Today’s post is a guest review of the Gaskell Hybrid Deluxe guitar by Alan Williams, who has recently taken the reins at Gaskell’s new European division. This very guitar is available to try out, or alternatively those in Europe can contact Alan directly for other available options and pricing.
Be sure to also check out Alan’s earlier review featuring the equally beautiful Gaskell Classic model. If you have any questions about the guitar there is a contact email address at the end of the article.
The Gaskell Hybrid
Dictionary definition of Hybrid – ”anything derived from heterogeneous sources, or composed of elements of different or incongruous kinds”
The Gaskell Hybrid I’m reviewing is exactly that, a guitar that takes two of the most classic designs in guitar history, and recasts them into a single creation. As it happens, someone’s already done the same, and there’s no doubt that the design of the Gaskell Hybrid is inspired by the basic PRS Custom / McCarty – the PRSs themselves being influenced heavily by the merger of some of the characteristics of the Les Paul and Strat. So what are the main characteristics of the Hybrid?
Weight; 3.2Kg – that’s about 7lb3oz in old money. So pretty average for this style of guitar. You’re not in Vintage Les Paul territory here, no back aches in the making.
Appearance; To my eyes this is a stunningly pretty guitar. The combination of the natural flame maple finish, gold hardware and ivory detailing work together extremely well. And this cap is solid – not a veneer, or a pretty photo. If you’re in the market for an axe with a worn, battle scarred vibe, look elsewhere. This (as with the PRS models which undoubtedly provide much of the inspiration) is a guitar for people who are drawn to well crafted and finished instruments which appear to be / have been cared for from the outset. I’ve not seen a lot of brutalized PRS guitars, nor do I expect to, and nor would I envisage seeing one of these beaten to within an inch of it’s life!
Body Construction; A 16mm solid maple cap over (Toon species apparently) mahogany body. The grain on this Deluxe model is, to my eye, extremely interesting attractive, and has quite a “3d” look. It’s not precisely bookmatched, but loses little for that. To some extent the slight asymmetry adds interest. (Solid colours on the standard model cover an equivalent maple cap, but not selected for it’s grain featuring)
The uncoloured varnish finish does little to modify the colour of the wood, other than to add to it’s natural glow and emphasise the grain. The body (and neck) is unbound, the “faux binding” is only visible from the side of the guitar where it overlaps the slightly stained mahogany which constitutes the bulk of the guitar.
As per part of the inspiration for this guitar, the belly is nicely carved, very curvaceous and well crafted. For belly profile think more Les Paul than PRS. The back has a familiar sculpted cutaway for improved comfort.
Neck; As per half of it’s original inspiration, the set neck is constructed of mahogany, 24 ¾” scale length – immediately familiar to anyone used to playing a Gibson. The extremely smooth ebony fingerboard is quite substantial, contains 22 well finished frets, not a sharp corner among them. I personally really enjoy the feel of ebony boards, and with rosewood seemingly getting paler and paler in modern guitars (to my eyes at least) it contrasts very well with the natural body. I particularly like the rolled edge of the fingerboard, feeling well worn in “straight out of the box”
Neck profile is, in common with most Gaskell’s I’ve played, quite chunky, almost U section. Think of a 50s style Gibson C-neck, or a wide fat PRS. If you’re looking for something with a once fashionable skinny “speed neck” then you might take a bit of time to love this. I’ve got pretty short fingers so with a deep section neck as this you might think I’d not be keen, but far from it. Given the choice I prefer something substantial to grip, and this fits the bill very well. Width of the neck is 1¾ inches at the nut, again, immediately familiar.
There’s a small volute just above the nut, doesn’t impact playability at all, but probably adds a bit of meat to a vulnerable spot.
Finish; The body and neck are finished in a very high gloss lacquer / varnish. Coverage is good and smooth, but seems possibly heavier than you’d associate with it’s most obvious comparison guitar.
Hardware; The Deluxe model has all gold finished generic hardware, all good in appearance, no blemishes on the plating, or sharp edges. From the top down…
- Tuners – non locking, smooth action sealed units. Kidney shaped gold buttons
- 2 Wilkinson brand humbuckers – future batches will be equipped with Gaskell own brand pickups.
- “Vintage” Tune o matic bridge.
- Stop tailpiece
- Single volume / tone control / 3 way toggle; Coil tap on push / pull volume
- Gold coloured Tele style metal barrel knobs
- Gold strap buttons.
All the components are decently finished, no pitted or flaking plating, no sharp edges. All pretty much what you’d expect for a guitar in this price range.
Playability; There’s nothing extreme about this guitar from a shape perspective. It’s not like the first time you hold an Explorer, or a V, (or even an SG and think “where does that head think it’s going”) It will feel familiar to almost everyone who’s played. Equally comfortable if you’re playing in a seated or standing position. The cutaways and absence of a full heel on the neck mean access to those close together frets at the top end of the neck is very good. Switching and controls are all close to hand without being your being in constant fear of whacking something with your enthusiastic Pete Townsend impressions (and thankfully no trem arm to spear your palm with!)
The Platinum setup is immaculate. With the low action we’d agreed for this guitar, there’s a natural degree of acoustic rattle of the strings against the frets with open chords (which of course vanishes when amplified) Not a hint of string choking anywhere on the neck, this is one of the best set up “just arrived” guitars I’ve experienced. As mentioned earlier, that smooth fingerboard edge certainly makes for a comfortable feel.
Sounds: Acoustically this is a bright guitar, loud and lots of natural sustain. The rigidity of the body / neck build, solid componentry and time honoured combination of mahogany/maple gives a solid foundation for the guitar’s performance properties.
Considering the relatively modest stock pickups, this is a very loud, weighty sounding guitar. Powered by Wilkinson Humbuckers (new stock production models will be to be supplied by Gaskell own brand) it has a lot of “bite” when cranked, without being ear splitting. Of course, amp settings have a huge influence on the sound, but this isn’t a guitar that sounds like it’s going to slice through your head. Lots of midrange presence too.
Pull the volume control and you’re into single coil territory. Naturally there’s some thinning out of the sound, but without a massive drop in volume sometimes experienced with less expensive pickups. Still lots of bite from the bridge pickup, and a pleasant hollowing of the neck.
As is common to many intermediate to semi-pro, mid priced guitars, backing off the tone has little perceptible effect for the first 60% of it’s travel, ramps down nicely over maybe 20% then loses massive amounts of a lot of top in the last few percent With the tone fully backed off, the sound is, to my ears, a little too lacking in top / mid. OK if you’ve got a loud clean amp, lots of headroom and want to play some very laid back jazz (but then you possibly wouldn’t be looking for one of these)
Although I’m involved with Gaskell, and you’d expect me to be very positive about the products, I’ve aimed to be objective, but I have to say I’m extremely impressed with this guitar – my personal favourite Gaskell to date. Great looking, well built, good sounds, very playable in any situation.
Comparisons with PRS’s are inevitable, so I’m going to do exactly that next – a side by side comparison of the Gaskell Hybrid and a couple of lefty PRS’s. Watch this space.
Clearly the components on a PRS are higher grade but so is the price - see below. To me this Hybrid is great out of the box, but if you’re inspired to do so, the body would provide an excellent platform for future upgrading. If you want one of these with your personal choice of custom pickups, higher grade pots or tuners, this is a great “start here” point.
If you’re in Australia you can pick one of these up for Au$1170; for us Europeans that works out to be just under €1000, or £800; Whether you’re Europeans or Australians, your local tax man then takes his bite. Outside Oz shipping plays a significant factor. When that’s included the price goes up by a fair chunk, but even after all is added in, they’re still extremely good value against their clear inspiration. In the UK at present, taking every cost into account, one of these weighs in at around 35% of one of the (tiny number of ) lefty PRS’s around. That’s nearly £2000 worth of strings and plectrums you can buy to go with it! Or a whole lot of tweaking if you eventually get bitten by the upgrade bug.
And of course, they’re readily available – a very important factor not to be underestimated. And from a company who WANTS to supply the lefty market, not treat it as if it doesn’t exist.