Blade California Climax review

  • £649
Blade's California Climax

MusicRadar Verdict

A real vibe guitar: a combination of styles with a road-worn finish and great integration of active and passive sounds. It has 'gig me' written all over it.


  • +

    The oiled finish; overall feel; wide range of possible sounds both active and passive.


  • -

    Some may miss a conventional tone control.

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Unique within the Blade range, and pretty rare anywhere else, the Climax's main calling card, along with its hard-tail bridge, is the oil-finished two-piece alder body - Canadian alder and maple is used on both guitars along with Indian rosewood.

"The idea was to put no finish on at all, hence the oiled finish which is not only the best finish you can have tonally but also feels warmer," explains Christian Hatstatt, Gary Levinson's partner at Blade. "We went for a fixed-string, through-body bridge, also for the obvious tonal advantages this brings."

Blade is using coloured oils too: ours is actually called 'Blue' but after three or four coats goes on it ends up this dirty soiled brown colouration, much like Rory Gallagher's fabled Stratocaster. It feels really smooth and looks great with the subtle graining, especially on the sides, adding plenty of visual interest.

However, there's nowhere to hide and the humbucker rout, clearly visible as the pickup mounts directly to the body not in a mounting ring, looks a little chewed on the bass-side edge.

Still, if you're bothered by such minor things then you probably wouldn't go for this guitar - after a few gigs there'll be loads more dings and scrapes.

The rest of the guitar doesn't go for any aging: the hardware finish is bright chrome, as is the through-strung bridge, and the maple neck back is satin but the head glossed.

As ever the neck shaping is very good, a medium 'C' profile mixed with a hint of 'V' that, by reducing the bulk on the shoulder, actually makes it feel thinner than it really is. Fretting too, from a medium jumbo wire, is very tidy - the frets slots end neatly filled and each fret mirror polished.

The electronics appear deceptively simple, the three pickups selected by an over-tall five-way switch and just single Tele-knobbed master volume (no tone), while the three-position mini-toggle switch operates the VSC-3 active preamp.

In centre position it's bypassed and will run without a battery; 'down' introduces a mid-range boost, 'up' a combined treble and bass boost. Each of the boosts is alterable via three trim pots, accessed on the back of the control cavity plate.


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