Gordon Smith Gypsy 1 & 2
The guarantee handed out on Gordon Smiths would make most rivals weep into their 12-month warranties — 25 years on all parts and labour (barring strings of course).
Somewhere there's a man prepared to keep faith with his instruments until the year 2008.
The two up for review are essentially the same guitar, but on the GS-1 the finish has been kept to an economical oiled satin feel, the thickness of the body trimmed and cheaper alternatives found for some of the parts. The neck and pickup remains the same.
Both are mahoganied bodied, flat top, single pickup electrics, strongly reminiscent of the old Les Paul Junior shape. The pickup is Gordon Smith's own and not available as a separate item, though there's many a guitarist and distributor who'd like to get his hands on them.
Nobody ties themselves to a 25-year "contract" without good reason and plenty of faith. The simple confidence of design and workmanship comes through on the Gordon Smith. It's not a flashy, cocky creation, but has a strength of character that makes it a possession worth keeping for many years.
The finish is immaculate. Fourteen layers of hand buffed, polyurethane lacquer go into producing a deep, mirror-like shine. The closest inspection could not unearth any flaws, weaknesses or blobs and the cherry colouring was rich and even, without disguising the grain of the wood.
The bridge is a simple chromed affair — no saddles, just a series of stepped ridges to help out the intonation. The strings feed in from the front in the gap between the bridge and tail pickup, bend up over the back of the stop-bar then across the ridges to the neck.
It slots around two pillars, but can be backed away from them via two grub screws for overall intonation adjustments. The tuning did suffer in places and separate saddles, though more expensive, would have been more accurate.
The jack socket is front mounted and there are two scratchplates — one large black plastic sheet covering the usual vulnerable areas, and another smaller plaque that sits under the end of the fretboard and can be removed by two screws to get at the truss rod.
The neck is remarkably slim throughout its length, but at that joint it feels wafer thin compared with many other guitars. The fretboard is flat, almost classical in style and medium in width.
The sound is bright, but refined, true to the British character inherent in the Gypsy; it isn't as dirty or raunchy as these dashed colonial guitars. £395
Many of these points can be applied to the GS-1 as well, though the thinner body and lower quality mahogany gave it less sustain and a slightly flimsier sound. The GS-1 forgoes the 14 layers of lacquer, has a simpler bridge and one scratchplate, meaning a longer removal job to tighten the truss rod.
I also found the GS-1 neck marginally thicker and easier to get on with, though the frets and fretboard didn't seem as smooth and silky. Both guitars were light and easy to manoeuvre and probably too light for the likes of Les Paul guitarists who enjoy a good weight round their shoulders.
The Gypsy lies in the realm of a good rock rhythm or lead guitar. Plenty of cut and stomp are available from the Gordon Smith pickup which has a strong output and a low noise and hum level, thanks to the meticulous screening inside the body.
And who else makes their guitars according to weather? Damper northern areas of Britain gave "wetter" wood, drier southern spots are sent the moistureless variety which helps the guitars settle into the local climate preventing popping frets or soggy fretboards. £315
Review by Paul Colbert
Previous article in this issue:
Next article in this issue: