Premier Guitar features affiliate links to help support our content. We may earn a commission on any affiliated purchases.

Review: Becker Guitars Imperial

The Becker Imperial offers playability and style for jazz/fusion players

There is no doubt, in this age of instrument construction and design,

that making electric guitars has become an art form in and of itself.

Just as driving a finely-tuned vintage hotrod can make the person in

control feel indescribable, a guitar with a great attention to detail

can have the same effect. From single-luthier workshops to major

company-backed custom shop divisions, the industry as a whole has begun

to cater to the player who wants something just a little (or entirely)

different from their guitar. The results over the past couple of

decades have been staggering, to say the least. From simple paintings

to intricate carvings, exotic combinations of wood from around the

world—and sometimes a complete rethinking of guitar construction from

the ground up—knowledgeable luthiers have learned to combine their

artistic side with their construction know-how. The Dan Becker Guitar

Company is no exception.

Starting in the mid-nineties, Dan Becker’s company specialized in the

restoration and repair of vintage instruments. They have grown over the

past decade to what Becker describes as his “all-star team of luthiers,

techs, woodworkers, and finishers,” and have started their own line of

finely crafted instruments. Their handiwork is uniquely their own, and

their models oftentimes take drastic steps away from the look and

construction of the electric guitar (the banjo model in particular is

extremely different and eye-catching). Premier Guitar was provided with

one of their flagship models, the Imperial, for review.

At first glance the Imperial just begs to be held. The contoured edges,

the thin, rounded body profile and sculpted heel make it a very

inviting guitar, and its striking shape in combination with the wood

shades will definitely

turn heads. Some of the commonly used woods used in guitar construction

(such as figured maple) are present here, but the real head-turner is

the choice of cocobolo, a wood that is steadily gaining ground in the

guitar construction business (mostly in acoustic models). It’s a form

of rosewood that grows in Central America and is prized for its great

beauty, as well as for a unique trait—it can actually change color when

cut. It is only found in small areas of the world, which makes it very

difficult to come by and rather expensive. The effect that it has on

tone, though … it can make the guitar sound “clearer,” aiding in note

separation and affecting the midrange in a pleasing way. The cocobolo

on the face of the Imperial is a deep reddish-brown with deep, dark

brown waves running through it. The bridge does not have an adjustable

saddle in the modern sense; rather, the action must be adjusted by

adding or removing shims underneath the two saddles. In some cases,

exotic additions like highly figured wood can make a guitar look rather

tacky, but the Imperial is certainly an exception. It is simply drop

dead gorgeous.

The guitar was tested through an all-stock 1973 Marshall Superbass head

into a mid-2000s Bogner 4x12 cabinet. Overdrive tones were achieved by

driving the Marshall and boosting it slightly with a Fulltone OCD

pedal. From first impressions, the Imperial is a very focused-sounding

instrument. Custom wound Seymour Duncan “Beckerbuckers” encourage this

assessment, as does the very low action and small frets. I’m sure after

adjusting the action and making a few other changes it would be better

suited for rock playing, but why mess with a good thing? Jazz tones

abound in this guitar, and I couldn’t keep myself running through jazz

lines and progressions for as long as my fingers would hold out.

Chording with this neck is extremely comfortable. Lead lines fly off

the fingerboard, but I found myself more at ease with simple runs

without wide bends or vibrato. The smaller frets make it more difficult

to do this, which is why a lot of rock players prefer larger frets.

However, smaller frets usually allow players to move faster around the

fretboard. The pickups have an awfully nice balance, neither one being

louder or more abrasive than the other. As a matter of fact, it was

very difficult to get a piercing, icepick tone out of this guitar; the

highs are so smooth, clear and full that getting a bad clean tone

seemed more of a challenge than getting a good one. When overdriven,

the instrument sings, but it needs more in the low-end department. The

lows were tight, but just not that present in the tone. It’s a rather

minor complaint, but I felt the guitar was lacking here.

The playability of the Dan Becker Imperial is enormous. Quite simply,

it’s a terrific instrument, perfect for styles such as jazz and fusion.

Chording is a breeze and the comfort factor is off the charts. Rock

players might find themselves fighting with the guitar, as the smaller

frets and tight feeling of the instrument hinder a lot of the flashy

styles that they like to employ in their music. In addition to being a

fantastic sounding and playing instrument, it is truly a work of art in

terms of construction, design, material choice and visual chutzpah.

Buy if...
jazz and fusion are your thing, and you need an electric guitar with fast, smooth playability and a smooth top end.
Skip if...
you’re more of a rock-oriented player and need a very present low end, or you’re looking for more of a no-frills instrument.
MSRP $6800 - Becker Guitars -