Gear and Loathing: Etherial Guitars – “Custom 7”

Gear and Loathing: Etherial Guitars – “Custom 7”

Manufacturer: Etherial Guitars
Model: Custom 7
Reviewer: 0h L0ng J0hns0n
Instrument: Guitar
Sounds like: Djent Stick
Who It’s For: Guitarists who need a damn good looking guitar to draw attention away from their sloppy playing.

PLEASE NOTE: This guitar was a custom design built to authors specifications, which were experimental in nature, and this doesn’t necessarily reflect the experience & quality of other builds by Etherial Guitars.

For most guitarists, getting a custom built instrument is the absolute dream. It’s also the moment when you become either a distinguished gentleman with a super practical design, or a total flog with something ridiculous and over the top. Personally, I’m the latter. Etherial Guitars is an Australian builder of hand-made custom guitars and has stood out from the crowd with their unearthly designs. Earlier this year I took ownership of my first ever custom by Etherial.

The guitar sports a sleek a superstrat shape that looks magnificent, courtesy of the bright white body and intricate inlay that spans the entire fretboard. Another beautiful feature is the subtle details in the cutaways around the fretboard and behind the bridge. You can tell that a lot of time and care has been taken during the building of this guitar, as each little cutaway, inlay and detail has been crafted with machine-like precision. Despite this, the guitar still looks and feels like it’s purely hand-built. The true unique feature of this guitar is the 70+ LEDs mounted under an acrylic cap that spreads over the fretboard and body. When switched on it illuminates the inlay patterns as well as additional patterns camouflaged in the body. This is a real wow-factor that is guaranteed to get the crowds attention in the average poorly-lit local venue.

The real question here though, is does it sound and play as good as it looks? First off, let’s talk about feel. The 27” scale makes it perfect for playing some down-tuned grooves and offers a lot of comfort when playing chuggy rhythms. Instead of a single piece bridge, this guitar has 7 ABM 3210c single string bridges. Despite the sharp edges that look like they’d split your hand open every time you palm-muted, these are actually very comfortable units. There is definitely a wider space between strings as a result of the single bridge units compared to a normal one-piece bridge which takes a little bit of time to adjust to. Once settled in it actually becomes rather nice as it allows more room to bend strings when playing leads and move between them resulting in less string talk.
There is, however, one major criticism I have with the construction of this guitar, for me it’s a minor issue, but for some players this is likely to be a deal-breaker. The neck profile is ridiculously thin. In theory this sounds great however, it is so thin that despite being reinforced with a carbon fibre shell the neck flexes and bends very easily. This is particularly annoying when tuning as you have to be super-careful to keep the neck still. The action is also noticeably higher as the neck gets closer to the body, while this doesn’t make it unplayable by any means, guitarists who play with a light touch will probably find this annoying.
The sound is without a doubt the biggest shortcoming of this guitar. It has 2 Bareknuckle Aftermath pickups with chrome covers that look gorgeous and pump out a mean tone. There is no muddiness in the tone at all and it juices out some particularly tasty low-mids on high distortion that are heavier than Mr. T’s jewellery. There’s a lot of definition in the cleans and when you dial in the right amp and effects settings, this thing sparkles! What’s truly lacking in the overall tone though is body, there’s just nothing unique about it at all and at times just feels a bit too one-dimensional. I feel that this is mostly due to Etherial’s tendency to substitute imported woods with local Australian products such as Blackbutt which don’t seem to have any tonal properties. The bottom line is while it generally sounds pretty good, it just doesn’t have the character or robustness that you’d expect from a custom built guitar.

All in all, this is a solid guitar for what it is. It looks so amazing that you can actually feel your sex appeal increase every time you sling it over your shoulders. While I’d like to say it’s the perfect guitar, the reality is it just isn’t, but it does come damn close! The issues with the neck profile and lack of tonewoods are definitely what’s holding it back from being the ultimate guitar and if it wasn’t for the sheer visual appeal and comfort of it, It would be difficult for me to justify spending $2699 on it when there are better sounding guitars available in that price-range. Overall dealing with Etherial was excellent, they kept me in the loop and they never said no to any of my crazy ideas. They did what a custom guitar company should, they made my vision a reality. Etherial are a relatively young business that shows a lot of promise and potential and there is more and more quality emerging with each build.
While not perfect yet, they are without a doubt on the right track and I’m genuinely excited to see what the future holds for them.

Quality: 7/10
Fit and finish: 8/10
Fretwork: 10/10
Tuning stability: 6/10
Bang for buck: 5/10
Clean tone: 8/10
Distorted/Overdriven tone: 6/10
Modification potential: 2/10
Versatility: 6/10
Playability: 7/10
Overall enjoyment: 8/10

[Best_Wordpress_Gallery id=”3″ gal_title=”Etherial”]

Gear and Loathing: Etherial Guitars – “Custom 7”
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Comments

  • Theorn

    Thanks, I’ve dialed in a fairly specific design to fit my huge hands and tuning preferences…. no LED’s or fancy shapes. I live in Australia these days, so Etherial is an obvious option as a builder for me. My only other option in the price range is to get a Warmoth build then have a luthier assemble it. If I select a more traditional, non carbon fiber neck and maple body, will that be likely to make it sound more like my ESP or should I give Ehterial a miss? Thanks

    • 0h L0ng J0hns0n

      As long as you’re avoiding the Australian woods and sticking with the traditional woods and your design isn’t overly complex like mine was with the LEDs you shouldn’t have any issues. Etherial are really good at making visions reality so if your design is as specific as you say it is you should get exactly what you want.

      • Theorn

        Thanks for the speedy reply. My design isn’t especially specific. The neck just needs a 2.125″ Nut width and a matching 7 string bridge on a 28″ scale length neck. other details are relatively minor. That being said, There are not a lot of options without dropping the big bucks. At this point I guess it’s between Etherial and ET guitars out of NSW. I don’t play Djent, or chugga chugga beep chugga, So I’m still not sure about Etherial without playing one first. Your review is the only one that I’ve been able to find that isn’t basically a “check out how cool my guitar looks” video.

        • 0h L0ng J0hns0n

          No worries. Always happy to help!

          Funnily enough the other guitarist in my band has an ET Custom so i can give you a brief review based on memory. Overall great feel, really nice to play and decent tone. The build quality was a little off as the bridge wasn’t centred with the neck. I do believe Ernie ultimately fixed this up for free though. I honestly haven’t seen it since the bridge was fixed as we both exclusively use Bad Apple Guitars live now.

          • Theorn

            You’ve been Most helpful. Ernie Taylor isn’t taking orders at the moment and I’m fresh out of ideas for custom featured guitars in a low (sub $2k) price range. I’m looking at the palm trees in my yard, a jigsaw in my garage and a soldering iron on my desk and wondering if I should just build a sharp enough wide necked guitar to impale myself on. If at some stage you decide to make some sort of review or list of Luthiers I’m sure that many of your readers (I) would be greatly appreciative. btw what’s your band. I’ll have a listen to those Bad apple tones. That company seems pretty damned great… but no custom shop as of yet.

          • Theorn

            You’ve been Most helpful. Ernie Taylor isn’t taking orders at the moment and I’m fresh out of ideas for custom featured guitars in a low (sub $2k) price range. I’m looking at the palm trees in my yard, a jigsaw in my garage and a soldering iron on my desk and wondering if I should just build a sharp enough wide necked guitar to impale myself on. If at some stage you decide to make some sort of review or list of Luthiers I’m sure that many of your readers (I) would be greatly appreciative. btw what’s your band. I’ll have a listen to those Bad apple tones. That company seems pretty damned great… but no custom shop as of yet.