Burns Guitars Apache review

The latest in a line of Shadows-associated six-strings from Burns

  • £995
The pickups were designed especially for the Apache

MusicRadar Verdict

This latest limited edition Burns is tailor-made for Shadows fans and offers a lot of high quality originality for the money.


  • +

    Playability. Authentic sounds.


  • -

    As always, the zero fret is a potential source of wear-related problems.

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Celebrating the 50th anniversary of Britain's most famous instrumental group, The Shadows, this new Burns is named after their first hit, Apache.

Of course this iconic instrumental featured Hank Marvin's famous red Strat, but he was a noted Burns player, too, with his own signature model back in '64. It may be called the Apache, but in reality this is the latest in a line of limited edition Marvins that started in 2004 with the Anniversary model.

The following year brought the more modern Custom, and 2007 saw the launch of the Marvin 1964. Like these predecessors, the Apache combines Chinese production with UK final assembly and set-up.

"The Apache excels in a clean context and will therefore undoubtedly appeal to its target market."

It comes complete with a case and the accompanying candy includes a numbered certificate of authenticity hand-signed by both Shadows guitarists, along with an Apache key ring! Only 500 are being produced and - naturally enough - this newcomer shares many features with its Marvin mates, such as the distinctive scroll headstock.

On the prototype example reviewed this sports Sperzel locking tuners, but production examples will employ Burns' equivalents. The impressively figured maple neck features the 'C' profile and mainstream proportions found on previous models, likewise the compound radius fingerboard, although here it's ebony and clad in pearl binding with an Apache block inlay at the 12th position.

All 21 medium-slim frets are excellently prepared and, true to tradition, a zero version sits ahead of the synthetic nut to ensure lowest possible playability. Overall playability is typically A1, with the smooth ebony surface providing a precise feel.

The neck is firmly fixed via four screws and these are hidden beneath an engraved plastic plate, along with access to the truss-rod adjuster. As on the other updated Marvin models, the neck pocket is now open on the treble side and access is all the better for it, although the heel block remains deep and square-edged.

Body styling is Strat-influenced but meatier all-round, with an ample edge radius plus generous front and rear contouring to keep things comfortable. High gloss white polyester is standard, although 50 will be offered in Fiesta red, and with either colour the characteristic three-section scratchplate is white pearl, while all metalwork is gold-plated.

The angled pickups look like regulation Burns Rez-O-Matik single-coils but are, in fact, specially designed for the Apache. In contrast, the electrics are standard Marvin issue, with a five-way selector switch partnering master volume and two tone pots. The first of these governs both neck and middle pickups, while the second operates on the bridge position and incorporates a pull-switch to provide other pickup permutations.

Naturally enough, the Apache employs Burns' Rezo-Tube vibrato unit, and its extended baseplate accommodates numerous logos. The model name is accompanied by an Apache Indian graphic and there's a relevant reference to The Shadows, plus the signatures of both Hank Marvin and Bruce Welch: an autographic arrangement previously seen only on the Marvin Custom.


Hear Guitarist magazine's Roger Newell giving the Apache a good workout:

Induced by all the on-board aluminium, a typically abundant acoustic resonance remains apparent in this model's amplified performance, sweetening treble and rounding out the low end.

Unlike the springy sounding Rez-O-Matiks of the Anniversary Marvin, the Apache's pickups have a distinctly creamy character, displaying a denser tonality. The ebony fingerboard contributes to this woodier-sounding cause and adds a harder edge that balances the airiness of the Rezo-Tube vibrato unit.

These qualities come over in all pickup positions, making them more suited to dirty work than might be expected. This adds some useful, if surprising, versatility - although the Apache excels in a clean context and will therefore undoubtedly appeal to its target market.

On the surface, the Apache seems simply to be a cosmetic variation on the Marvin theme, but the differences run deeper than that and it packs more unique features for the money than most solid six-strings.

Such individuality evokes strong opinions for and against, and some might criticise the company for continuing to exploit its Shadows association. However, there's no denying the commercial strength of this particular sector of the market, so why shouldn't Burns successfully meet this on-going demand - especially when it's done in such accomplished and high value fashion?