In the past few years, Hamer have established a reputation for basic, relatively inexpensive rock 'n' roll guitars — that's "relatively" when compared to other American makes, rather than oriental price cutters.
The Vector, based on the Gibson Flying V shape, is firmly in that tradition. Not a king of versatility, but a beastie in the chuggin', bluesy R&B mould.
The mahogany one-piece body is a straightforward V design with about an 80 degree angle between the legs. The two fairly stiff volume controls and one tone control are in a straight line, something of a Hamer trademark, and the jack socket is mounted on the top, near the controls rather than on the edge, or as on some Vs, on the inside of a thigh.
Hamer have fitted two DiMarzio pickups. The cream and black neck version has a bass roll off to retain a tight attack at low volume and the two cream coils near the bridge have additional presence in the hi-mid range for a sharper lead sound.
The picture is completed by a rosewood fingerboard (okay) imitation Mother-of-Pearl dot markers (dull) and unusually meaty frets (an advantage for string bends). It feels light for a V, and is a fraction headstock heavy, tilting earthwards if you don't keep a hand on the substantial neck that grows in width as you slide towards the octave.
The strings pass from the back of the body up and through a chunky chromed milled brass bridge and sustain block. The baseplate on which the saddles rest is over ¼in thick and that must help the well balanced sustain.
I wasn't impressed by the saddle arrangement which had fiddly adjustment screws and threatened to nip the strings between baseplate and the inner edge of the saddle.
On the whole it performed well, and would appeal to guitarists whose wardrobe contains more than its fair share of black leather. To me, Hamers often feel incomplete. It's a personal impression and nothing to do with the standard of spraying or finishing, which is admirable. Maybe it's just that any Hamer tends to be a pretty single-minded machine, determined to follow one sound.
What's left of my own mind must be heading in another direction. £375
The title is misleading. This Hamer is the finished article, a small bodied instrument with longish horns, not unlike the style of the Hamer Cruise bass.
This review sample had a one-piece mahogany body finished in cherry red and a glued, three-piece neck topped by Schaller machines, a plastic nut and a printed (therefore easily removable) serial number.
Of the last 20 guitars I've reviewed, at least 15 must have had strings feeding through the back of the body and up over the saddles. It's obviously a fashion for late '82 early '83, and the Prototype obeys the rule. The bridge is a concise job of business with the saddles sitting on a ¼in thick base plate with a lip at the far end for the intonation screws to fit through. Height adjustment is carried out via two Allen keyed grub screws on each saddle, a by now tried, trusted and almost universally adopted method.
Since there's only one pickup there's not that much call for an acre of controls. One volume, one tone is all that's required, but I found the black plastic knobs very slippery and uncertain when making fast adjustments. I tip my hat to the tone control, though. It offered a smooth and steady reduction of treble rather than a gallumphing swallow at the last minute like many guitars, even the expensive ones.
The Prototype's neck seems thinner than a lot of Hamers I've strummed, certainly less plump than the V-shaped Vector on test nearby. The rosewood fret board is still wide and fairly flat and though that combination made the Prototype swift and comfortable between nut and octave, I did find the edge of the neck spearing the side of my hand when I reached for the high notes.
But the most important thing about the Prototype's playability is that it feels like a mate. It's a light guitar, you hardly notice you're wearing it and it does seem to blend in to your torso. There are certain guitars that always maintain a presence — like someone peering over your shoulder to read your newspaper. Somehow the Prototype steps aside, it just lets you get on with playing.
The pickup is a Di Marzio and goes under the dubious name of a "Motherbucker". It has a single coil and a humbucker in one package, sitting inside a black plastic surround that does precious little to conceal the metalwork and leads or protect the bobbins.
The pickup selector mounted behind the bridge provides three options. The single coil is the first in line and though the Motherbucker is snug against the bridge, this pickup is officially nearest the neck.
The next choice is with the humbucking pair out of phase for a honky tone. The final position connects them normally for a supposed Gibson-esque approach.
To begin with I wasn't convinced of Hamer's theory. No matter how many coils you have, siting them at the tail of the guitar is bound to cut down the tonalities available. Brisk lead sounds and snappy rhythm settings, the Prototype could provide. Thicker, softer voices eluded it.
But there are there. Learning to extract them is another matter. Inching down the tone control isn't enough, you have to back off the volume into the bargain, losing the harsher edge that's especially prevalent on the outcast single coil.
I had a lot of guitars around during the week I tried the Prototype but when stuck with a few minutes to kill, it was the Hamer I always returned to. There seemed to be something to learn about it every time. By the way, they're now being distributed by Rod Argents in Worcester. £250