Review: Soloway LN6

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by jzucker, Mar 3, 2006.

  1. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    FYI; I am *NOT* an endorser for Soloway guitars and am not affiliated in any way with the Soloway guitar company. I just wanted to state that up front lest I be accused of writing ad copy for Jim Soloway's instruments.

    I haven't been this excited in a long time. I just took possession of a Soloway Swan LN6. For those of you not familiar with these guitars, they are unique in that they have a 27" scale. This put me off for quite a long time and even though I was very interested in these guitars, I thought that I couldn't handle the longer scale. Mainly because I have small hands and do a lot of closed voicings with half-steps.

    It turns out that the long scale is a non issue for me. The longer scale seems to only effect the first 2 frets. From the 3rd fret on, it's like a 25.5" scale guitar. (I haven't done the math but that's what it feels like to me). Even on the first and second frets, I don't feel like I have to do a lot of stretching or tensing of my fingers in order to reach notes. Part of that is the ergonomic way in which the guitar is designed. The way the cutouts in the body fit you when you're sitting or standing, the entire neck of the guitar is accessable without you having to stretch. I had kind of imagined it to feel like a bass guitar which is uncomfortable for me but instrument doesn't feel that way at all.

    Jim Soloway had explained to me that with the Limba body and Koa top, my guitar was among the heavier guitars that he's built. Heavy turns out to be a relative term though because this guitar weighs about 6.5 LBS. Apparently, the ash versions weigh 1 to 1.5 LBS less.

    Another reason it took me so long to try one of these guitars is that I've always been bugged by guitars that are neck heavy and with the deep cutaway on the treble side along with the light weight of the instrument, I figured it was a recipe for disaster. Again, it turns out that Jim has already thought about this. By moving the horn of the upper bout towards the peghead, it shifts the center of gravity just enough to make the instrument PERFECTLY balanced.

    How does it sound? AMAZING. The only way I can describe it. For clean tones, the notes ring out and remind me of Ted Greene. Ted Greene accomplished this sound with heavy strings and very low tunings on a 25.5" scale guitar. With the Soloway, I can get that tone with standard strings (.011-.049 plain 3rd) and standard tuning. I can only imagine what it would sound like with .013 strings and tuned down a step or two. (In fact, I plan to try that soon)

    It's also got a very versatile pickup configuration with a 5 way switch and various combinations of series/parellel switching to give you single coil type sounds. Very cool and every pickup setting sounded great.

    Lately, I have been playing a lot of solo acoustic guitar and incorporating slapping, popping and tapping into my playing. This guitar sounds fabulous for that type of stuff. I plan on using this guitar for my SOS III (slapping/popping book and video). (Not kidding about that)

    Just for fun, I plugged the guitar into a Rockytop JTM-45 head through a THD 2x12 cab with Eminence Read White and Blues speakers and a Zendrive. Let me tell you, this guitar is also a rock and roll and blues BEAST. It just screams and twangs like you wouldn't believe. It reminded me a little of Robben Ford's tone but spankier. This guitar would be perfect for blues, fusion, classic rock, or jazz. It's easily the most versatile instrument I've ever played.

    Of course, the drawback to all this is that my mind is turning a million miles an hour...
    WHAT IF...
    • WHAT IF I had a spruce top with a mahogany back, mahogany neck?!?
    • WHAT IF I had a maple top with a mahogany back, mahogany neck?!?
    • WHAT IF I had an ash body, maple neck?
    • WHAT IF I had an ash body, maple neck, rosewood fingerboard?
    Anyway, if you want to look at the guitar or see what features it has, here is the relevant info:
    http://www.jimsoloway.com/InStock.htm
    Koa/Black Limba LN6
    http://www.solowayguitars.com/JTColor.PDF
    Features:
    • Koa top, Black Limba back
    • Three-piece maple neck
    • Nitrocellulose finish on body and neck
    • Three ply binding on body & sound hole (Iveroid with black/white purfling)
    • Chrome Hardware
    • Cocobolo Fingerboard with high contrast side markers
    • Sea Snail position markers with surrounding brass dots
    • DiMarzio PAF Classic (neck) and Air Zone (bridge)
    • 5 way pickup switch (Three humbucking and two split positions)
    • Rosewood truss rod cover with inlaid swan
    Jack Zucker
    www.sheetsofsound.net
     
  2. Dan Desy

    Dan Desy Supporting Member

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    Very cool Jack, but I knew you'd dig it. :)

    Is that the guitar from the JazzTimes review? I have played it and it is really nice.

    See what I mean about the scale now? ;)
     
  3. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    Yep, the jazz times guitar. And you're absolutely right about the scale. :AOK
     
  4. leond

    leond Supporting Member

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    Congrats Jack.

    I've been playing a Soloway for almost two years now. It's made all my other guitars obsolete. It's not that they don't still sound good. It's that they don't have the tone, feel and vibe that the Swan has.

    The only thing from making Jim a very, very busy boy is the fact that more people haven't played his guitars.

    Enjoy the guitar,
    LeonD
     
  5. drummondrs

    drummondrs Member

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    Very nice looking. I would bite the bullet if they did a maple board. I am sure they will do that soon enough though, so its only a matter of time.
     
  6. Jon Silberman

    Jon Silberman 10Q Jerry & Dickey Gold Supporting Member

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    You won't be accused of hyperbole by me, Jack. I got to play a bunch of Swans at the Philly show this year. They live up to all the hype and you're right, while 27" sounds intimidating, they play like butter. :)
     
  7. SAVROHR

    SAVROHR Member

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    Any thoughts on Swan's with a H-S-S configuration?
     
  8. Srini

    Srini Guest

    Congratulations! I played one at a guitar show in California this summer, and I know exactly what you mean. The only reason I didn't walk away with the one that I bonded with big time was the thin neck - my personal preference leans towards huge fat necks.

    You are correct in that the scale length is really a non issue, and is a huge plus. And there's so much attention to detail on that guitar its mind boggling.

    Enjoy the guitar!

    Srini
     
  9. atquinn

    atquinn Supporting Member

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    You mean like this one?

    [​IMG]
     
  10. Dan Desy

    Dan Desy Supporting Member

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    That guitar is insanely cool! :dude

    But so far, my favorite Swan is still...

    [​IMG]
     
  11. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    Sorry to be so late to the party. I ended up spending the entire day with this. It's our first lefty and after nine months, it finally shipped out today.

    [​IMG]

    Jack, I'm thrilled to see your response. It's a wonderful thing when someone gets their hands on one of our guitars for the first time and really gets what we're trying to do. I'm dying to hear what it can do in your hands. The one thing I'm not at all surprised by is your response to the longer scale length. Everyone is always affraid of the 27 inch scale length, but with all of the people who've played them, I doubt if more than two or three ever found it to tbe a struggle.

    Drummondrs, there are going to be a few maple boards in the next batch, so you won't have to wait very long.

    SAVROHR, we've done three guitars with a Hum/Sing/Sing configuration, two solids and one chambered (both of the solids were also trems). I have mixed feelings about them. That's not a configuration that I've ever been attracted to as a player, but I had several requests for it so we gave it a shot using Lollar pickups. I certainly enjoyed the two and four positions, but the people to ask about that setup are probably CliffC and Ben Fargen. Cliff owns the chambered HSS and Ben spent most of NAMM playing the solid body show in this thread. We had eight guitars there and he had his choice of any of them, so that should tell you a lot.
     
  12. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    Jim,

    How about an alder solid body with 3 dimarzio VV pickups, maple neck, rosewood board, and a hollow mahogany, spruce top, maple, ebony? :)
     
  13. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    The alder solid body with 3 VV's is certainly doable with no problem. If you mean a full hollow with the mahogany, I'd be very concerrned about the balance. Without the center block, I'd be affraid of neck diving. If you mean a chambered body with that wood combo, sure no problem.
     
  14. DestroyAllGuitars

    DestroyAllGuitars Member

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    SAVROHR,

    Here is a shot of my chambered Flamed Swamp Ash HSS. It's Swan #7 for
    my studio and I'm having serious trouble putting this one down.

    [​IMG]

    I'm so glad to see others discovering the beauty of the tone these
    magnificent guitars and the benefits of the 27 inch scale around which
    they were designed. By mixing different top tone woods with various
    pickup configurations, I've been able to cover a massive amount of ground
    with sounds that are bigger, better and more beautiful than ever before.
    I first suggested the HSS to Jim in an email dating back to 5/2005, and
    I'm so thrilled that it is here.
     
  15. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    Yeah, I'm talking about a chambered body instrument. Your design kind of throws me for a loop in terms of what I think are the classic design implementations but in a standard scale instrument, I think there are 3 or 4 combinations that yield classic results.

    • Mahogany/Maple body, Mahogany/Rosewood neck&fb (LP,335, Baker,175, etc)
    • Alder body, maple/rosewood neck&fb (SRV & classic strats)
    • Ash body, maple neck&fb (classic Tele)
    • maple body, spruce top, maple/ebony neck&fb (L5, Guild X500)

    I think chambers work in your instruments where they don't work so well in some instruments because the extra neck length and your body design make the guitar balance properly. I can't stand playing a standard chambered strat or tele because they are neck-heavy. Your design solves that problem. I've also noticed a lack of fundamental and sustain when using chambers or semi-hollow with a small body like a strat or tele. Again, the design of your instruments solves those issues.

    You might consider adding an SRV neck profile option because for guys like me who grew up with big necks, we not only like long necks and big bottoms but we like more than a handful too!
     
  16. bluesdoc

    bluesdoc Gold Supporting Member Gold Supporting Member

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    Welcome to the clan, Jack. I'm in my 8th month with EO77 and the honeymoon never ended. As someone else said, it's made my other guitars superfluous. Jim and I have spoken about a strat SSH pup/switching ax with trem so I can just sell off my strats....... :eek:. No matter how much I play my other guitars that have meant a lot to me in the past, nothing does what the Swan does, and the feel is like coming home. Despite having good sized hands, I really prefer the thinner neck. Just works better for me. Mine has the Bluesbucker pups and they sing or rock, whatever I need. Mine has the claro walnut top without and F hole and I'd like to think that's a bit better for all out rock, which is more of what I use this ax for. btw, I have 9s on mine. They feel like 10s and work perfectly for me. I usually use 9.5s on my other guitars.

    As Cliff said to me before I took the plunge, this guitar is an evolutionary step in guitar design/function. Yeah, but what does Cliff know ??:D :D :dude :RoCkIn

    And through my Fargen........... fuggetaboutit :BEER


    jon
     
  17. jzucker

    jzucker Supporting Member

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    I'm going to look into replacing my SRV strat with one of Jim's guitars. With the big frets and the 16" radius, I can bend the .011-.049 strings on his 27" scale as if they were .010s on my SRV strat. I would want an alder body, maple neck, rosewood board and 3 dimarzio pickups. I've been using the V 2.1 in the neck and middle and a V 2 Neck in the bridge position. My favorite overall pickups. They funk like nobody's business and still get the jimi and srv tones.

    I'm thinking this guitar would be the ultimate funk machine for snapping, popping and touch playing.

    Perhaps a spruce top, mahogany back to replace my archtop. I'm afriad I'm hooked... :)
     
  18. 8nthatK

    8nthatK Supporting Member

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    I was fortunate to get to play a Swan guitar Jim was sending around...

    Jim's guitars are amazing! I haven't heard a better sounding guitar, period. That scale length is really doing something interesting and different, a whole bunch of harmonic goodness. I played that thing for hours without even plugging in.

    I'm still scrunging stuff to sell to finance a Swan, I'm a big believer, I want one soooo bad. At first the neck threw me for a loop, but after a few days with it it was like butter. If I hadn't had already bought a Suhr before trying the Swan, I'd be picking one now, oh well, it'll be worth the wait.
     
  19. Vince

    Vince Member

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    Jim's designs are gorgeous and from the looks of the shots he does immaculate work. I'm really looking forward to getting ahold of one sometime.

    Nice work Jim.
     
  20. Jim Soloway

    Jim Soloway Supporting Member

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    Thanks Vince and all.

    It's always hard to break new ground and being an incredibly stubborn SOB, I haven't been willing to make many compromises. So it's incredibly rewarding to me (and more than a little surprising) to see the success that's been coming our way. It seems to come in waves and the past week has been amazing. We shipped four more guitars, finished our first lefty, and added Indoor Storm as a dealer, all since Monday.

    Our guitars are obviously not for everyone. Not only do they look different, but with the the longer scale length, they feel different, and most importantly they sound different. I really can't explain how wonderful it feels when someone plays one of our guitars for the first time and just gets it. So thanks to all for the faith and courage it takes to follow a new path.
     

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