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One of the latest companies to fly the flag of British guitar making is Chelmsford-based Lodestone. The design work and company headquarters are situated in Essex but these particular models come via China, as is now so often the case. Lodestone's quirky take on a certain California-born classic has already caught the eye, and now they're returning with a similar re-imagining of another industry standard. The Pulse is its name, so have Lodestone got their finger on it?
The first thing that comes to mind when slipping the reasonably weighty Pulse from its gigbag is 'My, my, that's gold alright.' Gold it is indeed... and there's so much of it. Not content with merely coating the body in gold, Lodestone have covered both the back and neck, lending the Pulse a Bond girl aura. The only places spared are the edge binding on the body and the face of the headstock, which are black. Close inspection reveals some uneven finishing here, with areas suffering from paint bleed and lines that are a bit wobbly, but it won't spoil the look from a distance.
One of the unique features of the Pulse is the pair of ridges on the body. They hold no functional purpose at all, but they imbue the guitar with a novel take on a very well-known shape. Whether it works or not will very much be in the eye of the beholder, but isn't that kind of the point when it comes to design?
Lurking under the paint is a nato wood body, a material being increasingly used by factories in China and the Far-East as a more affordable alternative to mahogany. The neck is also fashioned from this South American resident, with a more traditional rosewood fingerboard taking care of the playing surface, adorned with 22 frets and block abalone inlays. The small '60s-style neck profile makes it easy to play, and it'll be appreciated by younger players and those with small hands. Meanwhile the rest of us can also blaze about in a perfectly happy manner.
Hardware is pretty much as you'd expect – chrome Schaller-style tuners, stoptail and bridge, master volume and tone. The twin humbuckers are uncovered for that raw look, but perhaps if they were chromecovered they'd make the appearance just that bit more cohesive, albeit in a more vintage fashion.
Strapped on the Lodestone Pulse feels comfortable and well-balanced, although it isn't a lightweight guitar. This substance proves encouraging when you strum the guitar acoustically and hear a nice bright briiing that should transfer well when the electricity is flowing.
Plugging into the clean channel on a Laney VC15, the neck pickup is open and clear with enough body to encourage breaking into some old soul and Motown riffs. The bass end feels a little thin in comparison to some LP-type guitars that have passed through the office in the past, but this helps keep the tone tight and prevents any fl abbiness when down low. Clean blues tones are quick to fi nd, with good sustain on bends; generally, the cleaner side of life sounds pretty good.
Pushing the amp into a slight breakup and moving to the mixed setting gives us a percussive and well-balanced rhythm tone that would sit well in a mix. At a push, it could even make do for acoustic parts at a gig where you don't want to swap guitars. Putting some medium overdrive on the amp finds the guitar's sweet spot. Chords sound grainy and crunchy with just the right amount of growly throat to leatherise your trousers and make your stance wider. There's a Black Crowes aspect to the tone which will find favour with classic rockers and those who like their music a little blue. Big bends do cause the tuning to slip slightly and the machineheads feel a little imprecise, but a little lubrication on the nut would most likely sort this out.
Throwing some higher gain at the Pulse is a pleasing experience, with that tighter bottom end coming to the fore and adding a sharper edge. Guns N'Roses sounds are in the ballpark, and if you dig in then the solo tones here are very good and could make a pub hero out of you yet. Pushing the guitar to the very end of the scale and dropping the tuning does finally get the better of the pickups, with clarity dropping away, but it still does a good job of generating an angry roar.
The Pulse comes into the very competitive budget end of the guitar market with a fair few interesting things to offer. Its unusual curves will no doubt appeal to younger players who fancy something a bit different from the standard single-cut guitar. The colour will also turn a few heads (or stomachs, depending on your proclivities), but for the more subtle players out there Lodestone also offer classic sunburst finishes as well as a cool-looking matt black option. There are a few niggles – mainly the slightly scruffy paintwork and a few tuning issues that would likely be sorted by a set-up – but in the end the Pulse is a very likeable guitar. The pickups are well voiced for modern and classic styles, the construction is sound, and you know that after a bit of time playing it in it would make a decent gigging guitar. It might be a bit more Beijing than Basildon when it comes to the truly British stakes, but it's good to see the likes of Lodestone throwing a different option into the ring. It'll make a solid, enjoyable first guitar for someone starting out and will be a fine accomplice for those important early miles on the journey.