We get many requests to review instruments from unknown makers. Sadly, a fair number of them don't come up to scratch. Adrian 'Ade' Hardman was just another hopeful earlier this year.
He had a couple of guitars that showed great promise but seemed to us to be a little lacking in certain areas. Rather than walking off in a huff, Ade hunkered down to address those issues and surpassed merely fixing them. He still wasn't happy though, so he went off again and produced the Legend Classic - £1,695 of pure class.
Ade's a big fan of the Gibson SG and you can see that in the design: a 24.75-inch scale, all mahogany instrument with a double-cut symmetrical shape and seemingly long 22-fret neck that, like the SG, allows easy access to the top fret.
The one-piece mahogany body has a well-shaped, carved top and, thanks to a fairly deep ribcage contour, appears thinner than its 47mm depth.
The edges are nicely rounded, and with the handrubbed oil and wax finish there's a beautifully smooth but tactile feel to the instrument that's really classy yet nicely understated - especially in this blood red stain.
Of course, if you'd prefer a conventional nitro-cellulose finish, or indeed a different colour stain, Ade can cater for that.
The neck joins the body with an unusual angled set-neck tenon joint "ensuring a full contact between the body and neck wood for maximum tone transfer," says Ade.
The rounded heel is part of the neck, not the body, the jointing appears complex and Ade is unusual for a maker of his standing by using a CNC router to cut out the parts.
It's a clever and very tidy joint, as is the virtually invisible headstock splice at the other end of the neck, added here to prevent the possibility of a break.
The single-action truss rod is designed to minimise metal content and the neck shape, a nicely rounded deep 'D', means we have plenty of wood.
It's a very stable neck too, with virtually zero flap, and for such a long unsupported length that's unusual - in fact, trying to evoke any neck-bend vibrato on this guitar is pretty difficult.
The fingerboard is beautifully executed too with neatly rounded edges, a classic 12-inch camber and perfectly fitted and polished medium gauge frets that might be a little low for some players but, again, Ade can alter that to suit.
There's no edge binding but the fret tangs are notched and the slot stops just before the fingerboard edges.
The bone nut is perfectly cut and the square pearl inlays and the pearl side dots are very cleanly inlaid; you'll notice more dots by the controls and on the top of the body, by the edge, to indicate the position of the recessed barrel jack socket - very handy when you're putting in your lead with the guitar strapped on and can't see that socket.
There are plenty more fine details. There's the engraved, chromed, thick metal electronics coverplate held to the body with slot head bolts that thread into metal body-inserts; a heavily screened electronics cavity that's a work of art in itself; the Buzz Feiten Tuning System, the Musitrac microchip for "complete peace of mind in case of theft or loss".
The Vanquish headstock logo is perfectly inlaid, and the rosewood truss rod cover has a classy Legend engraving. This level of detail and features is way beyond what you'd expect at this price. Then there's the hardware...
The open-gear Waverly-style Gotoh tuners are an unusual choice for an electric but are beautifully smooth and light. Equally unusual are the bridge and tailpiece.
In creating a string path that's virtually parallel to the body face there's no need for angled pickup rings and a low profile feel is created by not only recessing the metal pickup surrounds but also the Tone Pros tune-o-matic-style bridge and Ade's neat, own-design tailpiece that allows through-body stringing.
The bridge itself looks as though it could move back towards the tailpiece a couple of mm as the saddles are very close to the back of the bridge but all is perfectly intonated with the .010- .046 gauge strings. Even the recessed volume and tone controls have tidy and classy looking metal knobs with dot indicators.
They're knurled too, which means that it's easy to pull up the switch on the tone control that changes the neck humbucker only to parallel humbucking.
All the metalwork is chromed, including those natty Dunlop strap locks that can be used with the locking 'nipples' - on the supplied, high quality Vanquish logo'd leather strap no less! - or as a standard button.
Pickups of choice are the Bare Knuckle Geoff Whitehorn Crawler humbucking set. "Always the first call for classic British blues rock tone.
Sweet, rich, fullbodied sound with power aplenty," says Bare Knuckle adding that they're "scatterwound with original 43 gauge plain enamel wire and an unpolished, vintage cut Alnico V magnet." We might not have Whitehorn's touch, but let's plug in.
The construction style suggests an SG-like voice and that's pretty much what we get. The bridge pickup is fat and focused, the lowend is tight but you don't feel it's lacking.
There's a cutting edge that isn't too bright and it sustains for days. The neck pickup, with a gained sound, is not only very well balanced with the bridge pickup but has a wonderful softer, plummy voice that's velveteen and syrupy.
Both pickups together creates an expected hollowness and in parallel mode the neck pickup sounds a little lighter and brighter without the often disconcerting volume drop, thinness and hum that switching to a single-coil can create.
Overall there's certainly a morethan- vintage power and push to the sound that edges a decent valve amp into easy overdrive.
Yet back off the nicely tapered, if a little stiff-actioned, volume control and we have an older sounding voice that pretty much nails that classic SG grunt.
The tone control is extremely good too with a beautiful taper that gradually pulls back the high end before, fully 'off', creating a really useable 'woman tone'.
There will be players who'd prefer a more vintage voicing, and P-90s (or PAF-alikes) are, we'd wager, going to sound spectacular on this platform.
But, as supplied, this is a high-octane instrument that produces an exceptional solo voice and has a really valid and authentic, toughedged rhythmic swagger.
But the sound is just one part of this excellent machine. It stays in tune so well we actually had to detune a string to evaluate the smoothness of the tuners.
It sounds so in-tune too - it's not the first time we've evaluated or used the Buzz Feiten Tuning System and noted that aside from the 'sweetness' you end up tuning and retuning far less frequently.