NK Luminous Headless 6 String (2018 Version)

Discussion in 'Standard Guitars' started by cynicown, Mar 4, 2019.

  1. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    NK Luminous Headless

    For anyone not familiar with these guitars, they can be found on popular auction sites such as eBay and Aliexpress and come straight from China. The overall design seems to be somewhat of a cross a between Skerversen (body shape) and stranderg (headpiece shape). I'd seen a few reviews of these guitars on YouTube, and since I've always wanted a headless guitar (I pretty much idolised Paul Masvidal back in college), but didn’t feel like dropping thousands on a Strandberg, I decided to take a gamble on one of these.

    From the time of order, the guitar took roughly 6 weeks to arrive to my home in the UK. My understanding is that this is a longer lead time than average, and my wait time was extended by the factory being hit by a hurricane (or at least that's what the seller assured me was the case). Ultimately, the guitar cost me £230 and so I wasn’t particularly worried about having to wait. I ordered from Aliexpress and their buyer protection is surprisingly decent. Communication with the seller was so-so. Obviously, there is a language barrier, and often they just don't bother to reply. Despite this, they were good enough to supply me with images of the final product before shipping so that I would know what to expect on arrival.

    The guitar arrived packaged just as all guitars do that we see shipped directly from China, in polystyrene packaging and wrapped in parcel tape. It was decently wrapped and even came with a NK Guitars embroidered gig bag, which is nice bonus (although, the bag needed to be thrown in the washing machine as it was dirty....). The first thing that struck me is that the guitar was much more pink than the listing images would suggest, in which it was depicted to be more of a purple colour. Luckily, I enjoy eye catching finishes, so I'm very happy with the bright pink stained finish. The guitar is much lighter than any other in my collection and balances extremely well on a strap. One interesting thing you'll notice is the bridge pickup position, in that it's actually quite far from the bridge. To my ears, this doesnt seem to really make a great deal of difference to the sound, but the guitar does have quite a unique "twang" to it when played though an amp.

    Given that I'd paid £230 for a guitar straight from China, I'd set my expectations quite low, assuming that I'd need to put in a decent amount of work to make it playable. To my surprise, the guitar arrived with a decent setup. String action is a little higher than I'm used to past the 12th fret, but intonation was on point. The fret work is acceptable for an instrument at this price point. There are no stand out sharp fret ends (they could be much smoother than they are though), and the frets seem to be somewhat level, but could certainly do with a polish. That said, I'll have a better idea of how level the frets are when I shim the neck and drop the string action. For comparison, I’d say the fret work was much better than similarly priced Harley Benton’s I’ve owned, but maybe not as good as say my RG7321 was out of the box.

    The pre-installed pickups are extremely bright, and to my surprise the guitar came with a push pull style coil split. The way they sound actually reminds me of the DActivators I have in my Xiphos. That’s not to say that they're as good as a pair of DActivators at all. They're really not! They just have a similar top end, but way more shrill. Personally, I find the output to be a little high, and will replace them at some point, but I could easily record with them, and I doubt anyone would be able to identify the fact they aren’t branded pickups. Also worth noting, the noise level no doubt increases when the coil split is engaged, which is audible even through a clean channel.

    One key aspect of this guitar that worried me a little when ordering was the bridge. Frankly, I'd only ever seen these model bridges on these Chinese guitars, so I didn’t really know what to expect. Another surprise, but tuning stability is decent. I'd actually say this guitar holds its tuning better than the majority of guitars in my collection. That's likely down to the fact that the tuning system on this guitar is more a kin to a fine tuning system on a floating tremolo, with the interesting caveat that you use a small magnetically attached swivel style alan key to move the gears. It took a minute to get used to, but it just feels pretty normal at this point. You could easily upgrade the bridge with one of the many alternatives out there (which tend to be ridiculously expensive!), but honestly, this one feels solid, it doesn’t look cheap and it seems to be quite stable.

    Visually, I find the guitar to be quite appealing. The body is a 2-piece ash construction but doesn’t use a veneer as other reviews of guitars by the same brand has suggested. The body is painted in a way that suggests that it has a top, but it doesn’t. it's just CNC carved and finished in way that gives that appearance. None the less, I was already aware this was the case when ordering, and it looks nice. Masking is neat and the finish feels smooth. Funny enough, when having family and friends around, out of the 13 guitars in my studio, the NK is guitar that had people asking about it. The control knobs are made of wood (no idea which particular species) and they do look quite nice. I thought it was a nice little detail, although, I have seen others complain about them not being very grippy. That isn’t something I personally experienced, but other people’s experiences may vary.

    The thing that really took me by surprise is how nice the tiger striping on the neck is. I was expecting burned on faux-flame, but it appears to be legitimate flame, which moves quite a lot in the light. The neck and fretboard are separated by what appears to be a very thin piece of dark coloured wooden laminate (no idea what wood though), which is a really nice touch, and really adds to the visual appeal of the instrument. Finally, the neck features glow in the dark side dot markers, which glow quite brightly when having been exposed to bright light, but not for very long. I wouldn’t expect them to be a great lot of use in live scenario for more than a couple of songs.

    There are of course a couple of negatives to consider when buying one of these instruments and a couple of negatives I personally experienced. If something goes wrong down the line, I'd be very surprised to receive any kind of worthwhile aftersales care. You're going to be on your own with a purchase like this. If you receive it and don't like it, your options are sell it, or send it back to China at your own expense. That's a massive inconvenience, even in the best-case scenario. The only thing on the actual guitar that stood out to me as a negative is that the control cavity cover is just completely unfinished and attached with cheap little screws that look out of place. Yeah, you could sand it and swap the screws easily enough (which I will be doing), but for some people, that's all extra hassle.

    Overall, I'm very surprised with the quality of what I received, for the price that I paid. I was looking to dip my toes in the waters of headless guitars, and was expecting a guitar that would give me an idea of what to expect and that I could then sell on when if I were to eventually upgrade to something nicer like a Strandberg or a Kiesel. Having now spent quite a bit of time with the NK, I don't particularly feel as though I need to go and drop £2k+ on something from one of the established brands. That said, I do now understand the hype around headless guitars. Once you get used to how well they balance and the reduced weight, it makes other guitars feel incredibly bulky. For example, jumping between this guitar and my Ibanez JBM27 feels very odd. I always found the JBM to be well balanced and ergonomic, but it feels like a tank in comparison to the NK and is a lot less resonant.

    If you're someone looking for a super high-end instrument with all of the best hardware and a flawless finish, this isn’t it. This is undeniably a budget guitar, on which certain corners have been cut to create the illusion of something that is visually more premium than it actually is. However, if you're someone who has an interest in headless guitars and enjoys tinkering with/upgrading their guitars as I do, you'll probably enjoy the NK. I'd go as far as to call the guitar excellent value for the price. I'm confident it'll remain a permanent fixture in my collection and is currently my go to 6 string. All positives aside, buying a guitar direct from a seller in China is without doubt a gamble. Buy at your own risk!

    I don't want to waffle on too much, so If anyone has any questions, feel free to ask away.

    Cheers!
     

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  2. littlebadboy

    littlebadboy SS.org Regular

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    I've been curious and kind of wanting to have one. Thanks for the honest review!
     
  3. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    I Hope my review helps you make a more informed decision. If you do decide to buy one, I'd advise finding the one you want and checking back on a daily basis because the prices for these things seem to fluctuate massively. In the week I spent checking back on the one I eventualy bought, I saw the price fluctuate from the £230 I paid, to over £300 and back down again.
     
  4. AkiraSpectrum

    AkiraSpectrum SS.org Regular

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    Looks sexy! Love the color.
    Glad to hear your experience was overall quite positive. Definitely seems like a good choice for those wanting to check out the headless stuff without dropping big money.
     
  5. ixlramp

    ixlramp SS.org Regular

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    I was about to write 'at least the tuner knobs don't touch your thigh in classical position', but the cable still exits straight into your leg Strandberg style. But looks like a right-angled jack plug will sort that out. Body looks quite well shaped for high-angle classical position, with a curve on the right thigh.
    Seems the tuning knobs are usable without the clip-in lever which seems to be for stringing up only. Really nice tuner concept with the ball-ends at the headstock. Seems the tuners are essentially worm-drive posts just like a standard tuner.
    Nice guitar.
     
  6. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    I can confirm that's it's comfortable in standard and classical and standard position. In classical position I find it to be much more comfortable than the RG shape, which is what I'm used to. With regards to tuning, I rarely need to use the clip on lever, but the tuning knobs are stiff. You certainly can make adjustments by hand, but i wouldn't describe it as particularly comfortable doing so. The only time I use the clip on piece is when I do a full re-tune with a tuner before I record. Although, the 2019 models seem to now use individual saddles, similar to what you find on a strandberg.
     
  7. gunch

    gunch Riff Chugman

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    hngd, my 2019 finally shipped so I’m super excited to get it and see what’s up
     
  8. lewis

    lewis SS.org Regular

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    excellent colour choice! Looks great OP

    also, as a sidenote if you are interested. The Headless Hipshot bridges work perfect on these guitars. They cover up the stock bridge holes perfectly and provide enough space to drill brand new ones (without screw holes merging and being too large etc)

    I did this same mod on my Strandberg copy which had this exact bridge from stock
     
  9. Wolfhorsky

    Wolfhorsky Regular idiot

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    Mine was shipped today. I will wait about 1-2 weeks. I hope mine will be as nice as Yours. HNDG !!!
     
  10. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    Awesome to know! I had wondered about it, but I haven't really felt the need to replace the bridge. Hopefully, it holds up over time! I think one thing on mine really worth replacing will be the nut. Would love to see people modding
    these guitars!
     
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  11. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    I hope all works out!!
     
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  12. cynicown

    cynicown SS.org Regular

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    The 2019 models look great! I'm kinda holding out for them to do a 7 string model with the single bridge pieces and then I'll definitely grab another. Hope yours arrives looking killer!
     
    gunch and lewis like this.
  13. Dawn of the Shred

    Dawn of the Shred Scoop the Mids and Chug

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    Congrats and HNGD
     

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