B3 Guitars UltraModern 22 review: a modern doublecut from a Fender Custom Shop legend

Fender Custom Shop legend Gene Baker forges ahead with a modern design that’s much more than a shred guitar.

REVIEW OVERVIEW

B3 Guitars UltraModern 22
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SUMMARY

An interesting and forward-thinking take on the modern doublecut.

The name may be unfamiliar to some but the luthier behind B3, Gene Baker, will be known to many as a former Fender Custom Shop Master Builder who went on to helm his own company, producing fine double-cut instruments that included a Robben Ford signature model.

Baker’s newly rejuvenated B3 brand offers truly custom-built guitars. Each instrument starts with a silhouette, neck type (bolt on, neck through or set) and either front or rear-loaded electronics. From there, the options are limited only by your imagination.

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Our review model has been spec’d by Coda Music, and the guys at Coda have chosen an African tonewood base of a black limba body and neck, with a figured bubinga body cap. Black limba is, of course, also known to guitarists as korina, while bubinga has a reddish-bronze colouring and much in common tonally with Indian rosewood. The fretboard is ebony and, unusually, both the binding and inlays are polished brass.

B3 Guitars UltraModern 22

The Sophia 2:22 vibrato bridge is something we also haven’t encountered previously but its precision build quality and sturdiness help emphasise further the guitar’s ‘no expense spared’ feel. The bridge’s various engineering accomplishments are too extensive to go into in depth but one of the most interesting features is that it gives players the ability to perform double-stop bends while retaining the pitch of adjacent unbent strings, negating one of the biggest disadvantages of a floating vibrato.

The other notable feature is the Global Tuner. Floyd Rose owners will have doubtless experienced the entire guitar being pulled out of tune if its position in relation to the body has been impacted (usually caused by climatic change). The Global Tuner compensates for this by allowing adjustment of the entire bridge via a thumbwheel, which returns the bridge back to its original position and the strings back to pitch.

B3 Guitars UltraModern 22

In use

The neck carve on this particular instrument is a large C profile, whose girth increases along its length to provide support to the underside of the fretting hand, where arguably it is most required. It’s certainly no artless baseball bat, but the neck has a surprising thickness for a guitar that appears ostensibly to be aimed at shredders. For our money, though, it’s a pleasant surprise, and it seems to complement any style we throw at it.

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Predictably, The Fishman Fluence Open Core Classics here prove slightly less powerful than the Modern counterparts we tested recently, but that’s no bad thing. Set in their default position (voice two) via individual mini-toggles, they perform here like overwound vintage humbuckers. The limba body’s bright midrange characteristics bring a satisfying bite to proceedings which works well for overdriven riffs, and of course the trademark clarity of the Fishman units means there’s no shortage of high-end and definition. This is also the case with voices one and three, which offer vintage-style PAF tones and wiry single-coil voices respectively.

B3 Guitars UltraModern 22

Despite the UltraModern moniker, the huge neck and HD take on vintage tones you’ll find here cater for a much wider demographic than your common or garden shred machine. Extravagant materials, posh hardware and lofty price tag aside, this Gene Baker design is very much a modern player’s guitar rather than a luxury item for the well-heeled. There are one or two minor cosmetic issues that perhaps you wouldn’t expect to find for the money but overall, in the often retro-obsessed world of boutique solidbody guitars, we applaud Baker’s efforts to push things forward.

Key Features

  • PRICE £5,799 (inc hard case)
  • DESCRIPTION 6-string double-cutaway electric guitar, made in the USA
  • BUILD Black limba body with figured bubinga top, set bubinga neck with brass-bound 12″/308mm radius ebony fretboard, 22 stainless steel frets
  • HARDWARE Sperzel locking tuners, Sophia 2:22 vibrato bridge
  • ELECTRONICS 2x Fishman Fluence Open Core Classic humbuckers, 3-way blade pickup selector, 2x mini-toggle voice switches, master volume and tone
  • SCALE LENGTH 25.5″/648mm
  • NECK WIDTH 43.57mm at nut, 52.14mm at 12th fret
  • NECK DEPTH 20.85mm at 1st fret, 27.54mm at 12th fret
  • STRING SPACING 54.11mm at bridge, 36.21mm at nut
  • WEIGHT 3.6kg/7.94lb
  • LEFT-HANDERS Yes (see website)
  • FINISHES Natural (as reviewed, see website for custom options)
  • CONTACT coda-music.com, b3guitars.com

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