What is it?
While we would imagine that Maybach's Teleman, Stradovari and Lester series of high-end Gibson and Fender-inspired electric guitars might be the big sellers that are keeping the lights on at the German brand's HQ, guitars such as the Little Wing Flat Top Cutaway showcase an ability to think a little differently.
The Little Wing as a centre-blocked thinline take on a late 50s Les Paul, with the emphasis on thinline, as its semi-hollow construction and flat-top profile gives it a Tele-esque dimension. Wait, you say, is that not just a take on the ES-Les Paul, the likes of we have seen as recently as 2016 from Gibson?
Well, possibly, but there are a number of crucial differences. In some, the Little Wing feels like it is the result of a potent cocktail of inspirations. Check out the headstock for starters. Its Schaller GrandTune tuners with classical-style rollers give the Little Wing a leftfield look. This is a stylistic grandeur about the Little Wing – a name you might give to a 60s Strat knock-off and yet here it is on a guitar with dual pickups that evoke the holy grail tone of PAF humbuckers.
The Spirit of ’59? Quite. The Little Wing's meticulously aged finish adds greatly to the illusion that this was plucked from the vintage guitar market. The checking on the nitro lacquer and the lived-in look of the burst is very convincing.
Maybe the name is reference to the the size of the guitar, which is where, again, the Little Wing deviates from the norm, with a cutaway 00/parlor-sized cutaway body (range options include a non-cutaway version and an arch-top, the latter would make it a little closer to the ES-Les Paul).
This semi-hollow build makes for a lightweight instrument, comfortably under 7lb, and a pleasant change of pace for those who find the tonewood feast of a Les Paul a little much to bear.
In profile, the Little Wing's body has a deeper cutaway than the Les Paul, exposing all 22 frets. In keeping with the vintage inspiration, the fretwire is medium gauge and is nicely finished on an ebony 'board with a Gibson-esque 12" radius and pearl dot inlays.
The neck is a two-piece mahogany affair that is glued to the body. While there is no binding per se, as with PRS, Maybach extends the generously figured maple cap to the edge of the body, making for a nice contrast with the mahogany underneath.
Under the hood, the control circuit is old-school – cloth covered wire, CTS pots. Maybach positions the three-way pickup selector switch by the quartet of knobs, two for volume, two for tone, which is arguably more practical for the player and definitely so for the maker, given that there is less real estate on the shoulder and a semi-hollow construction to work with.
Performance and verdict
Lightweight and with such a generous, all-access cutaway, the Little Wing is a very player-friendly instrument. There will always be some players – and indeed some guitars that prove their point – who just don't get on with relic'ing on a guitar. But Maybach's approach is hard to argue with; it is ageing as opposed to throwing out of the back of the van to make it look like it toured with The Who during the 70s.
There is a sense of refinement to the Little Wing. Such misadventure would be a no-no. The neck heel is very classy, calling to mind PRS more so than Gibson, and the tuners, while admittedly an off-the-wall choice, are top quality, with an 18:1 ratio and oval grained ivoroid buttons.
Mavens of vintage neck profiles have plenty to hold onto here. At the 1st fret, the thickness measures 23.4mm, tapering out 24.7mm by the 10th. It is incredibly comfortable, with the setup all the encouragement a player needs to err on the side of flamboyance.
At the neck pickup, there is a magnificent depth, a truly addictive range of tones that are supple enough for jazz, big enough for rock and blues. In contrast, the bridge pickup is bright and punchy. Wolfgang Damm makes his Amber pickups for the likes of Vigier, and his Spirit Of '59 'buckers have a bright, classic crunch. Indeed, at the bridge, the Little Wing has an urgent attack that's sure to poke through a mix.
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As with the Les Paul experience, making full use of the onboard volume and tone controls is advised as there are many sweet spots to be discovered. Yet, the Little Wing is a different beast. It is a heck of a lot easier on the back, but the centre-block design lends it an openness to its voice, and makes sure was never an issue.
While the Little Wing is not cheap, its consummate rendering of the vintage ideal on an unfamiliar format makes you feel like you've uncovered some missing gem from the 50s. This deserves to be more widely played.
MusicRadar verdict: The beautifully aged finish, the PAF-a-like 'buckers and the generous neck profile make the Little Wing one seriously charming vintage-inspired electric.
- ORIGIN: Czech Republic/Germany
- TYPE: Single-cutaway, centre-blocked thinline electric
- BODY: 2-piece mahogany, chambered w/ centre block
- NECK: Mahogany, glued-in
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Bone/43.2mm
- FINGERBOARD: Ebony, pearl dot inlays, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, medium
- HARDWARE: Aged nickel tune-o-matic-style bridge and stud aluminium tailpiece (by Gotoh), individual Schaller GrandTune classical-style tuners w/ oval grained ivoroid buttons
- STRING SPACING/BRIDGE: 51mm
- ELECTRICS: Nickel-covered Amber Spirit of ’59 humbuckers, 3-way toggle pickup selector, individual pickup volume and tone controls
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.06/6.73
- OPTIONS: Order with either humbuckers or single-coil P-90s
- RANGE OPTIONS: Little Wing range also includes: flat-top Non Cutaway (£1,879); Arched Top version is available in both non-cutaway (£2,095) and cutaway styles (£2,160)
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Midnight Sunset (as reviewed), Earl Grey, Havana Tobacco, Honey Pie and Ice Tea as well as opaque options – aged nitrocellulose
- CONTACT: Maybach