Founded by Ben Crowe, Crimson’s vision has evolved over nearly a decade and a half of guitar building and centres on two outline shapes - the offset Tele-inspired Descendant that we see here and the more Les Paul-inspired PAF.
Neither is going to offend fans of the classics but both tick the box if you’re looking for attractively priced (typically sub £2k) slices of UK craft that aren’t pretending to be relics from another time.
The more standard Descendant from Crimson’s Custom Shop range is... well, it’s heavy. The solidbody is made from a single piece of alder but it has a vivid grain that’s like ash. It’s topped with book-matched, flamed, Australian blackwood that looks like a dark slice of mahogany.
The guitar itself is entirely natural finished with Crimson’s own oil preparation (and then a wax) that’s silky smooth yet organic feeling. There are no body contours and the body’s edges are chamfered, not radiused, which adds a subtle modern air and despite that weight the offset body sits very comfortably played seated or on a strap.
Despite the style, the neck is glued into the body and is made from jatoba (‘Brazilian cherry’) that looks like a more orange-y mahogany. It’s topped with a darker chocolate-coloured slab of ebony though it’s far from the ubiquitous jet black that we’re familiar with.
A pretty chunky medium jumbo wire ensures fluid bending without feeling too big; it’s well fitted and fettled and only a rather sharp fingerboard edge lets the side down. The Fender-style head has its own identity and the nicely cut Exilis nut (carbon graphite) ensures a clean ring and resonance while the open backed Gotoh split-post six-in-a-line tuners certainly don’t hamper resonance. While the guitar is heavy, there’s plenty of vibrancy here.
The Descendant uses a Gotoh thru-strung hardtail, walled bridge with centered metal block saddles. Although we’re told Crimson will be moving to a UK-made bridge this Gotoh bridge is a quality piece and those saddle height adjustment screws sit tidily inside the saddles - great for palm muting.
The neck shape is good too with a relaxed ‘C’ with a little of a ‘D’ shoulder. A little more incurve and rounding of the top fingerboard edge would just elevate both to that ‘super boutique’ worn-in feel that the style suggests.
This guitar also uses covered and Crimson-made Classic Hooker humbuckers. The master volume and tone control use domed-top knurled Tele-like knobs, the volume has a pull-switch to split both humbuckers simultaneously, voicing the inner slug coils. There are no treble-bleed circuits and the tone cap is a 0.22 microfarad unit.
As ever dialling in the pickup heights and pole pieces a little helped to narrow the gap between the two guitars and our test instruments. While some of the construction, or at least wood choice, would suggest a modern vibe both actually sound more classic ‘vintage’: the bridge pickups needed most ‘tuning’ to remove some angular spike and while the neck slightly overpowers the bridge when played in isolation, it works well in a band situation where the bridge pickups create a balanced classic crunch and the neck adds the ‘soup’ for those emotive leads and a general bluesier/jazzier character.
The Descendant proves quite a tone chum. There’s plenty of hot-rod ’buckered Tele vibe and a nice bite from the bridge pickup.
Overall there’s a quite direct rock voice here, which is going to make either a great choice for the gigging player, not least if you’re working with another, perhaps Les Paul toting guitarist. It’s very in-tune with the ‘modern vintage’ fashion and while both are a little on the weighty side, strapped on we’re not complaining.
Barring a couple of minor details this guitar fits the bill if you’re looking for something a little different that’ll fit right into to your classic to modern rock set. Sharp build, vintage/modern voices like Teles on steroids they easily cover most needs but with quite distinct, direct voices.
With plenty of options to Crimson’s Custom Shop range there are aesthetic choices and possible pickup options to shape your sound. In short, it’s a very UK-centric brand offering plenty for us players.