Ola Englund’s merry band of guitar builders serve up an affordable shred gem.
A killer, ultra-playable guitar with top components at a nice price.
The EverTune bridge and Fluence Modern pickups are very niche-specific components that could turn some players off.
Ola Englund, YouTube sensation and guitarist for the Haunted and Feared, started Solar Guitars, his own line of high-quality instruments, in 2017. The company is based in Sant Gregori, Spain, and their guitars are made in Indonesia. But as the marvelously decked-out GC1.6AFAB reviewed here reveals, this collaborative formula is yielding killer results at relatively affordable prices.
Down to the Details
At a glance, the GC1.6AFAB evokes great all-around instruments like the PRS SE or even the Tom Anderson Atom. It looks sharp, and even a bit traditional, with its flame maple top on a mahogany body and gold hardware down to the pickups, bridge, and tuners. Only the pointy reverse headstock, lack of inlays (other than the Solar logo around the 12th fret), and glow-in-the-dark side dots betray a possible metal-oriented lineage.
The guitar is meticulously crafted and there are no visible construction flaws. The low-action factory setup is perfect. The GC1.6AFAB’s design is very ergonomic, too. A belly cut adds a nice contour to the backside of the guitar, and the neck-through-body construction with sculpted neck joint allowed easy access all the way up to the 24th fret.
With jumbo stainless steel frets on a graphite-reinforced neck, a dual action truss rod, a 13.78" radius fretboard, graphite nut, and locking tuners, the GC1.6AFAB is thoroughly modern. The EverTune bridge is another contemporary distinction. It uses a system of floating saddles and springs to keep each string in tune no matter how aggressively you play. It can also be configured in a multitude of ways. On our test guitar, the EverTune was set up to permit bends on the top three strings, while the lower strings were set to resist pitch bends entirely. It was a weird experience to bend away at those strings, or add vibrato, only to hear pitch that never wavered. And I was certainly thrown off when I instinctively tried to make low-string notes growl by adding a little bend. Set up this way, the EverTune will take some getting used to. However, it’s a killer feature if you pick hard or inadvertently pull some of the notes sharp while chording. If you’re recording and need to nail a pitch-perfect take, it can be invaluable. And you can always reconfigure the bridge for a more conventional but still exceptionally stable setup.
It Chugs, It Slugs, It Sings
The GC1.6AFAB’s pickups, a pair of excellent Fishman Fluence Modern active units, also display Solar’s forward-thinking approach. They have independent volume controls with a shared tone knob that has a push/pull function for the Fishman Fluence’s voices: “active” (voice 1) and “passive” (voice 2). (Here, the phrases active and passive refer to voicings rather than the strict definition of active and passive pickups.)
With the bridge pickup and active voice engaged, pick response is crisp and fast on the low strings. With help from with the EverTune’s unwavering tuning stability, individual notes and picking nuances are super articulate. Digging in harder rarely revealed any flubby ambiguities. And fast alternate-picked sequences felt super precise. Be forewarned though: If you’re having a sloppy day, the Fluence pickups’ immediacy can be unforgiving.
In clean settings, the GC1.6AFAB’s bridge pickup sounds very hi-fi, and very loud in both voices. Multi-finger tapping phrases are punchy and pop out loud and consistent along the fretboard. Cascading arpeggio runs have a harp-like clarity and individual notes sound consistent and even across the guitar’s whole range. And while the pickup isn’t overly bright, there is a ton of presence. Until the tone knob is all the way down to about 2, you hear little in the way of “darkness.” The neck pickup in the active voice has more bass focus than the bridge. When I held an open-G chord, the 6th-string resonated with a bottom end that you could call boomy. Comparatively, with the passive voice, the neck pickup seemed a bit more balanced.
If I imagined a shredder creating a custom guitar, it might look and feel a lot like GC1.6AFAB. There’s a lot about the style that feels relatively traditional, save for the many cutting-edge components that Solar included here. At $295, putting an EverTune bridge on an existing guitar (a process that would involve routing and probably devaluing your instrument) is an expensive proposition. Add a set of gold Fishman Fluence Modern pickups at around $260 and you’re looking at well north of a $500 investment even before you pay to have your upgrades installed on an existing instrument. Given how seamlessly Solar brings these elements together in such an impeccable-playing guitar, the $1,349 you’ll pay for a GC1.6AFAB is a pretty amazing deal.