first-position chords rang with a rather amazing, crystal-clear sustain.
The Viktorian Modern Classic humbuckers are responsive to control input and interact with the body to generate beautifully uniform string-to-string output. The top end has plenty of bite, but there isn’t a trace of harshness whether you’re in humbucker or coil-tapped mode. It makes the Grace wonderfully responsive to a soft touch—this guitar will delight fingerpickers with how well it translates picking nuance.
Interestingly, the hollowbody-and-carbon-fiber combination is a sweet recipe for slide work. Dropped into open D tuning, the neck pickup whistled with potency and sustain of the sort that Ry Cooder would love. And a ceramic slide created a lonesome drawl that exceeded the sustain of just about everything short of an organ with its keys taped down.
The Grace handled the high-gain tones of an Orange OR50 very well, too. The pickups are hot but not at all screechy, and they exhibited great clarity through extreme tube saturation. That said, fans of the heaviest metal styles may find the Grace a little light on bottom-end girth—galloping palm mutes on the low E aren’t quite as weighty as what get from, say, a Les Paul. What it might lack in grunt, though, the Grace makes up for in versatility, especially given the extra tones you get via the coil taps. Rolling off the volume and splitting the neck pickup delivers a cool, Telecaster-like honk but with an almost Epiphone Casino-style resonance. The fourth position also delivers a killer snapping tone with a cut in the treble range that’s perfect for country or rockabilly picking on cleaner amplification.
At $3,279 street, the Viktorian Grace Status is a bit pricey for many of us. Heck, with that kind of money you could easily buy three pretty nice guitars. But, if you’re looking for just one to cover a ton of ground, the Grace is a marvel. The construction and attention to detail is top notch, and the 1-piece, carbon-fiber design is not only bulletproof and nearly maintenance free (how much is that peace of mind worth to you on the road?), and it all adds up to an uncommonly responsive guitar with a massive tonal scope. Players with strictly old-school tastes probably need not apply, but forward-looking players who appreciate how the guitar can still evolve as an instrument will thrill to this convergence of design and performance.