Excalibur... now there’s a name. For Vigier, there’s no hiding behind the anonymity of a collection of numbers and letters which sound more like an electrical part you’d buy in Maplins, or plastering a guitar hero’s moniker all over the headstock.
No, Excalibur, the weapon of a legendary king, said to be imbued with magic, and of which there was only one. Thankfully Vigier haven’t limited themselves to such low numbers, otherwise they might not have let us get our grubby hands on this one – but the name does imply that the French company have some ambition... and we like that very much.
One notable difference from the guitar’s titular inspiration is that it comes in a plushly-lined hardshell case rather than a large stone from which only the rightful person can pull it; a wise choice in these frugal times as it cuts down on packaging and, thankfully, the need to find a reviewer who’s the true heir to the throne.
Once Excalibur is in your hands, though, you know that it’s actually something special. The weight is light but still reassuring and it balances perfectly on a strap. Then there’s the nimble body. Although it owes its general shape to a Fender Stratocaster the body on this guitar is smaller, more sculpted, and almost disappears when you start to play. It’s kind of like a Sports S-type, where someone’s taken a standard model and then hot-rodded it to make it go faster... much faster.
The slim D shape neck is speedy and fluid and the 24 frets are expertly installed on the rosewood board. Higher fret access is widdletastic thanks to the pronounced lower cutaway, allowing you the chance to make music that only dogs will be able to hear.
Another now resident feature on the Excalibur is that of a zero nut. Although hardly an innovation, Vigier has worked hard to improve the design. One of the reasons manufacturers stopped using the zero fret was that over time grooves get worn in the metal due to the constant pressure, thus making it harder to bend strings as they can snag in the resultant furrows.
The Excalibur’s fret is made from a slightly harder alloy designed to cope with the wear and tear, plus it’s been set more loosely in its slot to allow owners to change it themselves should it ever wear out, rather than having to return it to the factory. The benefits of the feature are a determined string height and reduced friction over the nut, which when combined with the locking machineheads contribute towards the Excalibur’s rock-solid tuning.
Flipping the guitar over reveals what at first glance looks like your bog standard skunk strip on the back of the maple neck. Rather than serving the normal purpose of being a cover for the truss rod it’s in fact a carbon bar that’s been glued into the neck, once again to aid the tuning stability.
This improved rigidity certainly does seem to have an effect that’s worth taking notice of, as not only did the Excalibur require almost no tweaking during its time in our office but it also achieved the feat of arriving from the couriers perfectly in tune. If we didn’t know better, we’d believe witchcraft was involved.
On the subject of all things bewitching we have to say that the finish on the guitar is gorgeous. Vigier call it ‘urban metal’, and the effect of a smokey black and silver melange gives the guitar a cool, cultured visage. The overall effect is perhaps slightly spoiled by the grey/black pearloid scratchplate applied on top of it.
To be honest we struggled to think of what other colour would best suit the look (black would be too dark, white would be bizarre) but the mixture of textures doesn’t sit as well as it could on what is otherwise a lovely instrument to behold.
Of course all of this is elementary unless the thing can sing. Unplugged the signs are promising with plenty of zing and enough volume to practice strumming a few tunes without the need of an amp.
Put through a clean channel on our Laney VC15 the Excalibur delivers a fine collection of warm and sprightly tones. The H/S/H configuration features a DiMarzio PAF Pro in the neck – a pickup we’ve liked for a long time. The smooth tones are there aplenty with a snappy attack waiting in the wings.
Moving through the selections brings us to the DiMarzio FS1 in the centre and a DiMarzio Tone Zone in the bridge. Sadly there’s no option to use both the humbuckers together but the tonal range offered by the Excalibur is wide enough to suit most palettes and situations.
From bright jazz, jangly pop and roadhouse blues up to facemask-wearing metal the Vigier is a high calibre bringer of sonic plenitude. The only potential drawback is the single coil selections (blended with either the inner neck or bridge coils) which feel a little weak both in volume and in terms of true traditional sparkle.