Indie Shape Total Natural

Sunday, May 3, 2009| by Will Chen

Indie is a UK based company, founded in 2002 by Ian Carnell and Keith Willis. The company has been rapidly expanding into the international market the past few years and their guitars are now sold across Europe, Australia, Canada, and the US. Indie’s products are manufactured by hand; no CNC machines are used, in South Korea at four dedicated plants (electric, acoustic, pickups, and amps). The company’s products aren’t the run of the mill copies typically manufactured overseas and feature a design philosophy matching their namesake. This review focuses on the Indie Shape Total Natural, which bares an original shape with an upper bout somewhat reminiscent of the Tele and a rounder lower bout much like a Les Paul.

The guitar features a mahogany body with a deeply carved, chunky (around ¾” inch at it thickest point!), flamed maple top with a set mahogany neck and maple fretboard. Simply gorgeous to gaze upon. I should note that Indie did not simply laminate a non-figured maple top for some added flash, the figured top is a book matched solid top; an absolute rarity in this price range. Rounding out the features are a laminate matching flamed maple headstock with a graphite nut and Grover tuners which, as expected, provided smooth tune ups and held the guitar in pitch sans slippage. Build quality across the board is immaculate, which is quite a complement considering there’s nowhere for minor flaws to hide. As the name implies, the guitar is basically nude of any finish other than perhaps some light sealer, giving the axe an incredibly organic feel. Being able to feel the grain of the mahogany neck really provides a unique playing experience, one which I’ve become incredibly attached to.

[The] GR8 AlNiCo humbucking pickups have a big warm output and balanced response [and] cleans up fabulously well when backing off the volume knob...

As mentioned, the Shape Total Natural features a maple on mahogany set neck. At first I glazed over that spec, but have since noticed that this combination may be unique to Indie, as I’m not aware of another production model from any company offering this combination. The uniqueness is furthered by the inclusion of a 25” scale neck with an almost heelless set neck joint, which provides absolutely unfettered access all the way to the 22nd fret. With regards to fretwork, I should note that I received my guitar from a Canadian retailer in January. On the day it shipped it was something disgusting like -40 degrees there and an unseasonably 80 degrees in Texas. As you might imagine, the fret ends had sprouted like flowers after a storm and were as sharp as razors. I let the guitar settle in for a couple days but still had to spend around 45 minutes with a triangular file and some steel wool to smooth things out; after which the guitar played exquisitely.

Needless to say, I was very excited to plug this beauty up as she’d been lurking around the house, teasing me for a few days. I auditioned the guitar with literally everything I own and the results across the board were excellent. The dual proprietary hand wound GR8 AlNiCo humbucking pickups have a big warm output and balanced response, which will easily push almost any amp to break up, yet the guitar cleans up fabulously well when backing off the volume knob. Peeking inside the control cavity revealed a treble bleed circuit and very tidy soldering work.

Not sure if it was due to the pickups, 25” scale, maple fretboard, or thick maple cap (likely a combination of all of them), but across the board the Total Natural exhibited excellent clarity and I was really impressed with the ability of the guitar to stay mud-free, even when playing the neck pickup with the well voiced tone control rolled back. Even without any coil splits or fancy wiring, the Total Natural is an incredibly versatile guitar with a stealthy tonal identity, which can hang with the drop tuners as well as thumb strumming swingers.

To top it all off, the guitar shipped in a very high quality, backpack-style gig bag, featuring extra thick padding and plenty of pockets for strings and things, which easily competes with the higher end models sold at the big music retailers. Sweet!

While perhaps pushing the boundaries of a frugal budget, the Indie Shape Total Natural is an absolutely unique and wonderful handmade instrument with custom shop appeal, which may quickly leave the other guitars in your collection begging you for playing time. Keep an eye on Indie, I have a feeling we’ll be hearing their name much more in the not so distant future…

Price: ~$525 to $650 USD
Pros: Excellent tones and playability, unique and organic styling
Cons: None

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Filed Under: Indie, Reviews