Richmond’s latest, the Empire, rocks with a no-frills, budget-lux combination of appointments and playability that’s the stuff of pawnshop sleepers and minor classics like the Gibson Melody Maker.
For years, the Godin family of guitar companies—Godin, Seagull, Simon & Patrick, and Art & Lutherie—has built unique and often great guitars at prices that are competitive with just about any manufacturer in the world. It’s a trick the Canadian company pulls off with an inarguable regularity. So when Godin created the Richmond brand a few years back as a vehicle for more traditional ’50s- and ’60s-inspired electrics, few were surprised at how stylish, well built, and sweet sounding guitars like the Dorchester and Belmont were for the price.
Richmond’s latest, the Empire, is more of the same goodness. It rocks with a no-frills, budget-lux combination of appointments and playability that’s the stuff of pawnshop sleepers and minor classics like the Gibson Melody Maker.
Built for Business—on a Budget
With its chocolaty mahogany finish and compact heft, the Empire made it impossible not to reminisce about the 1971 SG that was one of the first electric guitars I spent any real time with as a lad. But though the beautiful grain, bass-bout carve, and sense of solidity in the Empire are very SG-ish, there’s a lot of cool design inspiration from less likely sources. There’s certainly a touch of PRS and some hints of Gibson’s ill-fated Sonex in the body profile, and the headstock is a bit of a nod to the slimmer Rickenbacker headstocks of the ’60s.
You can’t get much simpler than the control layout on the Empire: Volume and Tone knobs and a pickup switch in the forward bass bout. But the simplicity belies the range of sounds available from the bridge humbucker and the neck-position single-coil. The tailpiece is a wraparound design that’s elegant and well made, though its lack of adjustable saddles does beg the question of how to deal with intonation problems down the line. The cool-looking Kluson-style tuners are a great match for the headstock, though they lack the advantage of slotted posts that make Klusons the easiest string change of all time.
The Empire is very well balanced for its weight and feels really comfortable hanging over your shoulder. Much of the overall comfort is attributable to the 2-piece, satin-finished, 22-fret neck, which has a slim, fast-feeling, and slightly flattish C profile that makes chording and deep bends uniformly easy. A neck joint that tapers toward the cutaway facilitates access to the upper frets.
A vigorous strum of a first-position E chord long before I ever plugged the guitar in revealed a remarkable resonance that’s doubly notable given the bolt-on design. You can really feel the body sympathetically vibrating, and the sustain of unamplified chords is impressive.
The combination of the Empire’s solidity and simplicity called for a straightforward approach to amplification, so I hooked it up to a blackface Fender Concert, a blackface Tremolux, an Ampeg Super Jet, and a 50-watt Marshall plexi to probe the surprisingly wide array of tones on tap.
The Tone and Volume controls are effective and responsive—which is nice to see on a mid-priced instrument, given how many companies cut corners on electronic components in this price range. Used in conjunction with the bridge humbucker, the two knobs enabled me to shape the top end into a form ideal for use with fuzz—particularly if you’re into wooly and endlessly sustaining Randy California-style sounds. In fact, the Empire’s humbucker, with a little roll off in volume and tone, is a great guitar for taming your most hectic fuzz while retaining some meat and buzz in your signal.
The single-coil neck pickup is full of surprises, too. It’s a great all-around pickup that sounds wider than a neck humbucker you hear in an SG or Les Paul. It doesn’t have the wide-spectrum detail of a Rickenbacker toaster pickup, which it slightly resembles, or the high end of a good Filter’Tron in the neck position, but it has the versatile feel of a Telecaster pickup and works great in lead or rhythm situations without getting muddy. Like the bridge humbucker, it’s a great match for a fuzz—especially if you’re dealing with the sting and rasp of a squirrelly old germanium or silicon unit.
Like every Richmond we’ve encountered to date, the Empire is a steal. The fit and finish are excellent, the components are better than most that we see on mid-priced guitars, and the mahogany body is beautiful and magically resonant. And rather than throw together the same old two-humbucker set, Richmond selected a humbucker and single- coil that sound unique and expand the range of tones at your fingertips.
If you’re into punk, garage, or blues-rock, the Empire is an ideal partner in crime, but it’s equally at home grinding metal chords through a Marshall and a distortion pedal or jangling away at folk-rock arpeggios. At just 500 bucks, however, it represents an extraordinary value—particularly given the quality of the materials and build. If it’s a no-frills rocking machine you need, you’ll find that and a lot more in the Richmond Empire.
sweet, blossoming, mahogany rock tones on a budget sound sweet to your ears.
you’re just going to keep saving until the SG of your dreams is in your hands—no matter what it costs.
Street $595 - Richmond Guitars - richmondguitarscanada.com
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.