When I initially saw the Vader shape, I wasnít completely sold on it....
...After I saw the Vader at NAMM and had a chance to try it out though, it really grew on me. The curves arenít as apparent as they are in-person, and they make the Vader series look much better in-person compared to most pictures.
This one is what Carvin/Kiesel is calling a ďKiesel EditionĒ. That means that Jeff Kiesel built it himself. There are also a lot of non-standard options you can get with Kiesel Editions. For example, the burst and binding on this are not usually options. I think Jeff is willing to do almost anything within reason. They are pricier than the usual Kiesel/Carvin, but they come with upgrades standard plus the VP of Kiesel is building your guitar, which is pretty cool.
Anyways, onto the review!
I first heard about Kiesel Editions when a long-time friend of mine wouldnít stop messaging me telling me how these are easily on par with the high end stuff he has owned. I was skeptical, but this is definitely on par with the ultra-high end stuff I have owned, if not better.
I have had guitars from pretty much every brand out there plus the usual boutique brands like Suhr, and then the ultra-boutique brands like Ruokangas, Blackmachine, Teuffel, PRS Private Stocks, Hartung etc... This guitar is easily up there in the ultra-boutique range, especially given what I paid. IMO if you want something with insane bang for buck ratio, a Kiesel Edition is it. Off the top of my head, I canít really think of a better deal in the ultra-boutique quality tier.
There are no bull**** mistakes on this guitar. Side dots are perfectly straight, which is something most luthiers canít get right for some reason.
The nut (headpiece?) area is very cleanly installed.
There are no visible gluelines on the guitar anywhere.
In my opinion this is the most important part of ordering a custom guitar. I have had guitars I ordered arrive...they sounded great and played well, but the luthier was a total pain to deal with. This ruined any mojo the guitar had for me and I would end up selling them. Nobody wants to look at something that cost them a couple thousand dollars and be reminded of the time a luthier screwed them over for 2-3 years in a row. I am sure a lot of guys can relate to being told a guitar will be done in 1 year, and then have it arrive in 2 years or 3 years, with the wrong specs.
This isnít the case here because Jeff has a really refined building process, which makes sense given his family history. This guitar only took a few months to be built and get to my door in good old Canadia. The 3-4 specs I was specific about were on the guitar just like I asked for. No complaints here, very pleased with the process.
For this guitar, I thought it made far more sense for me to show Jeff my favorite guitar tones, and then have him pick out the woods/specs. I have done this a few times with various luthiers, and honestly I have been disappointed more than once because of it. But, thatís not the case with this guitar at all. I wanted to use this guitar for that mid-gain, super tight but growly style of technical death metal like Psycroptic use, but with more growl --- and Jeff Kiesel nailed it! The cleans are also fantastic. The new Kiesel pickups are much better than the old Carvin ones, and I donít really see a reason to swap them out.
This is a big one for me due to my shoulder/back problem, which is why I have been playing primarily headless guitars for a while now. Like the Teuffel Tesla models, this does a good job of letting you play without extending your left shoulder. On guitars with a headstock, I usually have to extend my shoulder to hit the lower notes (frets 1 to 4 basically), which causes a lot of shoulder pain for me. Not the case with this guitar though, I can play it comfortably without any pain.
The belly cut, and forearm contour are very very nice as well. If you have ever playing an Ernie Ball Petrucci model, the forarm contour is a lot like that, but even better.
These are equipped with the new hipshot headless hardware. Its great hardware, and is extremely comfortable. The tuners turn easily, which can be an issue on some headless guitars.
Here are some pictures!