Black Water NGD - Massive review

Discussion in 'Extended Range Guitars' started by Aghasura, Sep 17, 2013.

  1. Aghasura

    Aghasura SS.org Regular

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    BLACK WATER NDC SEMI-HOLLOW - HERE WE GO!​
    :hbang:
    **Moderators, feel free to move if a 27" scale doesn't qualify as a baritone**
    Specs:
    • 27"-24" Fanned Fret 6 string guitar
    • Semi-hollow Construction
    • Timbers: Mahogany body, African Imbuya top, Honduran Rosewood Neck (quarter sawn), Wenge board and bridge plate, Maple accoutrements (inlay, pickup covers, inlayed logo). I believe the knobs are ebony.
    • Hardware includes Black Water bridge, Black Water hand wound alnico pickups, Stainless Steel frets, Hipshot locking tuners
    • As you can see, there is a 3 way selector and two mini toggles. The three-way selector, of course, selects either neck, bridge, or middle/both. Each mini-toggle corresponds to each pickup, enabling the pickups to be individually set to series, parallel, or coil split. That means in the middle position alone, there are 9 switching options. The total number of switching options is a mind-boggling 15! Will I ever need half that? Probably not, but it's nice to know that this guitar is basically capable of anything. I'm not a blues or jazz guy, but who knows what I'll be into ten years down the road.

    **Pictures first**
    I only included one of the pictures that he took, but go here if you want to see more. His photos are far better than mine.

    [​IMG]

    **My crappy pictures**

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    General Impressions:
    I want to first point out that I did not know Aaron of Black Water Guitar Company prior to this build. We are not personal friends. At the same time, I was pleased with the transaction, and I really like Aaron as an individual. It's also my first NGD on sevenstring.org, so I'm going BIG! If you just want the pictures, here ya go! If you want more and feel like reading, have fun!

    When I first opened the case, I was stunned. The instrument, as you can see, is beautiful. Also - and I didn't know this - Imbuya smells good. Like, I'd wear it as a cologne. So I picked up the guitar and was struck by two things: (1) it's LIGHT, which one would expect with a semi-hollow design, and (2) it feels really compact. I put it up next to another guitar of 25.5" scale and the two were not appreciably dissimilar in length. Seems as if this is both because it's a 22 fret guitar and because a good portion of that 27" scale is hidden between pickups and bridge. It feels and plays much like a 25.5".

    For those of you wondering about playing a longer scale length and/or fanned frets, know that this was my first time with either, and like everybody says, the adjustment is negligible. For the first two minutes I got a little confused in the uppermost register, but I remembered reading somewhere on this forum that it's mostly a visual challenge, and if you let your hands discover the notes, it's not an issue. That definitely resonates with my experience. I can also see how challenging it would be to play fans larger than 3". This was also my first 22 fret guitar, and I usually don't like them because they feel too stubby, but this one feels just right. I love the headstock. In person, it's super compact. I took a picture with my hand next to it so you can get a sense of it.

    [​IMG]

    The neck….oh, the neck. I specified a 19mm - 21mm neck, and I'm pretty sure Aaron nailed it, but it feels slightly thinner, who knows? All I know is that it's a super comfortable, "C" shaped neck, and I made friends with it right away. It feels like a slightly thinner soloist neck to my hands. The best part is when you get to the heel. The heel carve is ridiculously good, and I was going to go the way of bolt-ons, but after this, I may ask for another set neck. The guitar resonates like crazy, but I suppose that's due, in part, to the construction. The action actually came a bit high for my taste, but I also told Aaron that I'm heavy handed, and I think I told him not to go "too low." Normally I like slightly higher actions, but for this guitar, I ended up lowering it quite a bit. I initially went too far and lowered it down to shreddster ibanez level. Although there was buzz acoustically, none was evident through the amp, and the notes did not choke. I raised it a touch, and I'm really happy with how she plays. The fretwork is absolutely solid. Mine doesn't have super jumbo frets, but they're very playable (I also don't need super jumbo frets), and they came highly polished. The trick he does with the ball ends is fantastic, and his fretwork overall is on par with some of the best I've played. Oh, the BWGC bridge design is nice. Kind of adjusts like a strat would using two 5/64 allen screws toward the forward edge of each saddle. Each saddle is spring loaded. The super cool part are the string ferrules, which is integral with the bridge, I believe.

    *I stole this one from Aaron

    [​IMG]

    Going over it with a fine tooth comb revealed lots of cool stuff. There is, like, NO separation between binding and wood. It's super impressive. The pieces of wood he used are gorgeous. The cavity plate on the back is like camo from the movie Predator. If you just glanced at the back, you probably wouldn't even see the plate. Neat trick. The carves are awesome, especially that one for the heel scallop, and the inlay work is great. The bird inlay has so many fine details, down to the individual talons. I'm guessing one has to use CNC to get an inlay like that in there. It's seamless with the board.

    *My friend and collaborator inspecting it

    [​IMG]

    The guitar is virtually perfect! The only visual blems I could see was a slight glue (?) discoloration at the juncture between the nut and the binding on the bass side. It's very minimal. I also noticed a very small (~1mm) discoloration on the binding toward the lower part of the headstock, but I can't seem to capture it with my phone. Neither bothers me in the slightest, and I tend to be a bit obsessive (as you can tell by the length of the review). If anything, it shows that it wasn't built by a machine…well, I have guitars built by machines and they even have little things on them. Anywho…the guitar is otherwise perfect. There's a bunch of little things Aaron does that kind of adds to the whole package. For instance, he added a padded area on the underside of the case lid apparently to prevent the guitar from moving around. I also noticed that theres a cutout region at the back of the case so that the strap button on the end of the guitar can nestle in there.

    *Here's my attempt to capture the nut/binding junction

    [​IMG]

    Tone-wise, it's easily the best sounding guitar I've ever played. Funny story, but when I first got it, I thought it didn't sound all that great. Turns out, I am a freaking Jamup Pro newb and forgot to unf#@k a pedal. For the first hour I was like, wtf? I'm an idiot. Removing the pedal from the signal chain was a realization.

    The sound is super open and resonant. It has some nice overtones that are kind of hard to describe. As you'll hear, it goes from growl to jangle at the flick of a switch. Please know that I'm a metal player, so forgive me for attempting anything on a clean channel. I'm not much of a blues guy. Also, I used Jamup pro > Roland cube > computer microphone, so the sound quality isn't that great. Sorry for that. Jamup pro, btw, rules.

    *This first video is just a bunch of metal stuff from one of my DM projects.
    http://db.tt/pnMorLB5

    *This second video is my attempt to show off some of the tones it can achieve. Sorry, not enough time to get all 15. :D Starts off with metal and ends with some blues and chords. I got a little sloppy toward the end (beers!). ;)

    http://db.tt/dnhI6XnN

    Customer Experience with BWGC:

    So I’ve been chomping at the bit to write this section for the past couple of months. .If you don’t want to read any further, just know that my personal experience with Aaron has been nothing short of phenomenal. .Here’s a (hopefully) brief account of my customer experience:

    When I initially reached out to Aaron (definitely call him at the shop, by the way..He invariably picks up and is super easy going) to discuss my build, I got off the phone feeling like this guy *genuinely* was excited to build my guitar. .Over the course of our discussion, my original build idea changed - I don't know - at least 10 times. Aaron didn't seem put off in the least. After the 100th change request, I felt so bad that I asked Aaron to please accept payment for any subsequent redraws he did. His reply was simply, “I’ve been told I should do that [presumably by other luthiers], but honestly, I just want you to be happy with your guitar.” .I've heard that very statement ("I want you to be happy with your guitar") at least 5 times from Aaron. That level of customer service alone made me quite happy to be working with him. .Ok, moving right along….

    So the build is to proceed as discussed…but then I get to talking with him one day about our mutual love of vintage looking designs when he shares that he had a new design. He told me what it was and I asked him if I could change my build to that one. .No problem. .Never made me feel bad about it. .Again, he seemed genuinely excited to be building me the guitar..I totally suck as a customer I learned. .Not only did I love the design, but I learned that Aaron was originally building it for himself. .I totally loved the idea of using a vintage aesthetic for modern metal. I asked if it was available. It was. ;)

    So what was my cost for being so indecisive and ambivalent and changing my build 100 times? I had to wait for other guitars to be built, other guitars that he was working on for his more well-behaved customers. .Oh well. .I was just glad the guy was still talking to me at this point. I didn’t have to wait long, because as it turns out, Aaron doesn’t sleep..Unsurprisingly, he’s .gotten through a pile of orders in what seems like an unbelievable period of time. Just glad I contacted him before the big Black Water boom. .Currently, I believe he’s now up to about a 14 month wait time, especially given his recent work with TK Instruments (which I just learned about). Anyway, so we discuss the options. .We come up with the final plan. .We go back and forth on a few options. .The entire time, Aaron was humble and modest, and just a joy to work with.
    .
    So why go to all this length to acknowledge my faults as a customer? It’s the least I could do. .Aaron has gone so far above and beyond in his customer service, and the guitar he delivered is worth so much more than what I paid, especially considering the time he spent talking things over with me. .May seem overly gushing, but I literally mention him in conversation with colleagues as an example of integrity in customer service. .Not only did I have him build my guitar, but I’m having him build my next one…and I had him build my wedding band (see below). .I offered to pay for the ring (twice), but he declined saying that he had never made one before, and he therefore couldn’t guarantee it would be of quality. .When the ring shipped in, there were two, “just in case.” .Haha. .Both were awesome.

    [​IMG]
     
  2. asfeir

    asfeir SS.org Regular

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    Sorry to be so brief after that detailed post but your guitar is absolutely gorgeous!
     
  3. mphsc

    mphsc lover of fine woods

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    Spankin and the ring is top shelf. Congrats.
     
  4. simonXsludge

    simonXsludge (((Ω)))

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    Cool review and guitar, happy NGD!
     
  5. AVH

    AVH avhguitarrepair.com Forum MVP

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    Congrats! That's a gorgeous instrument - never mind the seam by the nut, most guitars have this.
     
  6. Robby the Robot

    Robby the Robot The President Bits

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    Black Water. You now have my attention. HNGD. She's a beauty. :yesway:
     
  7. celticelk

    celticelk Enflamed with prayer

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    Damn, that's pretty. Happy NGD!
     
  8. Winspear

    Winspear Tom Winspear

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    Brilliant stuff mate great review!
     
  9. GreatWhiteYeti

    GreatWhiteYeti SS.org Regular

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    That is beautiful man. Happy NGD
     
  10. crowbar1115

    crowbar1115 SS.org Regular

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    Excellent review of a gorgeous guitar. Thanks!
     
  11. capoeiraesp

    capoeiraesp Ormsby nutter

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    If the nut is the only thing you can critique then that's friggin awesome! I just wish every luthier paid this much attention to detail.
    Congrats dude. I'm sure it'll bring you a lifetime of joy.
     
  12. Webmaestro

    Webmaestro Ibanez Fanatic Contributor

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    Amazing guitar. Grats!
     
  13. Aghasura

    Aghasura SS.org Regular

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    Thanks for the kind replies, all.

    I don't consider the nut thing a big flaw or anything. It's basically inconsequential, IMO. I just felt I wanted to be "fair" and show everything. I think this guitar is about as perfect as can be, and I'm completely obsessed with this guitar. It's clear to me that Aaron is obsessed with his craft. :)
     
  14. Lorcan Ward

    Lorcan Ward 7slinger

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    Holy crap Aaron has really stepped up his game! That guitar is amazing! Happy NGD!
     
  15. mcd

    mcd stuff and thangs

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    nice glad she made it to you. I'm not far behind on my NGD
     
  16. Aghasura

    Aghasura SS.org Regular

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    mcd: looking forward to it, man!
     
  17. Mysticlamp

    Mysticlamp Ripplesprint

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  18. Estock

    Estock SS.org Regular

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    That's a beautiful axe. I'll check his stuff out. Do you mind me asking what it set you back?
     
  19. capoeiraesp

    capoeiraesp Ormsby nutter

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    Hey! I wanna see the neck! Please.
     
  20. Señor Voorhees

    Señor Voorhees SS.org Regular

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    Gorgeous hunk o' wood you got their. Thanks for the long write up too. It's always nice to hear/see as much legit feedback as possible on something. Your customer service gushing certainly has my curiosity piqued.
     

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