Hamer Vector Guitar
off at a tangent
As American guitar makers go, Paul Hamer is just about at that halfway stage between being a production manufacturer and a 'one-off' builder. His reputation as a guitar maker matches the latter criterion, his availability, the former.
I must say, from my own experience with Hamer guitars, that I generally consider them to be among the finest available, regardless of price, of any coming out of the U.S.A. today — his basses, perhaps, I prefer even to the guitars.
But, fairly wide though my experience with these guitars is, the Vector was one model that I hadn't previously tried. So I was grateful for the opportunity to borrow one from importers Guitar Grapevine in London's Denmark St.
The Vector is Hamer's variation on a theme by Gibson — a V-shaped instrument which bears some relationship to the Gibson Flying V. It's not really a copy, though, as there are many significant differences between this guitar and the Gibson original as we shall see.
Materials used in Hamer's Vector are as fine as they always are in his guitars. The neck is pure mahogany, laminated, and the body a superbly crafted piece of the same wood, faced with a well crafted piece of curly maple, dyed (in my sample's case) a bright yellow colour to contrast with the lightness of the Honduras mahogany used on the body. The fingerboard used on the Vector was of excellent rosewood, fretted with really well finished fretwire, rather fat in width (which like most modern players, I tend to appreciate over thinner Fender types) and was very well polished for accuracy in height. Inlays are dot types (mother of pearl) and the guitar has a full 22 frets on its standard 24¾" scale.
From a constructional point of view it would be impossible not to award this sample Hamer 100% — literally nothing was wrong with it, it didn't even suffer from those minor flaws which one tends to overlook on other (often more expensive) guitars.
On the hardware front the Vector is more than adequately equipped. The machines fitted are Schallers, up to that West German maker's usually excellent standard of reliability in use, and the nut is a hand cut bone job, better than plastic, of course, less prone to problems than brass and unusual on a guitar at this sort of price.
The business-end of the instrument features a very good bridge design of Hamer's own styling. It comprises a solid chromed block with large saddles, adjustable individually for height via twin allen screws and on a normal spring-loaded basis for front to back (string length/intonation) setting. This is a really massive unit, this bridge, no doubt complementing the through-the-body fastening system of the strings for sustain enhancement and harmonic purity. Each bridge piece has been well designed to allow the string a fine point of contact (essential for precise intonation setting) and this, too, has to be reckoned a first class piece of engineering design and manufacture.
Pickups on the Vector comprise two twin coil types of different appearance and design. The bridge pickup has two white plastic housings, and is wired to give what the makers call 'extra punch in the mid frequencies', the neck pickup is a black and white housed job, specially wired, Hamer claims, to give good attack in the lower registers thanks to its bass roll-off characteristics. In effect therefore the Hamer is equipped with two rather differently voiced pickups, the tone of which gives the guitar a particularly wide range. But more of that later.
"THE VECTOR IS PERHAPS ONE OF THE MOST COMFORTABLE GUITARS AROUND TO PLAY."
Controls for these two pickups are relatively standard, insofar as you have a large three way (either/or) pickup selector, plus a volume pot per pickup and a single tone control. Technicalities aside, the Hamer Vector is a superbly playable guitar. The neck profile is remarkably easy to handle, with an almost flattened back on the mahogany which makes for real comfort and ease of holding. The fingerboard is almost dead flat, but with a very slight radius to it for ease of bending and the finish of that whole neck/finger-board/fretting assembly is so well designed that the Vector is perhaps one of the most comfortable guitars around to play. Certainly, if high register screaming solos are your thing, then the access afforded to the top frets by the glued neck joint to the V body profile makes for about the easiest high note runs imaginable.
Of course no V guitars are easy to play sitting down — in fact I'd go as far as to say that the only way to play one is standing, and the Hamer is no exception here. That makes it very much a stage guitar, and a guitar with dramatic looks and a perfect finish on that curly maple top which really does fit it for live exposure. It looks great! Soundwise, however, the Vector is a bit of a mixed bag. Some players hold that the V shaped guitars (generally speaking) have a coil-like sustain potential which endows them with superb note carry-through. Others prefer to place their trust in wood density in something like a Les Paul. For myself I have to admit that I have never found V shaped guitars to offer the best possible combination of sustain and tone and, good though it is, the Vector doesn't seem to have quite the sound qualities, for me, of some of the more conventionally designed guitars in the Hamer range.
The bridge pickup sings with a piercing treble, though holding-on when other single bridge pickup guitars might have given up the attempt to hang onto the note. But still the Vector has a rather odd dichotomy between its tones. The bridge pickup is sharp (almost single coil sharp) but with a more beefy mid in there somewhere. The neck pickup is full and weighty, as a neck pickup should be. But somehow, notwithstanding the tremendous qualities of tone in this guitar, I found myself harking back to some of the earlier Hamer solid guitars that I have played in past months.
There's no doubt though, that this is a fabulous instrument if a V shaped guitar is what you want to be seen with on stage. I personally might prefer the sound of other models in the Hamer range — but that's just my problem! For the player who wants a fine-sounding V-guitar then this Hamer must represent excellent value for money.
Given the choice, as I've said, I might actually prefer other of Paul Hamer's guitars to this model, but any guitarist who wants a wide ranging tonal sound (from a distinctly usable treble clunk and clang right up to a toppy wailing guitar solo) should most certainly look at this Hamer before buying anything else.
Of the V's that I've played then the Vector must count among the very best, and the price being asked for it compared with its quality and materials spec must make it especially good value for money.
If a 'V' is what you want, then do try this superb guitar!
(£375 inc.VAT & case). Bound versions available at £45 extra.
Review by Gary Cooper
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