Take two classic designs, add some thoughtful woodwork and some well-considered hardware, and you’ve got two extremely giggable Fret-King workhorses. Review by Hayden Hewitt
Description: Eclat Standard – Solidbody electric, Made in Korea/ Eclat DBC – Single pickup solidbody guitar. Made in Korea
Price: Eclat Standard – £649/Eclat DBC – £599
Contact: JHS – 01132 865381 – www.fret-king.com
While many of us guitarists are oddly resistant to revolution in terms of design, we certainly seem able to tolerate some evolution. One man who took note of this is Trevor Wilkinson, whose hardware designs have graced some of the biggest names in the business – and with good reason. His non-locking whammies proved totally reliable, and importantly almost transparent under your hand, and that alone tells you a little about the man and what he seeks to achieve. Fret-King guitars would seem to be a natural extension of his endeavours, and these two guitars offer very familiar outlines but with some key changes.
The outline of the Eclat Standard and DBC models are clearly inspired by the Les Paul in both its Standard and Junior incarnations. The Standard has the familiar recipe of a mahogany body and carved maple top along with a glued-in mahogany neck. It’s worth pointing out that the body is just two pieces of mahogany, and the carved top is solid maple. It’s plain maple rather than figured, but we’d much rather have a real, honest solid top rather than a top of unknown quality with a gossamer-like figured veneer over the outside.
You’ll notice straight away a design change on both these guitars: a forearm scoop (there is also a generous ‘gutaway’ around the back of each). This scoop really does place your arm in a very comfortable position for playing and helps avoid the ‘forearm divot’ many of us will be all too familiar with. The neck on the Standard is chunky but not too much of a handful, and with the medium jumbo frets it makes for a very comfortable and reassuring playing experience. You really do get the feeling of any design rough edges having been whittled away to make as little of the guitar get in the way of playing as possible. One thing we would have liked to see here would have been an improvement in top fret access, perhaps in the form of a modified heel, but that might have altered the overall design a little too much.
The Eclat Standard’s humbuckers are based on a recipe given to Trev Wilkinson by none other than Seth Lover, and it shows. They offer up a good amount of warmth but their low output also allows plenty of wood to come through. The bridge pickup provides solid clean tones but really comes into its own once you let your amp breathe a little. There’s a slight furriness around the edges of your tone but with well-defined upper mids it’s pretty much exactly what you’d want. Let your amp have a little more juice and you’ll quickly discover the PAF pickups aren’t always suited to super-heavy work but they do produce a bang on the money hard rock tone.
Switching to the neck pickup places you squarely in Slash territory if you have any kind of overdrive going on. Plenty of sustain and that liquid feel will encourage you to play certain riffs which would be frowned upon in most retail establishments (think Sweet Child O’Mine and Parisienne Walkways) but you really can’t help it regardless of the looks it might earn you from your colleagues or passers-by.
The ace up the sleeve for the Standard model comes in the form of the Vari-Coil pot. In the fully-on position you have full humbuckers but rolling off essentially dials out one coil according to taste. While never perfectly nailing a true single-coil tone it’s close enough for most applications and definitely gives you an excuse to take one less guitar out with you for that covers gig.
The DBC model is a genuine signature model in the Eclat range. Dave ‘Bucket’ Colwell has been around the guitar scene for years playing for the likes of Bad Company, Samson and Humble Pie as well as alongside Iron Maiden axeman Adrian Smith in ASAP and The Entire Population of Hackney. He’s a pro who knows exactly what he’s after with a guitar, and it seems what he wanted was an alternative to taking his beloved ’50s LP Jr on the road.
As was mentioned earlier, the DBC model features the same forearm scoop as the Standard, but in another departure from tradition it also has a ‘thumb scoop’ which allows for a little more in the way of top fret access as your thumb moves to an area traditionally occupied by solid wood. In terms of fretwire, neck shape and electronics it’s all far more familiar, and it has to be said the guitar really does give off a solid air of rockitude before you even plug it in. And speaking of plugging in…
The DBC model with its P90 pickup makes no such concessions to versatility, so unashamed is it in its rock’n’roll credentials. Yes, a P90 will deliver some plummy clean tones but you will have no choice but to at least give your amp a little bit of a kick to enjoy it to the full. It screams and hollers as a good P90 should, with plenty of wiry aggression. One difference here is in the placement of the pickup, however, which being a little further from the bridge than usual does bring in a little more quacky single-coil flavour. If your bag is hard rock or classic rock then the DBC model will certainly deliver the goods tonally.
Altering classic designs to reflect modern techniques or ergonomic ideas isn’t exactly a road untravelled, even by the companies responsible for the originals, but success can hamper evolution and this holds the door open for people like Fret-King. Trev Wilkinson’s experience shows on both these guitars and their hardware, and they offer genuinely useful additions to a well-worn design. Ally to that a tempting street price and you have two tough competitors for anything the bigger companies can offer.