Mikaël Springer builds handmade custom guitars in a small village in the Lorraine region of France, near the German and Luxembourg border. He centres on two designs: the more Les Paul-ish carved top Seraph, and the flat-top Halfbreed that we have on review.
Shock horror, the Halfbreed has an original outline that might look pleasantly modern, but with its well-carved rear contour it feels extremely comfortable when seated and strapped on. The mainly all-mahogany construction (save for the 6.4mm flat maple cap with a PRS-like natural edge) centres on a two-piece body and three-piece set neck with a very tactile 'open pore' finish.
"It's the neck shape that does it for us: a big-ish, deep C with slightly tapered shoulders"
But it's the neck shape that does it for us: a big-ish, deep C with slightly tapered shoulders, 22.4mm at the 1st fret, 24.4mm at the 12th. The fretboard edges are nicely curved, the medium jumbo fretting beautifully fettled and smooth. It's impossible to find fault with the craft.
Although Springer often fits custom-wound Bare Knuckle pickups, the units here are by German pickup maker Harry Häussel, with simple volume, tone and three-way toggle selector control. The volume is placed nice and close to the bridge pickup for easy adjustment, and while the tone is further away, in use all fall easily under your hand.
The model's hardware comes courtesy of TonePros, including the Kluson Deluxe tuners, which feel smooth and positive. Even small details, such as the over- sized Gotoh strap buttons, suggest Springer is very aware of the working guitar player.
Feel and sounds
The Halfbreed handles it all: running through a variety of amp tones, kicking in effects and boosts, jumping from classic rock back in time to 50s jazz, then putting your foot down on the metal switch. It's a superb player as set up with 0.010s. The 'board feels like butter under your fingers and the neck just makes you want to keep playing.
"The humbuckers are really nicely balanced with a PAF-alike tonality and plenty of woody chop and bite"
Specifically, the humbuckers are really nicely balanced with a slightly hotter PAF-alike tonality and plenty of woody chop and bite. There's a nice old-school edge to the bridge pickup played clean and plenty of 'flute' to the neck pickup. The volume control (with treble bleed cap) is super smooth in its taper, while the tone control's tone range is superb.
Plug in, turn everything up full and it's a treat - but it's using the volume and tone to enhance your sounds that really maximises the tonal breadth of the Halfbreed. A little more funk from the mixed position wouldn't go amiss and a partial or full coil-split here, maybe with a five-way lever selector, would broaden things further. It's hard to put down - it's exactly the sort of guitar to turn up with at a jam night or covers set gig. It's equally good as a garage rock guitar, crankin' out the riffs - bring it on!
Along with a fantastic build, there's a lovely ringing, woody character to the sound of this guitar and its beautifully comfortable strapped-on feel makes this little axe really rather special. Exclusive and handmade, it's one for the serious, well-heeled player - but one we've really enjoyed.