A meeting with Elton Johns guitarist Caleb Quaye led Steve Tsai to found Brazen guitars, an imported line with an intriguing blend of features. Review by Huw Price
Presenting the Brazen Dynasty Vintage – a really attractive guitar that looks a lot better in real life than in the pictures on the website.
This looks lovely. It’s part T-style, with a single cutaway alder body and an off-white finish with black binding that recalls the ultra-rare Fender Tele Customs made around 1967. It’s part Zakk Wylde Custom LP, with a maple fingerboard on a set maple neck, plus black binding and a black nut for a sharp visual effect; and part Rickenbacker, with a ‘German carve‘ around the front of the body. There’s a Strat-style rib rout at the back, too.
The hardware is decent, with chrome mini Grovers, matching knurled knobs, a tun-o-matic bridge and a stop tailpiece, plus handsome chrome pickup surrounds for the alnico humbuckers. The pearly pickguard looks like a shrunk-in-the-wash S-type, but the proportions are bang on for this design. A chrome tip for the three-way switch might have looked better but I’m probably nitpicking, and don’t worry about the three-way, because the tone control pulls out for a coil split.
The Brazen Vintage feels familiar and slightly Gibson-like, with a medium-depth flat C neck, medium frets and a 12" radius fingerboard. The body is reasonably light and there’s little or no neck-heaviness. Unplugged, it isn’t quite as loud as most conventional T-types and it doesn’t have the same snappy, lightning-fast attack, but it’s smooth and resonant and sustains very well over all the frequencies.
The humbuckers are wound fairly hot but the sound is clear, if not very bright. In clean mode the Vintage sounds woody and warm with a slightly nasal, up-front midrange – especially from the bridge pickup. The neck unit is mellow and jazzy with a pleasing degree of snap.
The tone control disengages the two inside coils. You get a big drop in output level but the timbre remains fairly consistent, plus a hint of single coil spank, so this hardly transforms it into a guitar for all seasons. In fact, though billed as ‘vintage’, this guitar has a contemporary edge.
It’s not as fat or creamy as an LP but it thrives on high gain, cutting through with an authoritative and articulate bite. If you’re after some Matt Bellamy-style clear crunch rather than retro rock, the Dynasty Vintage fits the bill.
The price difference is a big surprise. The costlier Eternity Plus will require a fair bit of tweaking to unleash its full potential, and design-wise it's basically a run-of-the-mill superstrat. I'd be more enthusiastic if it was a touch cheaper, but many similarly-priced guitars are nicer looking and play better straight out of the box. The Dynasty Vintage is devoid of such issues. It's a dream to play, stays in tune, and offers something a bit different sonically as well as visually. The coil tapped tones are a little bland, but other than that it's a very cool guitar which feels and looks as if it's worth every penny.