This interview has been published on January 2011 issue of Sound Magazine. All rights reserved.
Did Leo Fender know that he had created a classic while he had on design process of stratocaster in the begining of 50’s? A real tone standart. But time passed, CBS took over the company and with the new menaging policy, the whole building processes, quality understandings, marketing and sale strategies changed a lot. In time, somehow, the guitar itself came somewhere way too different than Leo Fenders initial aspect of a good electric guitar, good stratocaster. However much, since after year 2000, Fender makes very qualified instruments and in its best era after pre-CBS period according to the experts and many happy customers. Even many Mexicans models are quite good strats like Road Worns and Roadstars. On the other hand, there are certain and undeniable amount of people deserve much better and much more accurate to the specs of 50s so that they have certain tendency to the boutique builders and custom shop produced guitars. Nash Guitars are one of them. They build very qualified vintage style aged guitars and basses in the USA.
The general specs of the guitar itself:
Body : 2 Piece Swamp Ash (Extremely Lightweight)
Neck&Fretboard : 1 Piece Plainsawn Maple
Radius : 10”
Scale : 25,5”
Bridge : Gotoh Vintage (6 screws/Steel Block and Saddles)
Frets : 6105
Tuners : Gotoh Vintage
Switch : 5 Way Lever
Pickups : Handwound Lollar Single Coil Pickups
Finish : Pure Nitrocellulose / 2 Tone Sunburst / Aged by Hand
First of all, this guitar is a stratocaster, a pure stratocaster. The equivalent model of this product at Fender Guitars is the custom shop or masterbuilt series, in my opinion. It is beter than American Vintage Reissue models which i really like&think they are very good, on some ways. I’ll tell you why soon. The first thing that you will feel when you hold this guitar in your hands is the amazing lightweightness of the guitar itself. Really and really impressive. I have played&tried many guitars in my life, i was always keen on guitars. And i must say this Nash S-57 is one of the lightest of them all with PRS Custom made of korina for fixed bridge guitars and Ibanez JPM 100 made of Basswood for tremolo equipped guitars. The balance and production details are awesome. The body reflects all great spesifications of 50s stratocasters. The tubby contour of back and arm contour of Nash is very accurate to the first years of stratocasters, very deep, detailed and comfortable. The wood choice of Nash S-57 is, as i’ve told, two pieces very lightweighted swamp ash which is historically accurate, best suitable and elegant. I must state that this body is extremely resonant, i believe it has chosen by skilled craftmen to sound good. You can clearly feel the vibrations of strings even the lightest. It is amazing, yes, truely splendid to feel whole vibrations, resonation through your body, you hands, your belly when standing. Chord playing, arpeggios, solos, doesnt matter… Those days,IMO, it is much more difficult to find a guitar that really resonates even in the higher-end models.
The neck is one of some specs that is not historically accurate. Strats of the 50s had “V” profiled necks but Nash has an “C”. Is it a problem? No, absolutely. Because Nash Guitars come with two neck profile choices, the “V” and the “C”. The choice is up to customers. Because of the neck profile is personal, Nash Guitars havent got strict historical accuracy persistence on neck shapes which i respect. The initial thought of mine about neck was perfectly comfortable in spite of I love “V” necks and find very suitable to my playing. The radius of the fretboard is 10” which is another difference from the 50s Fender Strat and is also an advantage for low action set ups and choke free bendings. Easy to play chords, healthy bendings on every position of the fretboard. Frets are in size of #6105. I think they are in the size of Warmoths. I cant be sure untill i measure it with a caliper but i assume that they are little bit wider than my Jim Dunlop 6105s. Untill that day, i’m not sure about it. Anyway, the fret job is also good. They are all shiny and problem-free. The leveling, re-crowning and shining jobs were all done great. If you sight the neck on one end, all you can see about the frets will be the zipper regularity of them. Plus your hands don’t cut when playing because of sharp edges. Another subject about the neck i like to tell you about is the nut. It is made by TusQ as far as i know and this nut is one of the best and worst aspects of the guitar. The nut is quite well placed and the slots are perfectly notched. Thats the good side. But on the other hand, the corners of the guitar is very sharp and because of their shape clumsy people may cut their hands or harm anyone from their band when playing together. Thats the worst thing that i can tell about my Nash S-57. I am aware of some Nash owners changing their nuts but i think its an unnecessery act, the guitar itself doesnt need this kind of operation. The last thing i should mention about neck is the tuners. Actually no need to get it longer, they are precise, well working machine heads. No backlash, no problem. And appearance is so cool, well distressed.
And the electronic system… What can i say more; Jason Lollar. This name is quitely well-known for the guys in boutique pickup makers scene. He is the ultimate guy who had written a book about making a pickup and because of this act many small business makers have grown. He is very esteemed and when you hear the sound of pickups from his hand. I am so impressed about his singles. Till now, i got many experiences with pickups especially the strat singles. I can no doubtly state that his pickups are the best set of strat pickups i’ve ever tried with the Fralin Vintage Hots. Scatterwound bobbins make a great difference, especially hum characteristics of single coils. When you play a strat with common, machine wound bobbins, the first thing you will notice is the hum. Actually, i adore the sound of true singles, but when more drive in need, the hum gets annoying. This pickups still are true singles but so perfectly wound and because of that they hum much less even near large cabinets and hard overdrive/average distortion region than common machine wound single coils. Thanks to Jason Lollar and his mastery. The resistance values of the pickups are;
Neck : 5,40 K
Midle : 5,60 K
Bridge : 7,50 K
I measured the values directly from the jack, through a short cable. So the actual values may be very little bit less than those. For Strats, i really like underwound coils. They sound much much more natural with the tone of the woods and guitar itself. The overtones, high frequencies and harmonics arise from the wood are more audible, sensible with the underwound pickups. And Lollars are like that. I feel the difference easily. Only the bridge pickup is little bit hotter than others which is acceptable. 7,50 K resistance is very well for the bridge pickup and they are not screaming very treble-ish, for gods sake :) full of nice vibrating trebles but never go harsh. The sound of the pickups? You can have the sound of “Layla” very easily with right amp selection. Or you can go anything from vintage years with this vintage specs; Buddy Holly, The Shadows, Rory Gallagher or Buddy Guy, no problem. Choose suitable amp and its set up and there you go. One thing that i am not adore with is the volume pot. It is audio (logarithmic) pot but the taper feels different than my other guitars. With my other guitars, i can clean the sound when the pot is decreased about 6-8 on volume knob. But this pot cleans the sound even the knob is about 8-9. Not a big deal nor i do think to change it. But i think i’ll mod the volume pot with treble bleed. I play with volume knob much and i’ll be needing this much more in future…
Another “plus” of the guitar is the finish job. First of all, Nash S-57 is fully nitrocellulosed well from the grain fillers to top finish. You really can smell the scent of nitro. Love it :) And there is very well scripted aging process. Realistic for the regularly using guitars. Personally, i would like to see less scars but, you know, it is another kind of mojo, man. You love it or hate it and i’m in lovers side :) Actually Nash makes guitars in three aging stages; lightly aged, midium aged and severe aged. Mine should be lightly relice done but even this may be too much. All personal taste. The finish on the neck is very realistic, too. And the aged, so that got unfinished sections are very very cool to play. This is how Eddie Van Halen likes, unfinished, bare wood feel on neck. So smooth, so comfortable.
Let’s mention the overall sound and sound opportunities… What do you expect from a Strat from 50s? Yep, thats what you will get. It is so easy to achieve the Eric Clapton sounds from Derek&The Dominos (think of “Layla”) era and early period of Eric’s solo works, you know the times with “Brownie” and “Blackie”, Buddy Holly or Rory Gallagher or Jimmie Vaughan tones are all lies within the guitar. Moreover if you can increase the gauge of strings enough and right amp selection, you can have “The Lenny” the tone of Steve Ray Vaughan or quite well tones of Jimi Hendrix. Because Nash S-57 is so well built, perfectly constructed, greatly finished&aged stratocaster type guitar. You wont need to modify a Nash Strat if you aren’t in too heavy music with extremely high drive settings. If so, why are you looking for a guitar in reminiscence for the 50’s? :) Actually this guitar may be perfect for hi-gain experiments, like Eddie Van Halen did to his strat from 50s or 60s. But its not what i can advice. Nash S-57 is so beautiful that you won’t able to harm her. All i will change is to get a treble bleed modification which i need and maybe in future to buy a Callaham sustain block that is not necessary but i like to have it in my tremolo. If you live somewhere with a Nash dealer, go on and give a try. Than compare it with Fender’s Custom Shop or Masterbuilt series, not lower models. Finally look for the price tag. Surprised?
Yes! I can eat her ;)