This is one of a series of budget guitars being made in China for Guitarfetish, a guitar company operating out of Massachusetts. I met with Jay Abend, the owner of Guitarfetish, a few months prior to these guitars coming out. We looked at prototypes that were being worked on for him by companies he had scouted out himself. Most of these companies would prefer to put out cookie cutter guitars that look like Strats and Les Pauls. But Jay had been working up designs that he thought would bring out great tonal qualities while still maintaining a budget guitar price. To this end, he worked a lot with semi-hollow bodied guitars and the positioning of the f-holes. We have been accustomed to getting great tone from guitars like the Gibson ES-335 guitars. The XV-600 has a laminated maple top back and sides much the same as the ES-335 guitars. The center block is made of resonant and strong kiln-dried poplar. That coupled with a string through design allows for terrific sustain. The overall design is like a slim-line telecaster. The hard rock maple neck can have either rosewood or maple fretboard and sports a vintage tint. The neck has 21 Medium-Jumbo Nickel-Silver frets leveled and hand dressed at the factory. They come in a surf green, a beautiful red sparkle, white, black sparkle and sonic blue. Something for everyone. The finish is a super thin, super hard catalyzed urethane.
Having been in the business of selling after-market guitar products, Jay was aware that many budget guitar buyers would beef their guitars up with his products and make them gig-worthy warriors. Wouldn't it be great if you didn't have to do much to a budget guitar? To that end, he chose a couple of his most popular pickups and made them standard options. The Dream 180's and his P90 pickups are considered by many to rival boutique pickups costing twice as much. He also added decent grade electronics, a pair of genuine ALPHA full-sized audio potentiometers and a full sized ALPHA lever-action toggle switch. In addition, he added a solid steel bridge with bent steel saddles as opposed to the cheaper pot metal usually associated with a budget guitar. Finally 14:1 ratio die-cast tuners round this baby out.
Needless to say, I picked one up as soon as they came from the factory. I did not ask Jay to cherry pick for me as I wanted a random guitar that I could review honestly. I chose the surf green with P90s and maple fretboard. This guitar weighs in at just under 7 pounds and is balanced very nicely. The hardware was nice and tight. The paint job on mine is almost flawless. There are a couple of missed spots on the inside of the f-hole. I can see it but nobody watching me play would see it. At $159, not something I cared about at all. After a setup and a change of strings I was off and running with this guitar. I have run it through a Peavey Prowler 45 watt tube amp, a Behringer GMX212, an Epiphone valve Jr, and a Roland microcube. It plays beautifully. It's one of the nicest necks I've ever played on. Smooth, no fret problems anywhere. The tone is just fabulous. The P90s have incredible power and seem to push air from any amplifier I plug her into. The neck is sweet and creamy while the bridge is brash and bold. Clean, I can go from jazz to pop and these pickups love distortion. It's a great blues guitar.
I also picked up the XV 650 with the Dream 180's and I love their tone through that guitar as well. In many respects, the review for that guitar would be similar to the XV-600 except that the Dream 180's provide humbucker power with a sweet jangle. They are crisp and articulate. Closing my eyes it has all the best attributes of a cross between a Vintage Dano and an ES-335. Honestly, I can't see buying a better guitar at that price point. Both are under $200!
For more information on these guitars or just to ask questions of a very guitar knowledgeable person just send Jay and his staff an e-mail through his website. www.guitarfetish.com