What is it?
The market for electric guitars is and perhaps always will be dominated by variations on the classic archetypes designed by Ted McCarty and Leo Fender back in the 1950s. But there are alternatives if you care to look for them.
If you've got a little bit more to spend, well, that helps too. Those looking for a new kind of kick from a retro-original electric solidbody, with a budget of two grand and upwards, would do well to check out Kithara.
Operating out of Belfast, Kithara is run by luthier Chris Moffitt and its Harland is a tastefully spec'd electric that has some Strat DNA in the fundamental body shape but a quite different build.
Sure, Moffitt has plumped for a solid alder body and a bolt-on neck. The double-cutaway profile is familiar in silhouette. But bold choices in terms of tone, playability and aesthetics mark this as a bracingly original concept.
The Harland is tastefully aged, with the aged nitro lacquer on the Piano Black finish offering a nice degree of checking. The neck has a satin-smooth nitro finish and is mahogany. Kithara guitars are built to order so profiles are at the buyer's discretion and hand-carved accordingly. Maple and roasted maple are available as options on the Harland.
This review model has a shallow C profile neck measuring 20.9mm at the 1st fret and 21mm at the 12th. A truss rod wheel is mounted at the top end of the fingerboard for easy tweaking. The fingerboard is Indian rosewood with a 12" radius with small dot inlays down the side of the neck and 22 Jescar medium frets.
A lot of love has gone into this guitar, with the acetate tortoiseshell used for the Kithara logo on the headstock. The Bigbsy vibrato has been thought out – the Gotoh bridge with In-Tune compensated brass saddles offer the perfect setup for vintage wobble and houses a flush pole Mojo 52 single coil.
At the neck, there is a Mojo GTone single coil that is a period-correct replica of a '60s Guyatone and shows real imagination on Kithara's part. Volume and 'cupcake' tone controls look as though they've been purloined off a vintage hi-fi, and a three-way pickup selector completes what is a simple, fuss-free control circuit.
Performance and verdict
Weighing a shade over 8lb, the Harland is a considerable slab of guitar. But the contouring is generous to the player, and the balance just right. The slim neck might give the impression that this is a shred guitar in disguise but the medium frets and 12" radius are redolent of a more civilised age.
As is the tone. The Gtone and the 52 are the Walter Mathieu and Jack Lemmon of pickup pairings.
You've got the Gtone – warm, dynamic, heats up nicely with a little overdrive and enjoys a little fuzz for more chaotic alternative rock tones. It enjoys the mess a la Mathieu, while, seated in the steel ash-tray style bridge, you've got the sharp agitation of the 52, all Telecaster sharpness but with the good grace to mellow out the high-end.
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If you hanker after a new USA-made production Fender and want the most vintage-spec possible, this is now it. Vintage-inspired, yes, but with the fixes that many players will embrace.
Wherever you park that pickup selector, something inspiring awaits. You could work through the great American songbook with the Harland, stopping off at all points from bebop through blues, rockabilly twang, Nashville twang, the biting, overdriven 70s rock.
Furthermore, the Harland looks cool. The checking on the finish might have been radical some time ago, but with all flavours of relic'ing now a mainstream choice (and Kithara offers ageing as an option too), it's just another cool way of finishing a guitar – the vintage guitar that took until the 21st century to be made.
The Harland is not cheap but is comparably cheaper than the Fender Custom Shop, and for that, you get something that is not only going to be a conversation starter, but an off-menu special with which you could cook up a sound that's entirely your own.
MusicRadar verdict: The Harland might be a new design but it is full of vintage-inspired character, making for a stylish alternative to the same old designs, with superbly voiced pickups and wide-ranging tones.
- PRICE: From £2,299 (inc case)
- ORIGIN: UK
- TYPE: Double-cutaway solidbody electric
- BODY: Alder
- NECK: 1-piece mahogany, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43.1mm
- FINGERBOARD: Indian rosewood, small side-dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, Jescar medium jumbo (47095)
- HARDWARE: Gotoh ‘In-Tune’ bridge with compensated brass saddles, Bigsby B5 vibrato, Gotoh vintage-style tuners nickel/chromed-plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 54mm
- ELECTRICS: Mojo 52 single coil (bridge) and Mojo GTone single coil (neck), 3-way toggle pickup selector switch, master volume and tone
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.67/8.1
- OPTIONS: Include maple neck, ebony fingerboard, Deacci TeleTone (at bridge), brown control knobs, baritone setup and colour. Contact Kithara for pricing confirmation and custom options
- RANGE OPTIONS: Other Kithara models include the offset Fifty-Six, the Tele-inspired Astral and the chambered non-cutaway Ormsby (all from £2,249)
- LEFT-HANDERS: Yes
- FINISHES: Piano Black – aged nitro to body with satin nitro neck back. 8 standard colours plus custom colours on request
- CONTACT: Kithara Guitars