The other day I got the chance to try the David Gilmour NOS Stratocaster at a friend of Gilmourish.Com. Itâ€™s been a while since its release but I thought Iâ€™d share my thoughts on this long awaited and much discussed guitar.
Let me first point out that itâ€™s obviously impossible to give an objective view. I have tried to approach it as if I was buying a new guitar looking for the features I prefer. Hopefully not too blinded by the fact that this is indeed a David Gilmour Strat. I tested the guitar on a Marshall tube head with a Mesa 4×12â€ cabinet and a bunch of all the classic gilmourish pedals.
I couldnâ€™t help but feel excited and my heart jumped when I entered the room and I saw the guitar hanging on the wall. Although Iâ€™ve tried my best to make my Strat look as close to Davidâ€™s as possible thereâ€™s something about standing infront of the real deal… well almost. This is a beautiful guitar! Itâ€™s very light weight and the balance between the alder body and the maple neck is perfect and doesnâ€™t tilt either way. The maple neckâ€™s nitrocellulose finish was surprisingly dark and the deep black pickguard makes a nice contrast to the black body and the slightly aged pickup covers and control knobs. The alder body has a nice warm and tight tone and the guitar sounds incredible just playing it acoustically. Personally I prefer basswood for a bit more brightness and punch but alder will perhaps give you an overall more versatile and honest tone.
What I first noticed, after drooling over its exterior, was that the setup was spot on. The strings and pickups were nicely balanced and it felt very easy to play. It doesnâ€™t really matter much as one would do oneâ€™s own adjustments but itâ€™s always nice to just pick up a guitar and get that instant â€wow!â€ feeling. The second thing I noticed was that the neckâ€™s finish is very sticky. I guess this is due to the nitrocellulose lacquer and this will be worn down eventually (I donâ€™t have much experience with nitro) but I felt that it made the neck unnesseceraly slow and hard to play. I personally prefer V-shaped necks and to me the C-shaped 7.25â€ felt a bit like a baseball bat. The trem arm was surprisingly short and made me wonder why David would prefer this. The guitarâ€™s owner and I agreed that its too short and Iâ€™d replace it with a 5 1/4â€.
I was of course especially keen on trying the pickups and the Seymour Duncan SSL-5 bridge was all it promise to be. Incredibly warm and fat with enough top to cut through nicely. I found my self smiling from ear to ear and being overly happy that one was already lying at home just waiting to be installed! Compared to the 69s, the SSL-5 has a slightly higher output and a tighter lower end. The Fat 50s is very similar to the 69s with a slightly more hollow tone and not as much bass. When I hit the Tube Driver I instantly got The Blue, – my favourite track from On An Island and one of Davidâ€™s finest tones. But again, not much difference from the 69s. The mid pickup was a disapointment and it just confirmed my impression of some of Davidâ€™s rhythm tones on the last tour â€“ muddy and without any punch. Iâ€™d definitely choose 69â€™s over this one.
Keep in mind that these pickups will sound different on different Strats, – be it an entirely different model or different wood used for the neck and/or body.
The mini toggle switch allows you to blend the neck and bridge pickups. Up/towards you is â€offâ€ and down/away is â€onâ€. When the pickups are combined the bridge gets a fat hollow flavour much like the middle position on a Telecaster. I didnâ€™t get to try how this sounded with distortions but it sounded pretty cool on stuff like Another Brick in the Wall (part 1). I once had a push/pull volume pot on my Strat that did the same job but I didnâ€™t use it much and reinstalled the original pot.
Thereâ€™s no doubt that this is a fine guitar. Itâ€™s quality all the way through and although Iâ€™ve only tried the NOS model you can tell that theyâ€™ve put a lot of effort into making sure that all the details and features are correct. It looks like Davidâ€™s and I would imagine it feels like heâ€™s too. I enjoyed it as much acoustically as pluged in, which is a very good sign. I didnâ€™t like C-shaped neck and the middle pickup, while the SSL-5 totally blew my mind!
Iâ€™m sure many of you wonder how the David Gilmour Signature Stratocaster is compared to mine. Well, mine is an ordinary Japanese model modified to death with a numerous fret jobs and all sorts of trail and errors. You canâ€™t compare the two but what I can say is that Iâ€™m very pleased with mine and feel that itâ€™s much more â€meâ€ than the Gilmour guitarâ€¦ but I guess thatâ€™s why David prefers his guitars and not mine!
Unfortunately this guitar wonâ€™t make you sound like David and Iâ€™ve seen some reviews where people are disapointed but thatâ€™s just stupid. I donâ€™t think you can be disapointed over a guitar like this. That only means that your expecations are too high and this guitar isnâ€™t for you. Try a US Standard or a Les Paul! But is it worth the 3.500$ or so price tag? If I never knew who David Gilmour was, would I then feel any difference between this guitar and a US Vintage â€™57 reissue? Probably not.
A big thanks to Andre for letting me try his new guitar!