Can you really make a guitar for this sort of money thats worth making a song and dance about? It seems that Adam Black may have found a way. Marcus Leadley investigates
Blimey, it’s a bit chunky – that’s the first impression when you heft the Orion onto you shoulder. The maple neck’s an ample handful and the mass of the alder body is considerable, but there are benefits; the acoustic tone is rich and resonant, and you can feel the body vibrating. It’s a strings-through-body design, with a deep tenon set neck joint, so chances are it’s going to be a good soloist.
The Orion range offers four models in both bolt-on and glued-neck form: a wood-finish Custom, an Extreme with coil taps and phase switching, the Raised Centre (our review model) and the plain Special. The Raised Centre comes in black/white or white/black; funky and ’60s-ish, it’s slightly reminiscent of the Gibson SG GT. The matt finish of the white centre portion feels a little bit plasticky and quickly shows playing wear. Perhaps an ivory white would have matched the one-ply vintage binding better.
The guitar is also a little neck-heavy, and you need to apply forearm pressure to stop it tipping forward, but it’s not a major problem. The binding extends up the neck – a full two-octave item with an impressive ebony fingerboard. The set neck restricts your access past fret 21, but the smooth, low-friction ebony makes you feel like a guitar god.
In terms of electrics the Orion plays it simple with a pair of high-output ASBO humbuckers voiced for hard rock and metal, complete with a master tone and independent volume controls. The bridge, hardware and slightly rubbery tuners (said to be Grovers) are black nickel.
Set clean, the Orion‘s bridge pickup is a little boxy in a characterful, retro sort of way. The twin pickup sound is rich, resonant and uncoloured enough for general chord duties, and the neck pickup is a brighter-than-average version of the warm tone normally used for jazz and funk. The output is high, but ceramic magnets used wisely can help maintain top-end clarity. The Fender-style 25.5" scale length means that this guitar has less of the loose Gibson feel than you’d expect, and that extra tension is one of the things that accounts for the bright, clear nature of the sound. Switch the amp to overdrive and the Orion sounds genuinely massive. Hard rock riffs pump along loud and clear, and chords ring out with real authority.
The Orion feels like a really coherent, proper guitar. It plays well and sounds great. Its heavy and has limitations, but so do some of the worlds top guitars, and they all come with a price tag well above this.