This is my first meeting with a Caparison guitar and the first time I've looked down to see 27 frets at my disposal! Caparison guitars are designed by Itaru Kanno, a former Charvel/Jackson designer, and are hand made in Japan. Currently they're the favoured guitars used by Killswitch Engage, Symphony X and Mattias Eklundh among others - so it's no surprise then that these guitars are targeted for the more Rock and Metal type players among us.
Much appreciated they are (we reviewed a Horus model very favourably in issue 11) but there's no escaping the fact that Japanese hand manufacturing doesn't come cheap (and why should it?) so it's good news that the Caparison company has a new, less expensive, range on offer - the C2 series. Our guitar on review is an HRG-QD from the C2 range in a very pretty trans blue burst.
Our review guitar came optioned with a quilted maple veneer on the body and headstock, which is purely a cosmetic consideration rather than a tonal one. The main tone wood for this guitar is mahogany and, as we know, a mahogany body with a maple cap is a great combo, as every Les Paul owner will tell you, but the maple on this Caparison is just a very thin veneer and is not substantial enough to qualify as a tone wood. But it does look great and certainly gives a high quality appearance to the guitar. Obviously, without the optional extra veneer, the Caparison would be cheaper to buy and some players may prefer the more workmanlike appearance of the plain mahogany option.
Pickups are DiMarzios, with a mini 'Tone Zone' at the neck and an 'Air Norton' at the bridge. Great for high gain and nice and quiet. The three position Schaller pick up selector gives a nice Strat-like tone when you combine both pickups in the centre position. There is a single CTS volume pot positioned nicely where you want it, and there is no tone pot to complicate things 'mid shred'!
The Caparison's bolt on neck is very comfortable, but not the typical slim flat speed neck that would move at the first sign of a temperature change! In fact it has a nice substantial C profile and feels great. The set-up and action on this guitar seems just right too, with a nice slick low action, but substantial enough frets to get your fingers under the string for big bends. I did notice that the string spacing is slightly closer than I am usually used to but you soon get used to it, and every note on this guitar is nice and clear, so even though the action is low, each note still rings. The string spacing is probably due to locking R3 Floyd nut, rather than the slightly wider R4 nuts used on my old Valley Arts guitars.
With 27 frets to play with, the HRG-QD has something most other guitars don't, in that if your fingers are nimble enough, you can play in some very high registers indeed. This is not just a gimmick and is in fact a usable feature. I have a couple of guitars that have 24 frets, but having the extra three could definitely have its uses. The neck is topped off by the very distinctive 'Devils Tail' headstock.
The only disappointment I had with this guitar was finding that it came with the license-built Floyd Rose 'Special', which has zinc alloy components rather than the hardened steel used in the German manufactured Floyds. Zinc alloy is softer than hardened steel and isn't good for durability. The Floyd special also has a zinc sustain block rather than the resonant brass one on the Floyd original. Again, zinc alloy is softer and cheaper than brass, and because the Floyd Special has the trem springs set in grooves on the zinc block, you cannot set your springs at an angle to tweak the 'feel' of the trem. You can understand why Caparison has chosen a cheaper Floyd Special as it does keep the overall cost of the guitar down, but for me it's a compromise, and this isn't a cheap guitar.
That said, the trem as it comes works fine, and with the black painted body recess behind it, you can do some crazy pull ups that measure six or seven semitones on the G string. The arm did still have a tiny amount of play in it, even though I tightened the sleeve fully, which makes the subtle Jeff Beck style trem use a little more tricky but not impossible.
Overall, this is a nice great playing and sounding guitar, and due to it being slightly rarer, it's probably cooler than your average 'big brand' instrument. It certainly makes a statement with its 27 frets and Devil's Tail headstock. It's also pitched in a higher price bracket due to the craftsmanship and genuine hand finishing involved, which is fine and well justified, but coming loaded with the Korean cousin of a German Floyd Rose, may be a consideration for some of us serious trem users out there. One nice note to end on - the guitar comes with a high quality Reunion Blues case - which is good touch.