I was quite excited when I was asked to write a review for this guitar — a one-off custom — because I was already quite familiar with it. Having played it on a number of different occasions including at an ‘Ormsby Meat-up,’ (a bunch of dudes showing off their guitars and eating lots of manly stuff), at the Melbourne Guitar Makers Festival and at the NAMM Show (where it impressed Ola Englund, a man who knows a good guitar when he sees it), it was nice to finally get some on-on-one time.
This particular guitar was built by Perry Ormsby in 2014, and it’s truly stunning in person. The top is an actual sheet of oxidised copper, which gives it a really striking look especially alongside the ‘Pale Moon’ ebony fretboard. The body itself is made of swamp ash, thinner than usual and chambered, giving this guitar an incredibly light feel. It feels like it’s practically floating on air, and has tremendous sustain and resonance. The set neck is made of Tasmanian black wood with ebony slices, and the side dots are aluminium rings with blue glow resin inside to make it easy to figure out where you are on a dark stage. The pickups are a pair of Ormsby humbuckers: a Nunchucker with an Alnico 8 magnet in the bridge position, and a De La Creme with an Alnico 2 magnet in the neck.
The controls and tuners are by Hipshot, and there’s a coil split for when you need it. The frets are jumbo stainless steel, and they’re fanned — in other words the scale length on the lowest string is longer for a tighter feel and punchier tone, while the scale of the thinnest string is the shortest for slinkier bends. This also lets you intonate the guitar better, and although it may look odd if you’re not used to it, your hands will adjust in a matter of minutes. You’ll find that it’s extremely ergonomic: your hand naturally fits into the spread of the frets and it feels completely normal very quickly.
The pickups sound great. The De La Creme has a PAF-like tone which responds with a vowel- like sweep with heavy pick attack; dig in and you’ll get lots of upper-midrange harmonics, but pick softer and the tone darkens up in a musical way. Play clean and you’ll notice lots of character (notice how some humbuckers tend to get a bit ‘meh’ when you play them clean? Not this one). As for the Nunchucker, it’s powerful, fat and hot, but with plenty of attack, and while the low-end feels quite full, it’s still quite tight and chunky which is great for fast riffs. One of my favourite tricks with this pickup is to perform an oblique bend (where you hold one note steady while bending another) and hearing the shifting harmonic overtones screaming out. It’s addictive. You can blast the gain through the roof, and the guitar’s voice is so bold and assertive that it’ll maintain its original character. And again, the clean tones are distinctive and punchy, with some nice upper-end chime in single coil mode. The tighter low-string scale length even makes it a great guitar for country licks.
This is a world-class guitar that provides a great example of what Perry Ormsby can do. It’s up to you whether you’re into the look and the multiscale design — although I’d highly recommend you try it if you’re on the fence, because it’ll win you over for sure — putting this guitar’s quirks aside and looking at it purely as an example of Ormsby craftsmanship, it’s flawless.
For more details on Ormsby Guitars, head to ormsbyguitars.com
Hits and Misses
Great clean and distorted tones
Very unique look