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Review - Luxxtone El Machete 22

Scott Peterson

Global Moderator
Moderator
Review - Luxxtone El Machete 22

I got a chance to have a running review with a Luxxtone El Machete 22. I jumped at the chance and picked this one out at the LA Amp and Guitar show in October of 2012. A few weeks later, it was at my door and in the mix for live shows. It was great to meet all the principle Luxxtone people at the show after knowing them from the web for years. These are good people - Rob and Dave with builder Jerry Bizon. These are primarily sold through Tone Merchants. Solid people, solid shop.

(*Note - I will be doing a video demo of this guitar).

Here are the specs on this specific guitar:

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Some Pictures:
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The Luxxtone El Machete 22

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Body - Front

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Headstock - Front

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Body - Detail

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Fret Finish - Note the attention to detail

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Headstock back - Tone Pro Kluson Repro tuners

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Body Detail - Back

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Floyd Rose - note the brass block

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Neckplate

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Finish makes it look sloppy; I assure you the fit and craftsmanship are anything but sloppy. No gaps.



General Observations:

I was attracted to this guitar in particular because of a few different reasons. I grew up and came of age in the 80's. I was a Kramer USA owner (I had a USA Nightswan), but loved the Charvels and especially the San Dimas versions of those guitars. They were the top of the player's players back then in terms of guitars. Oiled necks, quality parts and playability off the charts on the best of them from that period. I love the body shape, the feel... and yes the Floyd. This guitar is a product of that heritage directly, but only takes the best of those sorts of attributes and marries them with the best hardware, electronics and options available today on an American built guitar. It's like a modern take on a throwback design without the need for nostalgia. It's a player's guitar.

This guitar featured a P90 in the neck; that's just a great idea that I thought would either be a great success or a terrible failure... luckily, IMHO, it's a total success. The fatness and attitude of the P90, while retaining the chime of a single coil with the volume backed down is a killer match for the hot PAF style humbucker. Motor City is making great pickups; these are great examples of what they are doing.

The Floyd Rose. It comes with it's own set of pro's and con's. You either love them or hate them. I won't debate the point; it's still one of the most responsive, dependable and usable trem designs available. Depending on what you do as a player, the Floyd of course has major considerations you have to be aware of - if you set it up to be free-floating and you break a string, you go to jail for killing the guitar in a live setting; no drop tuning unless you block the or partially block the bridge (even the D-Tuna is a compromise of its own design, you cannot be free floating with it); in free float you need to account for 'warble' if you play hard; double-stops are problematic because the depending on the number of springs (this guitar has three) you have issues with 'give' when you bend; and likewise related issues to bending notes creates pull on the bridge and you have to account on the fly for that in relation to the other strings. Some players find that they have to alter their picking motion to account for the fine tuners on the bridge itself. Resting your hand on the bridge presents all sorts of issues with the warble and tuning.

The advantages to the Floyd design are well known - it stays in tune, with the brass block it rings like a bell, it's very responsive to even the smallest of work with the bar. Oh, and far from last or least - they are fun.

Playability and Tones

Part of the attraction of the San Dimas 'thing' is the oiled necks, the volume (no tone) pot, the Floyd. These are straight up, straight ahead rock and roll machines. This is a great example of it; the quarter-sawn medium depth C-shape neck with the compound radius and jumbo frets is immaculate with regards to fret finishing and playability. It's a player's machine, plays like a player's machine and was setup to perfection. I didn't have to tweak anything but a slight adjustment on the truss rod coming from the west coast to Michigan. It's been perfectly stable since that initial adjustment by me through the change of season here in Michigan. That's no small feat and speaks to the materials used.

Even with such a simple electronics setup - a three way pickup selector and a volume pot - the range and versatility (due in no small part to the P90) is far beyond what it might appear from first glance. You can get shimmering cleans from any good amp by just turning down the guitar's volume. The MC Detroiter humbucker - a hot vintage PAF type from MC - is great. Doesn't get congested when pushing hard and can be rolled off for great tones. Has a nice bite to it without any shrillness.

This is a player’s machine. If you have a soft spot in your heart for the San Dimas sort of setup, this guitar is a wonderful player’s tool. It is a shredder’s dream with the jumbo frets, low action and Floyd Rose; but what’s most surprising to me overall is just how this specific guitar rings. You can approach playing it in any number of manners and it responds beautifully. My notes and other guitarist’s comments about playing this guitar read like a mash-up of a super strat and a Les Paul of the highest strata - “smooth”, “rings”, “huge range of tones”; “exceptional response to dynamic picking and fingers”, “massive crunch”, “P90 dirty/clean has attitude”; “surprising chime - did not expect to get that from a guitar of this design or construction - impressive”; “freaky sustain”.

Fit and Finish

This is a premium level professional instrument. The materials and craftsmanship are first rate. The quarter sawn neck is stable, comfortable, playable and the compound radius on the fretboard - combined with the jumbo frets - makes most any style of playing smooth as silk. It's attention to detail is evident in every aspect of the instrument build. The neck pocket has no gap at all. The frets are wonderfully finished and buffed to perfection. The fretboard has an extremely comfortable shoulder; I for one am exceptionally picky about that (often working on my own guitars with MicroMesh to 'fix' this to my liking) but no such work needed here at all. The Kluson/Tone Pros tunes are a great vintage looking tuner, but are stable and quality hardware (though rendered someone superfluous by the Floyd Rose).

The "aged" finish obviously bears some discussion. On the neck, I'm all for it. They essentially age it by toning the oil; it has a darker 'lived in look' but is pristine - no dents, dings or 'rubs' on it. The body is another story. LOL. I'll be upfront - I'm not a 'relic' guy; from an aesthetic point of view... it's not my thing. As executed here, it's either love it or hate it. If you look at the spec sheet, they bursted the finish, then put white on it and then aged it. The wear isn't how or where my actual guitars from the 80's have wore... (and yes, I still own my main guitar from the 80's... which happens to be white) but it does add a kitschy vibe to the whole affair that other guitar players have commented favorably on when I let them check this guitar out. More *un*knowledgeable people (aka, non-musicians) asked me how old the "POS" guitar was. LOL. If I were to order a guitar like this, I personally would just get a solid color... but that's my taste. The beat up finish sort of won me over because it is truly interesting - they do clear coat it over all the wear so it isn't susceptible to the environment. I suspect that this aspect of the guitar is perhaps the biggest talking point about it from afar... but one thing that Luxxtone does offer is that 'comfortable' lived-in thing; the guitar does not feel or sound like it has to be broken in - it is comfortable right out of the box.

Impressions

On first glance, you see a beat to hell San Dimas Charvel looking guitar with an interesting pickup setup. I loved the way this guitar feels; it just fits. The way this particular design took a 25.5" scale guitar and set it so deep on the body (towards the butt end) always felt right to me even as a kid. Still does. It just sits right when you play sitting down; it lets your left arm not be extended out when playing standing up. It's a player's guitar; and it’s a beast of machine that can do far more than just shred. I’m not a shredder; but I had a ball with this guitar. Of course you can fall into the cliched dive bombs and wiggle stick theatrics (who can resist?) but what really surprised me was the chime and ring; sustain like a hard tail. I love the 22 fret neck; love the feel and 'broken in' shoulders to the fretboard. Perfectly finished fretwork is the mark of a premium instrument; and this one has craftsmanship that belies it's "POS" look. The pickups chosen are killer - great for many musical styles but hugely versatile beyond what you'd expect from a guitar of this design. The bridge humbucker - the MC Detroiter - is a sweet hot PAF with lots of character. The P90 is very responsive to the volume pot and yeilds all sorts of unique flavors. You could do anything from pop, Americana, blues, country, rock (of all stripes and colors) up through higher gain 90's alt-rock. Metal? You'd probably opt for hotter output pickups and the P90 would not be useful in that format.

The Bourns 95 volume pot is smooth, very musical taper and a great choice. I like it so much I am contemplating using it on my other guitars... just a solid fluid volume pot. The pickup selector switch is solid and dependable.

The Floyd is a premium Floyd, that functions as you'd hope a Floyd to do. It's a nice quality brass block and tuning stability and 'return to zero' are flawless with it. As long as you are comfortable with the FR design and function; it will fit like a glove. The guitar - with the Floyd in a free-floating setup - sustains like crazy and rings like a bell. I love the sustain from this guitar and the brass block has a lot to do with it I suspect. It's held tune remarkably well with the temperature changes here in Michigan even through some stupid 80's dive-bombing live on the gig. Hey, you gotta have some fun... right? ;)

The hand built in the USA guitar that can be ordered built to spec and has a range of unique finishes from solid guys and a solid backing is important to note. This guitar - or any of their guitars and bass - can be ordered in any number of iterations - solid tail, vintage trem, Floyd - and the art finishes are one of a kind, funky and very hip.

Some Follow-Up Questions/Answers to David Turner at Luxxtone:


  • I know you are known for the unique finishes and 'wear' finishes - but can these be ordered in more standard finishes too? Yes, non relic and standard finishes are available as well
  • What is the selling price of this guitar (El Machete 22 #15 (and range of prices (or starting prices)) of the guitars? Starting price for all models right now is $2,499. #15 is $2,650 - Dual color finish.
  • What sort of lead time can someone ordering a Luxxtone expect? 10-12 weeks
  • Are these available through Tone Merchants exclusively? No, King Guitar, Destroy All Guitars as well as direct.
  • I see that some are store stock orders; but are you more a custom order specialty builder or do you have these in stock at Tone Merchants (elsewhere?) too? We are building stock now for other dealers. But yes, most of our orders to date have been custom.

Conclusion

The guys at Luxxtone are solid - they've been around the industry, have a name and are not a 'new' pop-up. I have faith in them and their stability. That they stand behind their work and have no issues allowing me to do a no-holds barred review says a lot.

This guitar is a player's machine. Every component down to the choice of the volume pot is premium in every way. The guitar is stable - quality materials and honest real craftsmanship to be had here. A Made-In-The-USA guitar that can be custom ordered to your personal preference for well under $3000 is notable. It plays like you'd expect for that sort of price tag; the fact that it has so much ring and sustain and 'sweetness' to it when you roll off the volume and get into the P90 both in combo with the humbucker and on it's own was surprising. Other guitarists that I've let play this all comment on how comfortable it is, how easy it is to play and all have said that the feel was outstanding. The attention to detail on important items on a guitar of this design - the neck pocket, the fret crowning and finishing, the remarkable setup right out of the box, the stability of the neck through seasonal humidity and climate changes - all are expected at this price point and the Luxxtone delivers. The finish on this specific guitar is in the eye of the beholder; but the guitar itself is a stellar example of what a rock-n-roll machine should be all about.

I can highly recommend looking at Luxxtone if you are in market. Very impressive instrument here, very impressive indeed.
 

barhrecords

Axe-Master
Scott,

Thanks for taking the time to post this review.

I was looking forward to reading this ever since you first mentioned these guitars.

I am/was a San Dimas fan too.

Richard
 
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