Vigier Excalibur Ultra Blues Review
January 15, 2009
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.
The guitar continued to shine when plugged into a 1973 Marshall Superbass, and then a Vox AC30 reissue. Make no mistake: the Excalibur Ultra Blues is a highly versatile guitar. The pickup switching system allows for a multitude of useful tones, especially with the added combinations of the full humbucker tone with either single coil pickup. The bridge position combined with the middle produced tones that were very suggestive of another highly sought-after instrument: the early Ibanez Iceman models with the triple coil pickup arrangement. Steve Miller-esque tones abound with this guitar, as do many of the sounds that fit perfectly with contemporary styles of music. The neck pickup provides a very nice setup for deep, droning, single note riffs—go heavy on the tremolo and reverb with this one. When combined with the bridge pickup, the sound is massive, and every note can be discerned from the densest of chords. The tones are powerful, well refined and anything but raw… which leads me to another point.
The Ultra Blues is certainly a superb electric guitar, the result of painstaking research to correct every flaw that has affected those instruments over the past several decades. Ironically, this might be its downfall with a lot of players. While it might seem trite to fall back on saying it’s “too perfect,” a lot of players might feel that way when holding and playing it. Guitarists are a finicky bunch. They like to establish their own sounds, and are in a constant battle to stand apart from the pack. Embracing the “flaws” in certain instruments have forced guitarists to develop those unique sounds, which in turn give them their own voice. Jimi Hendrix turned the feedback issues with his setup into an instrument all in itself. More recently, Jack White has taken the raspy, pawnshop guitar tone to new heights, grabbing the attention of millions with it. That’s not to say that the Ultra Blues couldn’t achieve any of this, but just that a lot of players might be put off by how refined it sounds, and how well it’s put together. Those guitarists who are used to an instrument that requires a bit of effort and coaxing to get their own sounds out of it might find the Ultra Blues a little too accommodating. Clearly, this is a guitar built for the guitarist who has spent years upon years honing his craft, and is looking for just the right instrument to be their tool of expression.
Undoubtedly a Jack-of-all-trades, the Vigier Excalibur Ultra Blues is a product of skill, dedication and patience. Every concern in the design of this guitar has been worked and reworked, and it surely shows. If you see one hanging in a shop, I highly recommend you try it out. While they are slowly gaining more ground with dealers in this country, Vigier is still a brand that’s unknown to a lot of players, which is an indignity considering how well-designed they are.
you’ve got the funds for one of the finest guitars around, with refined, polished tones and effortless playability.
your desires are less extravagant, or you prefer an edgier, rawer tone.
MSRP $3691 Street $3138 - Vigier Instruments - vigierguitars.com