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Bill Asher Ultra T - WOW, really cool guitar! A little long ... w/ Pics

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,930
I had the pleasure of playing an amazing guitar last Wednseday. A friend bought an Ultra T from Bill Asher in SoCal. http://www.asherguitars.com/ Bill Asher is well known for his amazing lap steel guitars - as played by Ben Harper, Cindy Cashdollar, and many others, and for his repair/ restoration of old Weissenborn and Martin Koa acoustic slide type instruments.

Most of ya'll probably know that I'm kind of a traditional guitar guy, and that I generally prefer vintage guitars and vintage tone. There are, however, many modern styled instruments that have caught my ear and eye, and this guitar has really opened my eyes and ears. Just looking at a picture of it, I would not have been interested in it, but after playing it - WOW!

Playing this Ultra T reminded me of the first day I met Leon Chalnick (TGP's Leon C) and played his Thorn guitar. Like the first time I played Leon's Thorn guitar, I was surprised by how versatile this Ultra T sounded, and how well it played, and how easy it was to dial in tones. Mostly I think, I was surprised at how much I liked it, and how useable I thought it was, give my bias toward vintage guitars.

This Ultra T is Bill's take on a T style guitar with a vintage vibe, but with modern twists for improved playability and tone selection. It's a different take on a Tele, and it's an amazing playing, amazing sounding, and great looking guitar.

PICS:
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Pete's guitar is the black one in the first pic - I'm posting a pic of the white one on Asher's website - http://www.asherguitars.com/ - because it's easier to see the control layout on the white guitar.

I'm writing this review because I was really impressed with this guitar. The pickups are built by Pete Biltoft of Vintage Vibe and co-designed by Pete and Bill Asher. They sound wonderful, a little more mids in the bridge and a bigger sound in general from neck pickup - a "Coodercaster" style pickup that sounds 'freakin amazing to me. The bridge is a Glendale - matte finish on the back of the bridge, highly polished mirror finish on the tab between the bridge and middle pickup - very classy.

The tone controls are traditional 1 vol and 1 tone, but there's also a 16 position rotary high end preset control called a Tonestyler by Stellartone. It allows high end rolloff in 1/3 octave intervals. The individual click positions are barely discernible from one position to the next, but overall, that control makes a big difference. Using both tone controls in combination gives an amazingly wide variety of tones. When the rotary knob is in position #1, the Tonestyler is out of the circuit completely.

The workmanship on the guitar is stunning. Quarter sawn 2 piece maple neck, snakehead style peghead (I'm a fan of trad style Tele headstocks, but this snakehead looks good to me), has a volute (which Bill Asher feels adds sustain to the neck) and the fit and finish are spectacular. Buzz Feitin Tuning System is stock - and though I sometimes don't like guitars w/ the Feitin system, this one feels and sounds great to me. Jamming with the Asher guitar w/ Feitin tuning and a traditional Strat DID NOT produce those odd, slightly out-of-tune sounds I've heard from some BF equipped guitars when played with guitars with traditional tuning systems. Very lightly finished neck, wide and relatively flat ( probably a 12" radius, may be a compound radius - I don'y know) EXCELLENT fretwork - there was not a hint of a fret buzz anywhere with pretty low action. Nut width on this particular guitar was wide - between 1 11/16 and 1 3/4" - and felt very comfortable to me to grip. My hands slid effortlessly on the neck, reminded me of the finish on a MusicMan neck, that sort of feel, but again, Asher's own take on it.

I found that I could get tons of tone variation from the neck pickup - really exciting - from archtop jazz tones to trad Tele neck tones. The neck pickup is quite strong but blends well with the more traditional bridge pickup, which bites AND twangs quite well too.

The middle position is, in my opinion, probably the most versatile Tele type tone I've played in years, maybe ever. The controls are a traditional 3 way switch, vol and tone, and the Tonestyler knob.

I'll say for the record that when I played this guitar, it had been strung up for about 5 hours - it was brand spanking new, when Pete went to pick it up, Bill was still bolting on the neck and screwing in the excellent Waverly open back tuners. Even though it had no playing time at all on it, the guitar has incredible sustain, and you could tell it's only going to improve. Tuning stability was fantastic, initial setup fantastic, it was super easy to find tons of tones - all the controls were very predictable and worked smoothly and flawlessly.

To finish, it's not a cheap instrument, but every single detail in this guitar just screams "EXCELLENCE" to me. It's a very well thought out and extremely well executed design. I'm sure there are lots of options to choose from - there are fretboard options, nut width, pickups, finish, etc - Asher is a true custom builder.

Thanks to Bill Asher for an exciting take on a T style guitar, that's extremely well built and has a stunning tonal pallet, and that looks as good as it plays.

Thanks, Dana O.
 
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Stringmaster

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,493
Thanks for posting Dana--I thought you knew that the blonde one pictured was mine! I fell in love with it instantly, and when the 3rd "drive by" at last year's NAMM show said how "you" the guitar was when I was playing it, I had to sign on the line. I later returned the guitar to Bill, so it could be reviewed in GP magazine--who gave it a great review. He did a couple of upgrades for me too. So...I'm coming on it's 1 year anniversary with me, and I'm every bit as excited with the guitar as when I first bought it. It's perhaps the favorite neck of any of my guitars, and I love the way it sounds--you hit it right on with your tonal appraisal. And, yes, you describe the excellent workmanship to a "T". I talked about it a bunch here:

https://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/497309&highlight=asher

Signed, The Other Dana!!
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,930
Hey Dana -

How ya doin? And Happy New Year.

I missed your review back in Jan '09, though I have read it since then. Probably I just had my head up my butt 'cuz it wasn't a trad Tele shape, but I have learned my lesson - Boy Howdy!

I'm gonna quit drooling all over, but this guitar just SCREAMS EXCELLENCE to me. I'm just really impressed with it.

I bet you're stoked with yours, eh? What are your feelings now that you've had it for nearly a year now?

Thanks, Dana O.
 

Stringmaster

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
2,493
Happy New Year to you as well! Love the guitar more and more as time goes on, which is not always the case for me! Mine doesn't have the BF tuning system--didn't know Bill did that. Sounds great through all of my amps. I never thought I'd leave my Nocaster home, but the Asher generally goes out when it's solid body time! Aside from the aforementioned, I love the wider
(1 11/16") nut width, and set up with .011, it sounds huge!
 
Messages
252
Love Bill's work.He is one of the great luthiers out there.every guitar I have played of his is fantastic.I love the tele design he has.beautiful guitar there.you guys know who his mom is too right.really crazy.
 

trisonic

Member
Messages
13,152
Thanks, Dana.
The neck looks very wide - Les Paullike? That may be an illusion caused by the smallish headstock?
Body is Chapinesque - but the whole thing works well, lookswise. Very useful for Studio use, particularly.
Can you bring one to Piscataway this year!!!!!!!??????
Best, Pete.
 

Curly

Member
Messages
1,400
I saw a link to the GP review this morning on TDPRI.

I've always been impressed with Bill's craftsmanship and his attention to detail when he's been at the LA Amp Show.

this is no exception ... I like the offset body, and the fact that he took nothing for granted, and redesigned a traditional guitar, seemingly from the ground up.
 

todd richman

Senior Member
Messages
13,096
Phenomenal guitars. The black Ultra Tone and white blonde one, both pictured above are 2 of my favorites that Bill has built.
 

rickmebe

Member
Messages
542
So I'm guessing from your review that you kinda like it, eh? <GRIN>

Lookin' forward to seein' ya at NAMM.

Spoke with Ian Friday and will be goin' down there next Friday morning to visit at Scott's shop and pick up my guitar. And yes, I'm stoked! Also anxious to check out Scott's guitars while I'm there.

Take care, my friend...
 

jads57

Silver Supporting Member
Messages
6,189
Very nice looking guitars! And I'll bet those p/ups sound excellent as well, I love my Vintage Vibe CC Rider p/up!
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,930
Thanks All - I was really impressed with this guitar, as maybe you can tell (GRIN).

Thanks, Dana O.
 
M

Member 995

I'd love to have one of these to go with my Asher lap steel. Thanks for the review!
 

Greg V.

Member
Messages
1,260
Hey Dana,

Thanks for the detailed review, sure looks beautiful and knowing your love of vintage guitars, your words speak volumes. I met Bill Asher a few years ago at an LA Amp Show and he was SUPER cool !

On a side note, hope to see you and Mark Robinson at NAMM!
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,930
Thanks, Dana.
The neck looks very wide - Les Paullike? That may be an illusion caused by the smallish headstock?
Body is Chapinesque - but the whole thing works well, lookswise. Very useful for Studio use, particularly.
Can you bring one to Piscataway this year!!!!!!!??????
Best, Pete.
Hey Pete -

Happy New Year!

Yes, the neck on this particular guitar was wide - wide for a Tele style guitar, but not at all uncomfortable to me - quite Les Paul-like, IMHO. Imagine a Les Paul neck that's made of quarter sawn solid maple - that's it!

I'll work on getting one of these guitars, then I'll work on Piscataway .... this year (GRIN).

Take Care Pete, Dana O.
 

LP Deluxe

Member
Messages
331
Here's my Asher...



WOW...what a guitar. Quality to a tee! You're right about the neck Dana, it's wider than I'm used to , but I love it. And the finish is great...I swear I can feel the neck actually resonating! Very well balanced and comfortable to play too.

Dave
 

Dana Olsen

Platinum Supporting Member
Messages
7,930
Beautiful guitar, Dave. Bill Asher makes other shapes and styles, but this Ultra T really caught me by surprise.

I guess I wasn't expecting a "Tele inspired" guitar to sound so good, play as well as it does, and be so versatile - but it is!

Thanks Dana O.
 






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