When it comes to pro-level guitars, we’ve seen an explosion of new options available to players over the past few years. But with all the choices available, guitarists still look at what their heroes play and what they may have done to hotrod their axes, thus the popularity of signature model guitars.
|Documentation & Support||10%|
|OVERALL RATING =3.4
3.6 stars or better: Outstanding, WIHO Award
3 stars or better: Worth considering
2 stars or better: Suited to specific needs
1 star or less: Not recommended
There are many aspects to take into consideration when choosing a signature model guitar: tone, playability, style, vibe, practicality, gender, playing technique, identity… but remember that for the most part, that signature is somebody else’s identity. You’ll want to make sure that the guitarist’s identity fits your personal style as well.
France gave us the Statue of Liberty and some fine food. But now, we can add Vigier Guitars to their list of great exports.The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane Master Signature electric guitar is loaded with some very cool and innovative features typical of Vigier guitars, but it also includes some very special signature touches that make it a pretty unique guitar, most significantly the zero radius, completely flat fretboard. And to boot, it just sounds great. But is it the right guitar for you? You’ll definitely want to test drive this one before you make the commitment and bring it home, but given the limited distribution channels for Vigier in the USA, you may just have to take a leap of faith that this guitar will suit your style of playing. It’s way cool, but definitely something different than you’ve ever played before.
This is even better than French cuisine! We found quite a few out-of-the-ordinary features in the Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane Signature model guitar not common in your average guitar, and mostly centered around the innovative neck design. Comprised of maple wood, the bolt-on neck features a flat radius fret board profile fitted with 24 frets, and including a zero fret. The frets all have a rolled edge, and to add extra comfort, they don’t cover the full width of the neck.
Another innovative feature, common to all Vigier models, is that the neck does not contain a truss rod! Instead, Vigier created their 10/90 system, in which they have installed a thin piece of carbon running through the length of the neck (thus the neck is 10% carbon and 90% wood). The carbon reinforcement provides increased stability and sustain.
Additional neck features include:
- D shaped neck: 1.65” at the nut / 2.22” at the last fret
- Teflon nut
- Matte varnish finish
- Rosewood fingerboard
- Dot Inlays
- Flexretainer: Most Strat-style headstocks come equipped with some sort of string tree to keep the string from jumping out of the nut. Vigier created its own string tree called a “Flexretainer.” The string retainer is an actual eyelet that floats in the headstock of the guitar, which provides zero friction when engaging the tremolo function. This helps retain excellent tuning and diminishes string breakage.
The body of the Excalibur Shawn Lane Signature model guitar consists of a two-piece, double cutaway made of figured alder. Our review model had a beautiful translucent top.
All hardware on the Excalibur Shawn Lane guitar is chrome plated and a few of the individual components such as the Tuning Keys and Tremolo Bridge are custom Vigier designs:
- Vigier over-sized locking machine heads provide large finger nuts.
- The Vigier Tremolo Bridge features a non-locking bridge that pivots on needle bearings in addition to roller bridge saddles, each creating less friction and resulting in minimal component wear. The design also eliminates string breakage at contact points.
The electronics of the Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane guitar are configured as follows:
- DiMarzio pickups in a H/S/H arrangement:
- Air Classic Humbucker - Bridge
- FS-1 Single Coil - Middle
- PAF Classic Humbucker - Neck
The five-position pickup selector switch has this clever wiring scheme:
- Humbucker in neck position
- Single-coil in neck & middle position
- Single-coil in neck & bridge position
- Single-coil in bridge & middle position
- Humbucker in bridge position
There are one Volume and one Tone control.
The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane guitar comes equipped with standard strap buttons. However, they are screwed into a brass casing embedded within the body cavity to provide added security. As with any guitar of this quality, we would recommend changing the stock strap buttons with strap lock buttons, however, you will need to make sure the same screw fits the new buttonhole in order to screw into the threaded brass casing within the guitar cavity.
Additional basic features worth noting:
- Strings: Vigier 9 - 42 gauge
- Weight: 6.6lbs
- Hard-shell Case
The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane Signature model guitar provides a lot of value when looking at the overall makeup and functionality of the guitar. Upon our first interaction with the guitar, the contoured, Strat-style body gave us instant comfort and a familiar feel. The flat fret board, on the other hand, was an interesting change, and at first glance, it almost looked like the fretboard was concave.
For two-hand tapping enthusiasts and neoclassical shredders, the flat fret board provides added control that is a joy to experience. The super-low action (made possible because there is no curvature to the fretboard) further added to this guitar’s worthiness for unleashing your inner Van Halen or Stanley Jordan. However, wrapping our hands around the neck to play bar chords took a bit of extra effort in flattening out that first finger bar. In analyzing this feature a little further, we found the flat fret board to be easier to manage when sitting and holding the guitar in a classical acoustic guitar form.
We definitely had to alter our playing technique to accommodate not having any curvature to the fret board. It wasn’t specifically uncomfortable, but if you prefer the fretboard feel of a Strat, you won’t bond with this guitar despite its family resemblance.
The H/S/H pickup configuration with the five-blade selection switch provided great control over pickup selection. And to keep it simple, the single Volume and Tone control were easily accessible, for those quick pinky volume swells, of course.
The Vigier floating tremolo bridge, with its needle bearing pivot points, enabled us to get ultra smooth vibrato providing the whammy bar was screwed in tight enough to eliminate any slack.
In review of the Volume control of our review model, we found there was a jump in volume at the 90% open position. The Tone control also displayed limited usefulness, as only 25% of the range provided any kind of audible difference. [Editor’s Note: We were told that this was an issue with earlier production models and has since been corrected.]
The input jack location on the Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane guitar is non-traditional in that while it is located on the outer corner of the body of the guitar, the angle at which the jack plug extends is straight out the bottom of the guitar. This unique design point makes it impossible to stand the guitar on the floor or lean it against your amp without removing the plug. In addition, the input jack is recessed in the body of the guitar, preventing us from using a right angle plug.
The over-sized locking machine tuners provided extra ease in tightening the string locking mechanism – not to mention the added mass of metal acting as a sustain block.
For purposes of this review, we (primarily) plugged our Vigier Excalibur into a Mesa/Boogie Lonestar and Bogner Ecstasy Anniversary amplifier. Though different amp characteristics apply, the guitar performed exceptionally well, providing sparkling clean tones and ripping overdrive with clarity, punch and endless sustain.
With a guitar that looks like it’s doing 150mph standing still, we couldn’t help but go straight to the red/high-gain channel of the Ecstasy and hit some big power chords. The result was a very well balanced, clean overdrive tone with great punch and attack while providing everlasting sustain. After the dust cleared, we switched over to the clean channel—just for a second—to check out its alter ego. The Air Classic in the bridge position provided a very tight, defined clean tone with just the right amount of highs to give it that so subtle knife’s edge.
Switching over to the neck position in our clean channel, the PAF Classic provided a very round tone without getting muddy, even at low settings of the tone control (those knobs on your guitar aren’t just for show, you know). The attack was less percussive and provided a more mellow tone suitable for R&B ballads and jazz standards, not that we’re advocating ditching your ES175 for a shred machine.
In the overdrive channel, the neck PAF Classic provided a nice singing tone suitable for those Santana-like leads. The notes remained cool and mellow sounding without getting muddy or broken up.
The five-blade pickup switch gave us some alternate configurations using the middle FS-1 single-coil pickup in combination with a split single coil from either the bridge or neck pickup. The three single coil options provided much of the same tones you would expect from a Fender Mustang meets Strat. We experienced various degrees of bell tone shimmers between the three settings, which provided an excellent tone for some spanky funk and rhythmic R&B comping. Switching over to the overdrive setting while plugged into the Lonestar amp, we were able to cop a very bluesy tone with just the right amount of breakup while still maintain great attack and clarity.
While the Vigier Excalibur provided some cool tonal options with the middle single coil pickup, we felt the strong point for this guitar was with the tones supplied by the humbuckers. And considering the setup of the neck for two handed, eight-finger tapping, you’ll probably want the response of the humbucker pickups, which constantly provided excellent clarity and long lasting sustain. In fact, it was a rather cool design to not feature the FS-1 pickup by itself in position 3 on the blade switch, because this would have resulted in a volume drop and may have introduced some single-coil hum.
The Excalibur has tone in spades, useful for a wide range of styles. The only limiting factor is really whether or not the feel of this particular guitar is right for your style (in which case Vigier offers this guitar’s cool features in instruments with more traditional neck radiuses).
Documentation and Product Support
The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane guitar comes with proper documentation regarding all the necessities: warranty information, string changing instructions, bridge adjustments for intonation and action setting, and detailed electronics information including pickup configurations, switching, and volume/tone controls. Additional information can also be found on the vigier website including forums, newsletters, and FAQs.
The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane Signature guitar (MSRP $3,760) can be found for approximately $3,200 retail. We find the price point on this guitar to be somewhat in line with that of other signature model guitars on the market today, but the specific playability aspects of the guitar make us think that perhaps it should be priced with a little bit of extra value in mind. Of course, part of the pricing challenge for this signature model is that the guitar comes from France, so this guitar is going to be a relatively better value for players in Europe than it is for players in the United States.
As with most signature model guitars, there’s usually something extraordinary within the build of the guitar elevating it to the boutique price bracket. The Vigier Excalibur Shawn Lane may look pretty traditional on the outside, but it definitely has that custom shop mojo on the inside.