Vigier Excalibur Ultra Blues Walnut Top
The Excalibur dates back to 1991, and 17 years on there are six versions (with numerous options) and three signature models. This Ultra Blues is one of just 10 limited edition 'Walnut Top' models introduced in late 2007.
Instantly we're reminded of the precise quality of the brand. The very clean centre-joined alder body is just over 41mm thick, the walnut top around 6mm and, like all Excaliburs with maple tops, doesn't feature a forearm contour.
All woods here are sourced in France. The satin neck feels almost oil-finished. It's a lovely slice of figured maple with a quite narrow nut width and what Vigier describes as a "D-section" profile.
The edges of the 'fingerboard' (like the Fender original there's no separate fingerboard, the frets are installed into the cambered face of the neck itself) roll, like the side of a boat into the front face.
That edge, between side and neck, isn't heavily rounded like, for example, a Tyler but it establishes a feel that is both comfortable yet precise: not easy.
Fretting is immaculate, the ends of the fret slots are filled so as to be virtually invisible and the frets (approximately 2.69 x 1mm) are wide and low and polished to a mirror-like sheen.
A 6mm slice of graphite is installed from the back of the neck - it looks like a skunk strip but it's not covering a truss rod, it's here for stability.
It means there's no adjustment although as shipped with .009-.046-inch strings there's a very slight forward bow giving just enough relief for a very low, buzz-free action.
Hardware is equally good - a set of rear-locking Schaller tuners and Schaller bridge with lock-down saddles that rests on special Vigier-designed ball-bearing pivots.
It's one of the best systems you'll come across, travelling virtually down to slack and up approximately a semi-tone on high E, over a flattened third on the G. It stays in tune perfectly.
The DiMarzio pickups are screwed down hard to the body and pass to a simple set-up of master volume and tone and a five-way lever pickup selector.
The back control cavity is very tidy and fully shielded and it's these precise details that elevate this guitar. Even the strap buttons bolt into threaded inserts in the body and the zero fret is specially hardened to reduce wear.
Light in weight, the Excalibur's airy cutaways allow easy access to the top 24th fret even though the heel isn't contoured.
The guitar hangs well and, although the neck feels narrow, it is really addictive after a few minutes playing.
It's not always the case but here the Vigier sounds like it looks: on the modern side of the hot-rod S-type tracks. There's an impressive lack of pickup hum usually associated with single-coils.
Apply that with an overall zinging, snappy, bright-edged voice and you see why we mean modern.
There's a slight lack of woody low-end and those acoustic zingy highs are balanced by the slightly rounded, fuller, single-coil-like tonality.
Traditional Strat-ophiles might miss a little high-end brilliance for cleaner, old-style snap - although there's plenty of plucky, hollowed funk from the combined bridge and neck pickups, slightly less from the bridge and middle - but we suspect Vigier's take on the blues is meant to be a more gained.
The tighter bottom end and slightly rounded highs deliver a whole range of quality sustaining blues and rock tones and it feels happiest to our ears in this context.
Mind you, the volume control cleans up the sound nicely and there are some great older, jazzier, bluesier voices to be had. The more we experiment the more sounds we evoke.
Adding in some modulation effects again illustrates the good pickup choice. Here, moving away from vintage 'purity', there are some very fine, full-toned and rich sounds.
Does Vigier actually mean versatile, we wondered? Perhaps it means balance because that's exactly what the bridge humbucker brings.
Some H/S/S guitars produce a highly contrasted single-coil-to-humbucker tonality, but here it's more subtle and gradated with the bridge pickup adding midrange smoothness and power, but not excessively so.
The result is a wide range of organic sounding classic rock tones in nearly every genre up to out and out metal, where it is a little indistinct.
The Excalibur will be way too radical for some and a near-perfect hard rocking workhorse for others.
It's a faultless example of luthiery honed from nearly 30 years of guitar making and innovation.
Of course, quality costs, but if you want the best in terms of build, performance and a modern tonality, then Vigier has to be on your must try list.
Excellent build and design; slick playability and very stable neck; versatile tones.
Lack of neck options; lack of truss rod will bother some.
Vigier is a vastly overlooked, longstanding brand that builds outstanding, pro-spec instruments with a modernist high performance slant – it doesn't get much better.
Country of Origin
Natural, Ultra Blues (available in eight colours)
Double-cutaway solidbody - Two-piece centre-joined alder with flamed walnut top
ELECTRICS: DiMarzio Virtual PAF humbucker at bridge, Virtual Vintage (DP401) single-coil-sized stacked humbuckers at middle and neck, five-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and tone
Guitar Body Material
Vigier/Schaller rear locking tuners, Vigier/Schaller 2011 non-locking bridge, Vigier ball-bearing pivot system
Left Handed Model Available
One-piece flamed maple with graphite reinforcement (Vigier’s 10/90 system), bolt-on
No. of Frets
• OPTIONS: The standard Excalibur Ultra Blues with flamed maple top (£2,263). Rosewood fingerboard (n/c), black or gold-plated hardware • RANGE OPTIONS: There are nine Excalibur guitars with vibrato ranging from the Indus (£1,224) to the Bumblefoot (£1,936). Fixed bridge options are available on some models