Mahogany neck with
. . . the simplicity belies the range
of sounds on tap . . .
certainly a touch of PRS and some hints
of Gibson’s ill-fated Sonex in the body
profile, and the headstock is a bit of a nod
to the slimmer Rickenbacker headstocks
of the ’60s.
You can’t get much simpler than the
control layout on the Empire: Volume
and Tone knobs and a pickup switch in
the forward bass bout. But the simplicity belies the range of sounds available
from the bridge humbucker and the
neck-position single-coil. The tailpiece is
a wraparound design that’s elegant and
well made, though its lack of adjustable
saddles does beg the question of how to
deal with intonation problems down the
line. The cool-looking Kluson-style tuners are a great match for the headstock,
though they lack the advantage of slotted
posts that make Klusons the easiest string
change of all time.
The Empire is very well balanced for its
weight and feels really comfortable hanging over your shoulder. Much of the overall comfort is attributable to the 2-piece,
satin-finished, 22-fret neck, which has
a slim, fast-feeling, and slightly flattish
C profile that makes chording and deep
bends uniformly easy. A neck joint that
tapers toward the cutaway facilitates access
to the upper frets.
A vigorous strum of a first-position E
chord long before I ever plugged the
guitar in revealed a remarkable resonance
that’s doubly notable given the bolt-on
design. You can really feel the body sympathetically vibrating, and the sustain of
unamplified chords is impressive.
The combination of the Empire’s solidity
and simplicity called for a straightforward
approach to amplification, so I hooked it
up to a blackface Fender Concert, a black-
face Tremolux, an Ampeg Super Jet, and a
50-watt Marshall plexi to probe the surpris-
ingly wide array of tones on tap.