Published On: Fri, Feb 25th, 2011

Vigier Excalibur Kaos

Available in black only, the Kaos is a special no-frills dragstrip version of the normally luxurious Excalibur, with Vigier’s first-ever reverse headstock.

Vigier Excaliber Kaos

Whichever way you spell it, chaos is not something you'd normally associate with Vigier, purveyors of tasteful and immaculately finished guitars since 1980.

 

Under normal circumstances a spilt solder-blob would be enough to make company founder Patrice Vigier howl with despair, so does the Excalibur Kaos represent a dangerous new direction? Not exactly.

 

Look very closely at the dot markers on the 12th fret – there's your chaos. Everything else on this guitar is as neat, shiny and perfect as we've come to expect. The mayhem will all have to come from you, the player.

 

In fact the Kaos has its origins not in Monsieur Vigier's French workshop but over here in the brain of his main man in the UK, Ben Whatsley.

 

This is the guitar Ben has been begging his boss to make for several years – a no-nonsense axe for the metal player who wants quality without bling.

 

It may not look exactly rustic, but this is a stripped-down version of the Excalibur and that retail price is a good few hundred below what you'll pay for some others in the range. So there's no flashy flamed maple top and no sexy colour options – just the flat black of our review guitar.

 

That, however, is as deep as the cost-cutting goes. Cosmetics aside, the build and hardware are bang up to the usual impeccable standards and the German-made Amber humbuckers are the same ones found on the £2200 Vigier GV Rock model.

 

So we're looking at a sleek, elegant superstrat in a ‘matte varnish' finish (actually quite glossy). The two-piece alder body and maple neck are ‘naturally aged' – don't worry, they're not forced to stay up late and smoke 40 Gitanes a day, just left in a dry environment – and that's for three years in the case of the neck, which is reinforced by the usual carbon strip instead of a truss rod.

 

True to its metallic purpose, it's a fairly shallow neck and the fretboard radius is quoted as an ample 12".

 

Behind the zero fret is a teflon nut, and behind that lies an upside-down headstock with chunky locking tuners.

 

Vigier Excaliber KaosFlipping the standard Excalibur headstock shape was, Ben explains, a cost-effective way of reinforcing a modern, metal-friendly image.

 

Those large (and rather stiff) tuners make the Kaos slightly neck-heavy, but not so much that it's about to wear a dent in your shoulder.

 

Some Vigiers use Floyd Roses but this in-house job pivots on needle bearings, which should last longer than the average guitar – or indeed guitarist – without developing tuning issues.

 

The two front mounting posts are adjustable for action while the roller saddles can be slid back and forth for intonation. It's a neat unit with good scope for divebombing, and returns to pitch more reliably than you might expect for a non-locking vibrato.

 

The high-powered Amber pups are controlled by a five-way switch that offers neck-only and bridge-only in positions 1 and 5, while the three settings in between give single-coil tones: neck, both or bridge. That's a decent range of options, though it does not allow for any mixing of SC and HB sounds, or even both humbuckers at once.

 

From there the signal passes via a discreet killswitch just below the bridge pickup to an output jack stylishly recessed into the side of the body.

 

One more feature: the pair of string trees for the E and A appear to be made of guitar string-ends, anchored at the back of the headstock. Vigier Excaliber Kaos

 

Recycling gone mad, or quirky innovation? They work fine, and if the whammy does develop any sticking or creaking problems this will not be the first place to look.

SOUNDS

You noticed the upside-down headstock, right? So let's dispense with the usual order of things and reach straight for the nastiest distortion pedal in the box.

 

With everything cranked to cat-scaring point, the fun doesn't take long to break out. The Kaos plays and sounds a lot like the similarly-built Bfoot Excalibur we reviewed back in February, but with perhaps even more power thanks to the full-size neck humbucker.

 

It's solid and authoritative on every string and every fret, only getting stronger as you screech your way up the ultra-playable neck and never losing clarity even on the front 'bucker.

 

If you can shred at the speed of light, this guitar will go with you. With gain through the roof there's not much to distinguish between the pickup settings, but still enough to make you thankful for them.

 

Here the machine-gunning killswitch and flailing whammy bar become essential parts of your satanic armoury, even if you never realised it before, and the promised chaos is well and truly here. Detune the low EVigier Excaliber Kaos to D for muted speed-metal chuggage and within five minutes you'll grow a tattoo.
Phew. And now, just for the record, we'll turn off the dirt.

 

True to type, the acoustic sound is full and lush in a sweet but neutral way, with little in the way of top-end sizzle. Plugged into a clean amp it's the same story but louder – all purity and sustain in a manner that Strat and Les Paul fans may find just too pristine.

 

It can be a tad spiky in single-coil mode so might need some taming later on in the signal chain; the humbucking tones are perhaps better-balanced. It's all relentlessly hi-fi, with just a hint of Fendery cluck on the middle setting to reassure you that this is a guitar, not a grand piano.

 

A dab of '80s-style chorus will nail those ‘listen out for the non-heavy bit' tones à la Metallica or Slint… but come on, enough of this, let's get filthy again. You don't buy a Lamborghini to pootle around the car park at Homebase, do you?

Verdict

Fender have their Highway Ones and Gibson have their Fadeds - clearly there's a market for players who just want the tone and will happily forgo the lush looks if it means saving a couple of hundred quid. If this market also exists at the well-heeled end of the metal fraternity, then Vigier is onto a winner. There is simply nothing that could make this guitar any better at the job it's been designed for.

Build Quality Playability Sound Value Vibe Score
20 20 18 17 16 91

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