When a builder as well regarded as Michael DeTemple gives you his personal guitar to review, there’s an expectation of trust: Trust in his skills as an artisan as
When a builder as well regarded as Michael DeTemple gives you his personal guitar to review, there’s an expectation of trust: Trust in his skills as an artisan as he says to you “This is my very best effort,” and trust in you as a reviewer that you will straddle the line between awe and objectivity.
It is clear that Michael DeTemple’s Spirit Series is a culmination of a lifetime as a player, session musician and a craftsman. Every detail is picked over in a no-expensespared effort to deliver the best sounding “S” style guitar possible. The tap tuned necks and bodies, proprietary truss rods, ultra low-weight tuners, fossilized nuts, string trees and switch tips, proprietary, DeTempledesigned pickups, and DeTemple Titanium Trem Assembly all go into making a guitar that is light, easy to play, and sustains far better than an S-styled guitar with a tremolo system should.
I told Michael that it would be extremely interesting to pull apart his Spirit Series and replace bits and pieces of it with more “off the shelf” parts in order to discover at what point it completely alters the guitar’s tone. Michael attributes the Spirit’s remarkable sustain and complex overtones to his special neck building technique, custom truss rod design and compression fit fret installation.
Starting with a quartersawn, flamed maple neck blank, Michael preloads his proprietary truss rod system, shapes the neck and tightens the truss rod to bring a backbow into the neck. Then he cuts the fingerboard radius and simultaneously removes the back bow, leaving a perfectly flat fingerboard plane with the truss rod tensioned. When the truss rod is loosened, there is as much relief in the neck as you could ever need; when the neck is straightened, it is at full tension, thus tensioning the entire instrument for more resonance and clarity. Following that, the one piece neck is sprayed with nitrocellulose lacquer and the fingerboard is polished like glass.
The fret slots are cut prior to Michael’s labor intensive compression fit fret installation. Michael created a special fret saw to facilitate cutting slightly narrower slots on the bass side of the fretboard than on the treble side; this allows for a compression fret installation. By putting a slightly wider tang into the narrower fret slot, the neck wood is compressed back and more tension is exerted on the bass side of the neck. This will ensure a more consistent relief in the neck and prevent any dead spots in the frets.
The 6.5 pound ‘56 Spirit Series guitar Michael sent over was made from a single piece of featherweight swamp ash; a quartersawn, one piece, flamed maple neck with a bocote skunk stripe; perhaps the most astonishing faux tortoise shell celluloid pickguard you will ever see; SweetSpot pickups; fossilized mastodon ivory nut and fossilized walrus tusk string trees; a titanium trem block and saddles; and a push/pull knob on the second tone control, allowing the player to select from a total of seven different pickup configurations. As a departure from his usual building technique, our sample’s neck had a gun oil finish, rather than nitro. Michael said this is a no-charge option. I could continue to wax poetically about the sheer beauty of the Spirit Series’ wood selection or the hallucinatory quality of the guitar’s pickguard but unlike Melville, I am not paid by the word.
Like a Ringing Bell
In order to test the Spirit Series’ clean tones, I plugged the guitar into my go-to clean amp, a Fender Princeton Reverb. The Spirit Series’ overtones built up quickly but not to a point that they overpowered the guitar’s fundamentals. And while the pickups’ voicings were decidedly on the smoky side, they were by no means murky or ill-defined— on the contrary, a better description may simply be “mature.”
The balance of the pickups was extremely good; even if the bridge pickup did tend to have a bit more output than the others, the difference was minor. When I’m playing a Strat-styled guitar, I often find myself wanting that extra push, rather than having it crap out while playing clean, and I felt as though Michael had read my mind. As mentioned earlier, the sustain of the Spirit Series was astonishing and was more akin to a hardtail Les Paul than a trem-equipped Strat. Contrary to what you might think, it was perfect for long, legato passages.
There’s a nasty internet rumor going around stating that DeTemple’s SweetSpot pickups do not work well with high levels of distortion. I asked Michael specifically about this. While he said that he didn’t feel like engaging in online flame wars, he did say that he’s always surprised in being quoted for things he never said. That’s fair enough, but I decided to test the theory myself, running the Spirit Series through my Mesa Boogie Subway Reverb Rocket on the Contour setting, and out to a Tone Tubby 1x12 cab.
Despite the high levels of distortion, the Spirit Series exhibited a remarkable amount of clarity and note-to-note separation. To be fair, things did get a little murky when the Spirit Series was placed into its in-between settings, but so has every other Strat-styled guitar I’ve subjected to that level of distortion. Unlike so many seventies Fenders, the Spirit Series’ SweetSpot pickups adapted well and didn’t become twangy or shrill.
The Final Mojo
In his 2004 book, Stradivari’s Genius, Tony Faber wrote a story concerning one of Stradivari’s most fabled violins. Often hinted at but seldom seen, a mint condition 1716 violin was rumored to have been for sale. The wily seller, Luigi Tarisio, teased the would-be buyer, Delphin Alard, about its existence for years. Exacerbated by years of delay, Alard exclaimed, “So, your violin is like the Messiah: one always expects him but he never appears.”
Michael DeTemple is upfront concerning his production lead time, so to quote his ad copy, “The wait is long... the task arduous, the results remarkable.” Is that arrogance? From any other builder, this claim would be akin to hubris, but Michael DeTemple’s work lives up to the hype. If you have some deep pockets and are willing to wait, your patience will be well rewarded.
Given that ever-spiraling prices have taken most vintage instruments out of the reach of players, consider this: the DeTemple Spirit Series is not too far out of the realm of Fender’s Custom Shop offerings, and it may well be the best built, most thoroughly actualized guitar of its kind out there.
you are looking for quite possibly the best Strat-style guitar built today.
you need to have an “F” on the headstock.
MSRP $6268 (as reviewed) $7528 - DeTemple Guitars - detempleguitars.com
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Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
Mystery Stocking is coming soon! Sign up for PG Perks below so you don't miss it.
Sign up for PG Perks on the form below to make sure you don't miss the launch announcement!
About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
- Each box will be guaranteed to contain $40 or more in value.
- US only. (Sorry World.)
- Make sure your shipping address is correct.
- Have your credit card ready to go before you refresh the page. Paypal is not available. Autofill may not fill in your information.
- There will be NO REFUNDS given.
- There has been a huge demand for these in the past. We really did sell out in less than 4 minutes last year. When they are gone, they are gone.
- One per household, one per person.
Q: What's in the Mystery Stocking?
A: It wouldn't be much of a surprise if we told you, now would it?
Q: Will I definitely get my money worth?
Q: Can I return it if I don't like it?
A: Nope. All sales final.
Q: What if I live outside the US?
A: Sorry, US only.
Q. How much is it?
A. $39.95 Plus $5 shipping
Q. When will it ship?
A. On or before December 10, 2022.
Q. What form of payment do you accept?
A. Credit cards only. Sorry, no Paypal for this.
Q. Can I ship to a different location than my billing address?
Q. I tried last year and didn't get one. Will I get one this year?
A. There is an overwhelming demand for Mystery Stocking. Be sure you have a fast internet connection and be ready when they go on sale. Last year we sold out in 3 min 33 seconds.
Q. I want to buy 5. How can I buy 5?
A. You can't. This year, we're limiting to one per household, so more people can get in on the fun!
Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The new finish, according to Lava Music, is “inspired by the beauty of the golden hour,” a shining time just before sunset and after sunrise when photographers covet to capture stunning pictures.
With bright and warm golden hues, the new finish adds a brilliant metallic glow to the surface of Lava ME 3, complementing its AirSonic 2 carbon fiber unibody which features L3 Preamp with FreeBoost 2.0, delivers industry-leading sounds by breakthrough acoustic technologies, and houses a multi-touch display powered by Lava-developed HILAVA system.
Speaking of the HILAVA system, Lava Music also added four new effects: Nebula, Desert Rose, Cassette, and Edge of Breakup. As unique as their names sound, they are very much different from what we normally know about effects. Programmed into the HILAVA system, each of the four is powered by the company’s latest ArctanDrive algorithm and incorporates effects like Pitch Shift, Delay, and Reverb. And every one of those incorporated sub-effects comes with various parameters that players can adjust to design unique, overdriven sounds by just tapping on the multi-touch display. That said, those effects enable users to play with overdriven tone on an acoustic-electric guitar without even plugging in any external gear.
LAVA ME 3 | Now in Golden Hour | LAVA MUSIC
Lava Me 3 in Golden Hour is now available starting from $999 on LAVA MUSIC, Amazon, and local guitar dealerships near you.
For more information, please visit store.lavamusic.com.