John Page Classic Ashburn

Discussion in 'Reviews of Electric Guitars' started by Scott Auld, Feb 3, 2016.


  1. Scott Auld

    Scott Auld Staff Member

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    [​IMG]

    I recently got an offer from Howard Swimmer at HRS Unlimited asking us if I'd be interested in taking a look at & reviewing a guitar. I remembered Howard's name from his time at PBG so I already knew ahead of time there must be something to the guitar, because Howard knows his instruments.

    I wasn't disappointed. He sent me the new John Page Classic Ashburn model - an incredible instrument full of custom-shop features. I like to open up and play these guitars sort of "going in blind" so I just opened up the box and started playing with the guitar, and I actually didn't know I was playing a regular-production guitar until I stopped playing to do some reading. I thought this was a one-off hand-built guitar at first.

    John Page has paid his dues. He was co-founder of Fender's Custom Shop, head of Fender guitar R&D, and creator of legendary guitars for greats like Pete Townshend, David Gilmour, Eric Clapton. He has created instruments at the FCS that were out of the reach of mortals, and built high end guitars under his own name. He's seen all the things that people loved about these guitars and decided to build a guitar with all the features he incorporated into his hand built custom guitars in a production guitar that everyone could own.

    As I look over this beautiful instrument, it reflects John's 20+ years at Fender and nearly 40 years designing and building guitars. It feels like a custom built guitar. Look at the straight-pull headstock design with Gotoh vintage style tuners with staggered height - all the strings break over at the same angle, for providing better tuning stability without string trees.

    Holding the very lightweight alder body, wrapping your hand around the neck and playing on the 12" radius board - everything feels superior to any production guitar I've ever played. For over a year now my main squeeze has been my Fender AVRI '65 reissue Strat. This guitar has replaced it for the past two weeks anytime I reach for a guitar. That's pretty high praise.

    The guitar is very comfortable at the neck joint due to the softly contoured joint. Four recessed, machined bolts go into threaded inserts, providing better transference, more complex overtone-laden sparkly tone and a sound characteristic that makes it sound amazing before it's ever plugged in, something that's always been an early indicator for me of a great guitar. You feel this guitar as much as you hear it.

    The maple neck's comfy C profile is in the Goldilocks zone - not too big, not to small - just right. The guitar I was sent has a maple fretboard, unique side-position dots add to visibility and just look classy, these appear to be medium-jumbo frets, and the whole neck just plays great. I keep coming back to the word "comfortable" for a reason - you really don't want to put it down.

    [​IMG]

    1 volume / tone knob each and 5 way switch control the wonderful Bloodline JP1 pickups - Bloodline is an HRS Unlimited brand manufactured by them (and you can be purchase those separately, btw) - that John custom-voiced for this particular guitar. The pickups have a reverse-slant bridge pickup adds thickness and girth to the treble strings and bounce to the bass side strings. Maybe this is part of why Jimi's guitar tone had all that guts and glory - he played his guitars upside down which gave him this same reverse slant.

    Gotoh 510 Tremolo bridge was perfectly intonated and set up out of the box. It's like playing Leo's original bridge if it were designed and built by the guys at Audi or BMW. Actually, that's sort of the whole guitar. If you tried to describe Leo's S-type guitar to a group of modern engineers but never showed them a picture, they might produce this guitar. John Page calls it "uniquely familiar" - better than any description I could come up with.

    Pure comfort, extremely playable, this guitar makes you want to keep playing - which translates into longer practice time sand less hand & shoulder fatigue whether played standing or sitting. The only thing I don't like about this guitar is that I have to send it back now that I'm done with it!

    http://www.johnpageclassic.com/
     
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  2. JoeB63

    JoeB63 Supporting Member

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    Sounds like a really nice guitar. But how do you know that the "more complex overtone-laden sparkly tone" stems from the neck attachment?
     
  3. mikealpine

    mikealpine Gold Supporting Member

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    I played one recently, and HH setup. The sound was great, but the neck was not a good fit for my hand. I don't know why, but I was much more comfortable on a G & L standard neck. Great tone, though!
     
  4. Sunil

    Sunil Gold Supporting Member

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    I picked up a black Ashburn Classic with rosewood fingerboard from Wildwood a couple of months ago. It's a fantastic sounding guitar! The bridge pickup tones are nice and fat both clean and overdriven, and all the classic Strat tones are easily had. I dig the Bloodline pickups. The C-shape neck is perfect for me (about .830 - .930) and overall the guitar is super comfortable to play both sitting or standing. The setup work was top notch. It's one of the few productions guitars I've bought that didn't need any tweaking out of the box. I custom ordered a tortie pickguard from John Page which, along with changing the tuners to Gotoh staggered locking tuners (because I'm lazy and like quick string changes) and the volume and tone knobs to complement the new pickguard, are the only mods I plan to do.

    For about $120 less than the cost of a USA Standard Strat, you get a great sounding guitar with top notch pickups, a Gotoh 510 bridge, which is one of the best tremolo bridges out there (my personal favorite), lightweight alder body and nice woods for the neck, excellent fretwork and setup. It's really a stellar deal.
     
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  5. Wheels

    Wheels Gold Supporting Member

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    It will be my next guitar.
     
  6. Dumdeediddle

    Dumdeediddle Supporting Member

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  7. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

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    Thanks for a great review of a great guitar, Scott. I recently started a thread on them to see how many others have discovered them. I acquired an HSS version about a month ago and it blows me away every time I play it.

    The bridge HB suits me well. Not too hot but not too thin either. Clear but full, and the push/pull tone knob that splits them is solid and sure. The split sound sounds as real as a "real" single coil, but position 2 with the full HB is my favorite clean sound.

    The tone control is unlike any I've used. Slow linear rolloff that tapers quickly to 'woman tone' at the last quarter quarter to half turn. Not usually a fan of bright caps, the tone control negotiates that feature seamlessly, offering a lot of subtle nuance variety. I use it a lot, which I typically don't do with other S types.

    The deeper and shortened lower horn, combined with the contoured heel makes playing the highest of 22 frets a breeze.

    I'm not a Fender hater, and have a bunch, but can't help seeing the Asburn Classic as being in a whole other class than Fender's production line models, and even their higher end stuff. I don't mind poly finishes so that's a non issue for me. Plus it doesn't have the ultra shiney "dipped" look or feel.

    Speaking of feel, the neck has an ultra-smooth matt finish and feel. I love the carve, and your "Goldilocks" analogy is perfectly fitting, at least for me.

    The sound is different. We hear and read so much about sparkle and transference, etc etc, but it's all here in truth. Is it the neck/body connection or the pickups, can't say. But it's here, with pleasing harmonic content.

    The gig bag is pretty good but this guitar deserves more, imo. I would have ponied up for John's monogrammed G&G HSC if I didn't recently purchase a new Reunion Blues Continental Voyager bag.

    It's quickly become my #1, and I don't think it's just a honeymoon thing.
     
    Last edited: Mar 30, 2018
  8. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

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    PS: Yesterday, approx 6 weeks into it, I pulled the treble bleed circuit. I've tried to adapt to these things but I just prefer the sound and features more without them. The Asburn still sounds great, the pickups still have their snap, but I can now roll off to rounder tones with the traditional audio taper volume pot, which works much better with some of my pedals, also which clean up with volume roll off.

    Have to say what a great guy John has been. He returns mails quickly, is not the least defensive about altering his exact schematic, and indeed has been very helpful, sending the wiring diagram and doesn't sweat the small stuff.
     
  9. kenjiwong

    kenjiwong Member

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    The looking is.............................:confused::confused::confused:
     
  10. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

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    I gather you don't like the looks? LOL
     
  11. candid_x

    candid_x Supporting Member

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    I can't answer this absolutely but this is the second guitar I've own with inserts and both had a lively and harmonically richer sound; the JP Classic considerably mo so. Having eliminated the bleed circuit, that leaves the pickups and the neck connection/inserts as the likely contributors. But there's also the "because John Page said so" factor. With his knowledge and experience I can't imagine him just making the claim up, nor designing and creating this method purely for aesthetic or novelty value.
     

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