R E V I E W S

Sussex Life Magazine November 2018

Sussex Ash GTS. Local Woods Challenge. Holy Grail Show.

Grand Gtrs Germany. September 2018

Flame Maple GTB

In a world where there is almost everything or has ever existed, finding your own identity and handwriting is not easy. This applies to musicians as well as to luthiers alike. Sure, you could do everything radically new and different – but that should be one and certainly costs a lot of courage and assertiveness. The British luthier James Collins opted for the gentle path: He created the design for a symmetrically shaped double-cutaway solid body, which looks noble and traditional, on closer inspection but at the same time refreshingly individual and different.

The 44-year-old Briton seems to be so convinced of his creation that all five different basic models that his manufactory currently offers in East Sussex in the south of the Kingdom have the same body shaping. That makes sense in my eyes. On the one hand, I think the design is completely successful – the design represents a harmonious combination of tradition and modernity, a round synthesis of retrospective and its own contemporary style – and, on the other hand, it is probably a mixture of perseverance and healthy self-confidence which in our time is the only true way to gain recognition and business success in an artistic profession. If any. Anyway, by putting everything on a map, James Collins shows how much he likes his concept beliefs.

The fact that this belief in himself and his abilities is by no means unfounded is already evident when the Hiscox suitcase, which encases the GTB, is opened for the first time – incidentally, a special edition with an inset James Collins logo. The noble woods of the latest Collins model, in particular the wonderfully even-tempered AAA-quality flame maple top, look stunning and come into their own in the light of a perfectly executed high-gloss polyurethane paint finish. I like the fact that all woods have been left in their natural color – with such a high quality of material, the wood can be left to dry in unadulterated beauty. The view of the equally magnificent back of the GTB shows a one- piece mahogany orb, into which the neck, also made of Brazilian mahogany, was glued. The neck consists of three strips, including the top plate, which protrudes backwards at a 17-degree angle in a Gibson manner. The mahogany is placed in the middle of a narrow strip of maple about four millimeters wide. This sandwich construction looks great and adds extra stability to the neck thanks to the additional glue joints.

Classic role models
Just over half a year ago, colleague Christoph Arndt had already tested two models by James Collins, the GTA and the GTO (see grand gtrs 6.2017). At that time, the portfolio of Collins included four different Models, the GTB is in the meantime as fifth and newest Variant added. Basically, one has to say that Collins poaching primarily in the Gibson terrain with his Electrics guitars. The proven combination of a glued neck and a short scale of 628 millimeters is also used in the GTB. The strings are led Gibson-style over a Tune-o-Matic bridge by Gotoh, but here are not anchored in a stop tailpiece, but are pulled from behind through the body. The Tune-o-Matic bridge was lowered by Collins in the top, which is about six millimeters thick, so as not to have to bend his neck in relation to the body. This works great in itself, only the thumbscrews for adjusting the position of the strings are no longer easy to operate. To do this, you have to remove the strings and the top of the bridge – a small extra effort if there really is something to change. On the other hand, once everything has been set correctly, you will no longer want to change anything, and accidental adjustment is at least precluded by this method of construction.
Finally, of course, the body design of the GTB recalls Gibson traditions, because it almost seems as if Collins simply mirrored the lower half of a Les Paul Junior upwards. Incidentally, the symmetrical design offers the advantage that left-handed guitars do not mean much extra work for Collins. The neck-body transition that cuts through the deep cutaway cutaways high up on the 19th fret, reminds me of a Gibson SG, but above all makes a great playability of the highest frest possible.

Fascinating details
The fact that the GTB is an excellently processed guitar can already be seen at first glance. In order to recognize the fascinating beauty of certain details, however, it requires a closer look. The Ziricote fingerboard, for example, is not only adorned with the usual mother-of- pearl markings, but is also decorated with a narrow maple serpent line runs lengthwise over the neck. Great: even in the top plate veneer, just if from Ziricote, the line continues. The fingerboard edges are once again set off with a narrow strip of maple, in front as well as on the top and bottom side between the fretboard and the back of the neck. I must confess, at first I did not notice that the back of the GTB has no electrical compartment. All of a sudden, the penny falls, and I realize how cleverly and thoughtfully James Collins has mounted the entire electrical system of the guitar. The two backups are not held by the usual plastic frame, instead they are bolted directly to the top. Collins must therefore at least dispose of parts of the electrical system before the gluing of the ceiling and before painting the guitar at the location of its later have been installed before! Of course, repairs or modifications to the electrics are made extremely difficult, and many may be critical. On the other hand, the Collins design is unequally elegant! Those who like me have a penchant for hidden sophistication will get their money’s worth at the GTB.

Vintage vibe
As a true custom shop, James Collins offers a variety of options for his basic models, such as the pickup or neckprofile. The present GTB comes with a “medium C “profile, which, however, seems to me to be significantly stronger than one would intuitively derive from the name. For this, the full neck profile guarantees a healthy tone shaping, and after a certain acclimation I find myself with the vintage feel, which is emphasized by the delicate “Medium Small” frets, very well.

The two pickups from GTB come from the British manufacturer Bare Knuckle Pickups. For the instrument being tested, Collins chose a moderately-priced model of tonal samplers that shape the sound of the guitar in a traditional vintage direction – who in this regard.
Of course, Collins offers plenty of other options. At the neck he built a Blue Note P90, which in this case has the full size of a humbucker. There is a Stormy Monday Humbarcker in the bridge, which can be split with the push-push potentiometer. Incidentally, “push / push” is not a spelling error: you must press the volume knob to turn the split option on or off. A tone control and a triple switch for picking the pickups complete the electrical system of the guitar. Surprisingly versatile The GTB delivers a powerful, mid-range and assertive sound with long sustain, once again based on Gibson traditions. I like the fact that the powerful basic sound never seems stiff, immobile or dull, but always remains light-footed and lively. In addition, the GTB is much more versatile than you would expect it at first. Not only in blues and rock context, she gives a good figure, even sparkling funk riffs, they can authentically present. The split bridge humbucker brings out a bright and pleasant fine-grained single-coil sound, which does not sound like a lazy compromise, but can be used just as well on its own. I also like the combination with the P90 on the neck, which sounds nicely smacking and airy on a clearly set amplifier.

As soon as distortion comes into play, the GTB becomes rougher and more impetuous. The bridge humbuckeroffers just enough output to make singing hi-gain sounds possible with a suitably equipped amp. The sound alignment always remains vintage-oriented, with a clear midrange and airy overtone structure. I find the tuning of the heights particularly successful, which are clearly present, nevertheless do not sound scratchy, but pleasantly mild. The Halston customer offers one in volume well-balanced, soft antipole, with which you can celebrate warm, soulful lead sounds.

Final
The GTB by James Collins is a classically crafted stainless steel, made of only the finest materials and fascinating design details as well as a first-class vintage- oriented sound. It’s a great blues and rock guitar, but it’s also great for many other styles of music. The fact that she so elegantly masters the subtle difference between electric guitar tradition and fresh individuality makes her a truly extraordinary piece.

Guitare Extreme France July/August 2018

Holy Grail Show Review

Guitarist Magazine March 2018

Flame Maple GTB's

Grand GTRS Germany, November/December 2017

REDWOOD GTO & COCOBOLO GTA

James Collins, a guitar engineer from Sussex, may have heard so few. Or you can change it, as I do, with the US manufacturer Collings. In doing so, the man builds true cuttings for the friends of the more glamorous department: welcome to “Collins British Delicatessen”.

Text by Christoph Arndt, Pictures by Andreas Huthansl

Z for test I received with the Cocobolo GTA and the Redwood GTO two interesting models. Currently, he offers four double-cutaway guitars with flat or vaulted ceilings, which to the names GT, GTA, GTS and GTO. Anyone who now thinks about Italian sports cars is right. As James told me in the phone interview, he not only has a passion for Ferrari, but could also use their model names without any appeal from the famous Automarke. Industry newcomer James Collins is one of the few authorized Gibson repairmen in the United Kingdom. You have to be an excellent guitar builder, so you can get such an award.
In 2011 he began with the construction of own guitars, the company Collins Guitars exists since 2015. At present, 15 to 20 instruments leave their workshop every year, with a long-term goal being 48 per year, which would be one copy per month of each model. At present, a full-time employee and a trainee are supporting the small company, which should then probably be expanded. Despite the small number of pieces, James offers a wide range of options, which means that he is in no way inferior to a custom shop. There will be no more models for the time being, the four cover the entire catalog of options with the broadest possible catalogs. Condition: The basic styling must fit, as James Collins’ design style polarizes perfectly. After all, there are plenty of boredom on the market.

The basis of the GTA is a one-piece, mahogany body. Ebony, Curly Maple, English Walnut or Cocobolo are available for the flattop ceiling. The glued mahogany neck is locked with a cocobolo looper and features a 12 inch rosewood fretboard. In the test instrument, the profile thickness is an average C, with the customer choosing between Thin, Medium and Heavy. In the case of the neck contact, the master attaches great importance to optimal vibration transmission, which he wishes to realize in classical design by means of a long throat as in the case of the old Les Pauls. A striking and, as I find, extremely tasteful ornamentation is the thin maple in the fingerboard, which extends over the entire neck length to the end of the head plate, supplemented by two narrow maple strips as “side outlines” and subtle mother-of-pearl dots as fingerboard markers. This design is the most prominent trademark, so to speak, the corporate identity of the Collins creations. Between the ceiling and the corpus is a thin layer of maple, which, like all the map elements, creates fine contrasts, which are opened to the observer only on closer inspection. An 18% nickel-silver alloy was used for the medium bundle wire, while a gilded bundle wire was also available for an additional charge. The cranks are flawlessly dressed and rounded, the Grover Keystone Tuner with an 18: 1 ratio and a bone saddle complete the high- quality equipment. In the case of the hardware, the customer can also choose between nickel, gold and black.

The GTA is available as a standard with stop tailpiece, for an extra charge also with Bigsby vibrato. James Collins is patriotic with the pickups, leaving the usual suspects from Amiland, picking up on Bareknuckle’s British provenance, which is undoubtedly one of the best and most famous representatives of the island. There are two pickup types available for the vintage (The Mule) and Vintage Hot (Black Dog) gain ranges; who likes it really hot, gets optionally with the Bareknuckle Nailbomb the full Highgain- Breitseite missed. This information should not be taken too literally, a practiced player can also elicit clear sounds from powerful pickups, and on the other hand, even with weak-brimmed vintage pickups, make a guitar sing. Nevertheless, prior to assigning an order, it makes sense to consider where the musical-stylistic journey should go – for this reason such a categorization is helpful.

The combination of reddish-brown cocobolo, bright maple and gold hardware along with gold monograms in the Cocobolo veneered head plate is very popular, but very elegant. Well-known details, such as the felt plate (glued under the gilded Bigsby vibrato) (as a ceiling fan) or the Trussrod cover (screwed to the side without a tool), fit to a high-quality presentation. The guitar is equipped with a “Black Dog” humbucker with gold cap and is equipped with two potentiometers for Volume (push-push for split) and sound- controlled. These are housed in cup-shaped sleeves, which are reminiscent of the sockets of a telecaster. This looks chic, but would be even more beautiful if the cups were sunk in the ceiling; its edge is clearly felt. Thanks to far more than four kilos of live weight, you have a good hang on the harness, but the instrument is well balanced. According to the manufacturer, CTS potentiometers and a Jensen PIO sound condenser are tumbling in the non- visible electrical compartment. There is no electrical cover – Mister Collins must have fumbled the pots by the pickup-milling and soldered to the prewired output socket, it is not. The pickup is framelessly screwed directly into the wood, which looks better with this look. The Gotoh Nashville Tune-O- Matic bridge rests in a shallow trough, making it less bulky and very close to the body. Unfortunately, the position of this trough has slipped one millimeter too far backwards (or the bar has been screwed too far forward) so that one of the two knurled screws minimally damaged the top coat. That was with the criticism, because otherwise the craftsmanship is beyond any doubt. At this point, James Collins certainly with the best of his guild.

Redwood GTO
The GTO is the only semihollow in the program. A beautifully carved Curly Redwood cover with a crescent-shaped “F-hole” decorates a second mahogany body in a dark brown sunburst finish with a sustain block that does not extend over the entire length. The hardware is completely nickel-plated. In contrast to the massive GTA, it seems almost 3.3 kilograms like a flyweight. Here, the neck profile is installed in the narrowest variant “Thin” and the fingerboard consists of Cocobolo. Many features of the GTA are found again at the GTO, so I would just like to look at the differences. In addition to the design, these mainly concern pickups and circuitry. The two calibrated “The Mule” humbuckers, which are set in cream-colored frames, are both splitable and are controlled by a volume and tone controller as well as a five-stage rotary switch for the pickup selection. They can be called individually and together (serial, parallel as well as out-of-phase), but can not be individually controlled. This, in conjunction with the splitting options, nevertheless promises an enormous sound diversity. Small vermouth drops: The electrical cover has different gap dimensions, which is certainly due to the factor of manual work.

Double play
Despite its minimalist features, the GTA offers a fine selection of sounds, ranging from crystal-clear pearling single note pickings to snappy crunch sounds to tubeless lead sounds. The controllers want to be operated wisely, only the “intermediate positions” bring the full potential of the instrument into effect. The “Black Dog” can grow not only snarling, but if necessary bark furiously! The homogeneity is very well-balanced, strings of the strings, there is truly joy. As far as the tonality is concerned, there is, as it were, a central- nasal basic characteristic, the frequency of which is higher than that of a Les Paul. This makes it a bit more difficult to find the sweetspot for a certain song, but that’s just the charm of such a guitar with just one pickup: you have to work more and listen carefully until all the sound controls on the amp are done the fine, then the mail goes off. The playability of the neck is excellent, only the transition to the corpus is too angular for me, the highest frets are thus for my rather narrow hands worse to hardly reach still.

The considerably more expensive GTO shows clear sound parallels to the GTA, whereby the 5-way switch opens up a rich universe of sounds, for which one should take time. Although the five positions are marked by mother-of- pearl inlays, a corresponding nose or similar is missing on the knob. After a while, the sound quickly identifies the position in which you are playing. Printable, focused lead sounds that are less deep, but more defined and more powerful than Les Paul, thin single-coil sounds that do not have any fender- eskes, quirky-hollow out-of-phase variations, and obey the possibility to split one or both pickups at the same time, impressively make clear, which abundance of sounds and nuances can be realized with two humbuckers. Like one of the characteristic basic sound of the GTO, everything is offered here, what the heart desires. Nice thing!

Summary
Pure craftsmanship, high-quality workmanship with minimal finishes, beautiful woods, first-class tonal qualities and an unmistakable styling characterize James Collins guitars. Great cinema, I am thrilled. Those who value all these qualities and dare to combine them visually with a dignified individuality can find more than just a find: a love for life could develop.

IGUITAR, JUNE 2017

GTO – REDWOOD

GUITAR & BASS, DECEMBER 2015

GTA – QUILT MAPLE

GTS – QUILT MAPLE
018

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GTS – QUILT MAPLE
014

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GTS – QUILT MAPLE
013

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GT – FLAME MAPLE
012 (LEFT HANDER)

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GT – FLAME MAPLE
011

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Electric guitars hand built in the United Kingdom

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