The other day I got the chance to try the David Gilmour NOS Stratocaster at a friend of Gilmourish.Com. It’s been a while since its release but I thought I’d share my thoughts on this long awaited and much discussed guitar.
Let me first point out that it’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 4×12” cabinet and a bunch of all the classic gilmourish pedals.
I couldn’t help but feel excited and my heart jumped when I entered the room and I saw the guitar hanging on the wall. Although I’ve tried my best to make my Strat look as close to David’s as possible there’s something about standing infront of the real deal… well almost. This is a beautiful guitar! It’s very light weight and the balance between the alder body and the maple neck is perfect and doesn’t tilt either way. The maple neck’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 doesn’t really matter much as one would do one’s own adjustments but it’s always nice to just pick up a guitar and get that instant ”wow!” feeling. The second thing I noticed was that the neck’s finish is very sticky. I guess this is due to the nitrocellulose lacquer and this will be worn down eventually (I don’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 7.25” felt a bit like a baseball bat. The trem arm was surprisingly short and made me wonder why David would prefer this. The guitar’s owner and I agreed that its too short and I’d replace it with a 5 1/4”.
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 David’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 David’s rhythm tones on the last tour – muddy and without any punch. I’d definitely choose 69’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 ”off” and down/away is ”on”. When the pickups are combined the bridge gets a fat hollow flavour much like the middle position on a Telecaster. I didn’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 didn’t use it much and reinstalled the original pot.
There’s no doubt that this is a fine guitar. It’s quality all the way through and although I’ve only tried the NOS model you can tell that they’ve put a lot of effort into making sure that all the details and features are correct. It looks like David’s and I would imagine it feels like he’s too. I enjoyed it as much acoustically as pluged in, which is a very good sign. I didn’t like C-shaped neck and the middle pickup, while the SSL-5 totally blew my mind!
I’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 can’t compare the two but what I can say is that I’m very pleased with mine and feel that it’s much more ”me” than the Gilmour guitar… but I guess that’s why David prefers his guitars and not mine!
Unfortunately this guitar won’t make you sound like David and I’ve seen some reviews where people are disapointed but that’s just stupid. I don’t think you can be disapointed over a guitar like this. That only means that your expecations are too high and this guitar isn’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 ’57 reissue? Probably not.
A big thanks to Andre for letting me try his new guitar!