Manufacturer: Etherial Guitars
Model: Custom 7
Reviewer: 0h L0ng J0hns0n
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.
Fit and finish: 8/10
Tuning stability: 6/10
Bang for buck: 5/10
Clean tone: 8/10
Distorted/Overdriven tone: 6/10
Modification potential: 2/10
Overall enjoyment: 8/10
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