Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Gear Review: The Limited Edition Gibson Lzzy Hale Explorer

When Lzzy Hale first showed off the custom Explorer that Gibson had built for her in 2012, I immediately contacted Gibson and begged them to manufacture them for the public. I was told at that time that there was "no plan to build a signature model."

Throughout the years since that time, I had been in periodic discussions with Gibson, getting the same answer: no plans for a Lzzy Hale Explorer. But things started to change more recently.

Lzzy posted pictures of a mysterious second Explorer built to her specs. Still, my contact at Gibson stated as recently as August 28, 2014 that "We have not been given any indication that a Lzzy Hale Explorer model [is] being planned."

However, almost immediately thereafter, Gibson reached out to me with information that the release of a Limited Edition Lzzy Hale Explorer was indeed going to become a reality in late-2014 or early-2015. I really wanted to become the first member of the public to buy and own one. Despite reaching out to Gibson, members of Halestorm, dealers, etc., I was finding it difficult to get any help in winning the race to be the first.

It took some detective work to figure out where the first models off the production line would end up. Online postings from Gibson insiders seemed to indicate that only 200 of these guitars would be made (in comparison, Gibson's website says that only 400 of the Jason Hook M-4 Sherman Explorers were made).

The week of October 6, online music gear stores started posting the Lzzy Hale Explorer for pre-order, with deliveries in November. I managed to find that had the first one available to ship on Friday October 10 (Lzzy's birthday) and so I ordered it right then and there, called and arranged for Saturday delivery by FedEx, and received what I believe is the first one owned by a member of the public at 8:29AM on October 11.

So, with all that drama out of the way, let me give a review of this amazing instrument!

One of the first things I noticed about the guitar when taking it out of its case for the first time was the weight. The Explorer is a big guitar. And it has a solid mahogany body. So, I expected it to be imposingly heavy.

Much to my surprise and delight, it was not excessively heavy. It was a very comfortable weight, actually.

You really can't talk about this guitar for too long before you have to mention how stunningly beautiful it is. Its Alpine white finish; gold pickguard, hardware and appointments; and pearl tuners just give it a stunning appearance. If Donald Trump was to endorse a guitar, the Lzzy Hale Explorer would be the obvious choice. It just looks rich and luxurious!

Back to the feel of the guitar. When guitarists who want to shred think of Gibson, they often think of the Les Paul and its tree trunk of a neck. Let me tell you, the neck on this guitar is amazingly thin. It's not just playable, it is truly a shred-capable neck.

With more traditional-shaped guitars, like Les Pauls, Strats, Telecasters, etc., rockers tend to want to sling them low on the body, making them a little more difficult to play, but cooler looking. The Explorer looks totally rad when played with a shorter strap length, so combine that fact with the fast feel of the Lzzy Hale Explorer neck and you have an axe that is ready for some fleet-fingered riffage!

One thing that guitar manufacturers tend to skimp on to keep costs low is the tuning machines. The tuners on the Lzzy Hale Explorer are top-quality Grovers, allowing you to tune with precision and keeping the guitar in tune extremely well.

The sound of the guitar is amazing. It offers an incredible low end rumble thanks to the mahogany body. Palm-muted chords with a root note on the E string sound as metal as metal can get. However, if you're more of a classic rocker than a metalhead, you'll love that higher-register chords such as the A chord and D chord (on the top four strings) sound very AC/DC-ish, even when played through a Mesa Boogie Dual Rectifier with the gain set to 10.

The 57 Classic pickup in the neck position is great for when you need the cleanest of clean sounds and for creative expression when using distortion. For example, you can reproduce that smooth, round sound of the "Sweet Child o' Mine" lick quite authentically.

The 57 Classic Plus in the bridge position has many positives as well. It has crystal-clear clarity and extremely high output. It facilitates some of the hottest pick harmonics I've ever produced.

However, if I had to mention one less-than-perfect component of this amazing instrument, it would be this pickup. Unlike my favorite pickups - the Duncan Distortion (passive) and Duncan Blackouts (active) - the 57 Classic Plus lacks that little bit of sustain and overdrive in the highest register that helps solos sing. It's also a little noisy in comparison. I have an Ibanez Tube Screamer pedal that alleviates the first concern. Perhaps a noise suppressor pedal would take care of the second. I don't have one of those, but the noise isn't that much of a problem.

This is definitely a guitar that is hard to put down. It just feels, plays, and sounds so awesome. And, of course, it looks incredible - but you already knew that!

Being a fan of Halestorm since before their debut album was released, I consider it an honor to own the Lzzy Hale Explorer. It is an extremely high-quality instrument truly worthy of the soon-to-be-legendary Lzzy Hale name!