Indie is not just another name on a Chinese guitar its a UK-based business with its own dedicated acoustic and electric factories in Korea. Marcus Leadley tastes the difference.
Indie guitars are the brainchild of Keith Willis. Based at Compton in Berkshire, the company has been around for about five years. The guitars are manufactured in Indie‘s own facility in South Korea. Capacity is limited to around 1700 per month to keep the quality up, and a big part of the Indie promise is that every guitar gets the personal treatment at the UK facility before it goes out to a dealer. If the company can maintain this attention to detail then it will soon build a reputation among players for getting the important things right.
Shape Double Cut
Everything about the Double Cut Standard says ‘working guitar’. There’s nothing flash about it, but the look and appointments all make complete sense. The body shape is a comfortable double cut variant, more PRS than Gibson in outline but not a close copy of anything in particular, which is to be applauded. Who needs another lookalike?
Coming up with an original but functional headstock design is always a challenge. This one reminds us of a Music Man, but with a more traditional three-per-side tuner arrangement. Under a two-tone black-to-yellow sunburst lies a mahogany body and a mahogany set neck. The heel is nicely angled to provide good upper octave access, giving the impression that plenty of thought has gone into the finished product. This is equally apparent up along the edges of the rosewood fingerboard where the fret tangs have been recessed and filled to ensure no sharp edges: extra points for attention to detail. The pickups are Indie‘s own M8’s. These have ceramic magnets, and the company has taken some care to offer tonal options – the bridge humbucker and two single coils are wired to a five-way selector, as well as a master tone and volume control.
Overall the guitar’s acoustic tone is rich, loud and resonant. Intonation and action are spot-on – even if the latter is a little on the low side for my personal taste. The Wilkinson vibrato bridge is a well-chosen piece of quality hardware and it’s been nicely set up for both forward and reverse bends, neither of which put the guitar out of tune… more evidence of post-production care.
The bridge humbucker offers a clear, clean and uncoloured tone close to the guitar’s acoustic signature – which can be tricky with a humbucker, so full marks. The tone is remarkably sweet and jazzy, a character which persists across the other settings. Switch positions 2 and 4 offer funky out-of-phase tones… good for Mark Knopfler impersonations but generally a little less quacky and more sustaining than the Fender equivalents. Overall, though, sustain is a characteristic of the whole guitar, and this really pays off when you start to drive the amp, giving big, clear, rocky tones all the way.
The bridge pickup offers the most bite and retains a good degree of clarity. It’s best with natural amp distortion: a range of budget overdrive pedals failed to excite, yielding precise if slightly clinical results. Other settings have more warmth and are generally more pedal-friendly.
Do beginners spend 400-plus on their first guitar? Probably not. So Indie is aiming at people who've got over the first hurdle of mastering the basics and are looking to find a guitar that can out-perform the one they've just grown out of. In terms of materials, set up, sounds and playability Indie guitars are definitely a step up. They sound good and they feel great. Indie isn't trying to re-invent the wheel, but these guitars do have a sense of individual character... the type that often takes a lot more cash to buy.