Tyler's Hollowbody Classic: a gorgeous Strattalike!
The Wilkinson VSV vibrato features rolled saddles for improved tone.
The basic inspiration behind the Classic is clearly the early sixties Fender Stratocaster. Consequently, the spec includes an 11-screw three-ply scratchplate complete with five-way lever pick switch, flat-mounted angled jack input and so on.
The hollowed body is swamp ash rather than the traditional alder and, as ever with guitars built by low-production, high-quality companies, the range of finishes is extensive.
Tyler, with the famous Burning Water and Psycho Vomit options on certain models, makes no bones about its sky's-the-limit ideals, and although finishes such as classic sunburst are available, we love the subtle shades simmering away in the trans-burgundy hue of our example.
To continue the vintage theme, the vibrato here is Trev Wilkinson's VSV model, a design that includes a block fashioned from a similar leaded-steel alloy to older Fenders.
What's more, the saddles are stamped from solid steel and rolled into a sort of exclamation mark design that allows the string to be fed at a slightly more shallow angle than a classic Strat.
Makers such a Hamer, Suhr, Zion and more use the VSV and it certainly operates beautifully smoothly here: the push-in arm is always a better bet than its screw-in sibling, and tuning stability is aided by the locking Sperzel tuners.
Where the Hollowbody Classic, like just about every Tyler guitar, comes into its own is with the neck. Now, we'll concede that it's dif?cult to deal with any item that tends to incite all sorts of unscientifically emotional responses in absolutes but we'll say that the feel of any Tyler neck has to be the best available today.
As well as the sheer quality of workmanship and materials involved, this is down to the subtle shaping of the fingerboard between each fret to mimic decades of playing wear - the feel here is genuinely out of this world.
Of course, that paddle headstock and unusual logo will always cause a stir. With some trepidation, we asked James to comment: "I thought this was over by now!" he told us.
"I was the first custom builder to stop using the Fender headstock way back in the 1980s. I've been using this same headstock since then and have absolutely no plans to change it. I suppose some people might be happier with the seemingly well-accepted Kramer Pacer headstock design, but I'll stick with what I have."
One thing's for sure: the headstock enables identification of the guitar's maker from 50 paces, and considering just how good Tyler guitars are, this writer at least isn't too concerned about the look.
As with certain parts of the spec, the basic tone of the bridge pickup sits somewhere between that of a Strat and Tele: it has the cut and bite of the former with the unadulterated twang of the latter.
As James has alluded to, a hollow body will add resonance, but that associated lack of tonewood will also unavoidably result in a certain loss of the lower ranges and there's no getting away from the harsh nature at times - especially with higher-gain amp settings.
Horses for courses, as ever, and positions two and four are truly gorgeous, especially with a good clean tone and dollops of rich reverb thrown in for good measure.
Mark Knopfler-imitators will be delighted that even the most cack-handed rendition of Sultans Of Swing sounds pretty good, such is the 'Strat-and-then-some' tone.
However, that strident middle- position tone is a little too lacking in sheer 'oomph' for our liking and, if a high-octane Gary Moore scream is your goal, you may need some treble filters unless you set your amp just right.