Review of Zachary Z2 # 010902 by Ludwik K. Trejdosiewicz, PhD, Leeds, UK

Features: 9

There are rubbish guitars, mediocre guitars, good guitars, great guitars - and Zachary guitars. Every Zachary is hand-built, every Zachary is different. They are not "custom instruments" insofar as they are not built to a customer's specifications - they are Alex's instruments. He makes them like this because he believes this is the right way to make guitars. These are stripped-down performance machines.

The best way to describe this one is to look at the accompanying photos. It is the guitar Alex himself played for a while, with a 24-fret maple neck, extending deep into the body, a striking spalted maple top and a mahogany back. I chose a bolted neck design after much dithering between this baby and the similar set-neck 050602 as a tight wood-to-wood joint arguably transmits sound better than glue.

A tremendous amount of thought has gone into this guitar. It's full of innovations, such as the straight "Samurai" headstock, low-friction nut, recessed lightweight tuners and unique Kent Armstrong-made "Zach Attack" humbuckers mounted soapbar-style. These pickups are powerful, voiced for clarity, richness and articulation, rather than ultra-high output. The bridge is a fully adjustable ABM Wilkinson type strings-thru-body design. Controls are dead simple: volume, 3-way selector switch and a coil-tap switch. The switches operate with satisfying precision. The control cavity cover is made of wood.

This Z2 has a huge, fat neck which doesn,t cramp up my hand the way slim-tapered necks can. I believe this is the widest and flattest Zachary neck made, which suits my big hands perfectly. It has an extended (26-inch) scale, jumbo frets, a silky-smooth Pau Ferro fingerboard and the trademark Zachary dot-position markers in contrasting wood. Neat, elegant and effective. The contoured body is small and light and the finish is oil and wax so warm and sensuous to the touch.

So why a score of 9? Only because it has no tone control (I'm trying to be objective). I like to back off the treble for that overdriven "woman tone". Although it,s wired so that the tone darkens when the volume is backed off, this is of no help overdrive. I guess the solution would be to replace the volume pot with a concentric tone and volume, so as not to spoil the purity of the design but I'm reluctant to mess about with perfection.

Sound: 10

Unplugged, it,s like a semi-acoustic for volume and resonance no need for headphones for quiet practice! Put through the clean channel, it has an airy voice with complex overtones and rich, sparkling harmonics. A wide range of sounds are available, from warm and intimate, through mellow, to Strat "quack" with sharp attack and ringing sustain. Notes are clear, full and musical. Simply magic.

Overdrive on a tube amp brings a spectrum of blues, rock and metal sounds. From fat crunch chords to wailing or searing lead and screaming harmonics it's all there. Yet every note stays clear and articulate, even on maximum overdrive. The sustain is astonishing and this baby sings like no other. Parisian Walkways no problem, even at low volume!

Obviously, it won,t do everything. It,s probably not bassy enough for nu-metal, nor plummy enough for some jazz guitarists. The bass is too tight and focussed for anyone looking for that thick Les Paul sound.

Action, Fit, & Finish: 10

Alex's obsession with detail and shines through. This guitar is made and finished to the highest standards with nanometric precision where it matters, using top-quality components. The neck is dead straight and set for minimal relief, the jumbo frets are nicely rounded at the edges and polished, the intonation is spot-on, and the action is ultra-fast and low. This is probably the fastest, slickest neck I've ever played. I've never had to adjust anything and I don't expect I ever will.

The guitar came with a top-quality fitted hard case.

Reliability/Durability: 10

This is made to last. Absolutely rock-solid. No worries about neck-breaks with this baby. No worries about lacquer chips, either. It arrived in the UK from Canada in the middle of winter in almost perfectly tune, it,s been played every day for the past 4 months (it even went on holiday with me) and it still hardly ever needs tuning, no matter how outrageously the strings are bent.

It's the perfect gigging guitar. Simple controls and no worries about anything breaking or it going out of tune. It,s very comfortable sitting and divine strapped on. It weighs 6lbs, but it doesn't feel it, so good is the balance.
If were gigging for a living, I would have a backup (paranoia!) which would have to be another Z2.

Customer Support: 10

Alex really cares about his guitars and provides very comprehensive instructions about setup and aftercare (not that it needs any). He,s friendly, helpful and responds promptly to emails. A far cry from the usual dealer and mass-production guitar factory. I can't imagine ever having a problem with this guitar, but I,m sure that if I did, Alex would help sort it out.

Overall Rating: 10

I've been playing for more years than I care to count, with strong neoclassic leanings. I've owned many guitars over the years and tried many others, from Ibanez to various PRS models. Some I've liked and bought, a few I've kept.

I currently own 2 Gibson Explorers - a Gothic and an ,83 model with Gibson/Kahler trem upgraded to coil-tapped John Birch Magnums, a scalloped neck custom-order Fender Strat ,57 RI and a collection of Brit axes - a Gordon Smith GS2 (the "British Gibson, but my least favourite), an unusual hand-made 1970's Pack Leader walnut thru-neck with DiMarzio Super Distortions, a 1980,' Overwater with a mahogany thru-neck and Bill Lawrence L500s, a maple set-neck John Birch "fretless wonder LP" with Magnums and a 1992 Patrick Eggle Berlin Plus, which is every bit as good, if not better, than any PRS I've compared it to. I play through a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL all-tube amp. I occasionally use a Zoom 707II multi-FX for fun, usually into a PA rig to eliminate amplifier/speaker colouration.

My all-time all-round favourite? The Zachary. No question. I really enjoy playing my other axes, but not after the Zachary. What sets the Z2 apart is its feel, subtlety and responsiveness. It's so alive. This is the most expressive guitar I,ve ever played. If I could only have the one, this would be it.

I have seen a review that compares a Zachary unfavourably to a PRS. This is like comparing a limo to a sports car. The Zachary Z2 is the Porsche GT2 of the guitar world. No frills, no ornaments, no gimmicks just rock-solid precision, superb build quality, utter reliability, awesome performance and ultimate responsiveness.

And, like a Porsche, it won't suit everyone and it's not for beginners. But, given the effort and commitment, it,s very, very rewarding. It's the shredders dream. I can honestly say that no other guitar has helped advance my techniques and my musical horizons like the Z2.
If you want an ornament to hang on the wall look elsewhere. If you are serious about playing guitar you have to try a Zachary.

If it were stolen, I would be devastated. As soon as I'd finished cursing the thief to the far ends of the Universe, I'd contact Alex for another.

Builder: Alex Csiky, Zachary Guitars, 2298 Everts Ave., Windsor, Ontario, Canada N9B 3W7 Telephone: (519) 250-6155

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