Crimson Guitars Artist Descendant 61 & One Series Descendant Review

Two good-looking electrics from a UK firm celebrating more than 12 years in the business. Simon Bradley gives them a whirl.

Crimson Guitars, based in Dorchester, is the brainchild of master luthier Ben Crowe, who turned his skills to the design and production of custom instruments in 2005.

He also had the idea of producing a series of entertaining and engaging videos and podcasts that cover just about anything any budding luthier could wish to know – including mini tutorials, product demos and much more. We can highly recommend the Guitar Builder’s Basics series, and we’d suggest heading to crimsonguitars.com to take a look.

guitar-bass-january-gear-21Ben also offers one-on-one luthiery courses and Crimson even makes its own commercially available tools. All this has enabled the company to build up a vibrant online community, which has certainly helped the word to well and truly get out there. Noted Crimsoneers include the likes of the criminally underrated Jakko Jakszyk and Sir Robert of Fripp, which certainly works for us.

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The range of guitars the company puts its name to can be split roughly into two halves: Masterbuilt and Custom – where the sky’s pretty much the limit – and Production, which, alongside the more Les Paul-like PAF and PAF Hollow designs, includes the two examples of the Descendant body shape we have on test, one from the Artist Series and the other from the One range. We’ll stick to the exact spec of these two guitars for the purpose of this review, but if you fancy different materials, finishes or electronics, Crimson will always be happy to talk over your options.

guitar-bass-january-gear-23The Descendant 61 comes from the Artist Series, in which there are various combinations of woods. This one has a flamed maple neck, top and backplates alongside an ebony neck. Other options include zebrano and rosewood on the Descendant 74, and wenge and ebony for the Descendant 88.

Made from a single piece of flame maple, the neck is lovely, giving a genuine custom-shop vibe into the bargain, and is finished with an eminently tactile and flawless light-gloss finish.

The ebony board’s shaped edges are lovely, and the reduced heel and deep cutaway invites you all the way up the neck. The headstock face has a full-gloss finish, as does the rest of the guitar, and the board bristles with polished-steel inlays.

The body is constructed from two pieces of solid ash and is subtly decorated with two rear backplates, also of flamed maple. With a body over 41mm thick, this is a hefty guitar, but the contrast of the top’s Black Cherry finish with that of the Natural Ash doesn’t so much suggest inherent quality as yell it in your ear. Described by Crimson as a flat-top, there are no contours to speak of, save a rounding of the body’s edge that brings out the natural, scraped faux-binding.

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Ash and flamed maple contrast nicely around the back of the 61

The pickups loaded into both guitars are covered Valenti humbuckers, also made at Crimson’s Dorset HQ. Named after the luthier who designed them, they are described as a modern take on the good old PAF and are rated at 8.4k (bridge) and 7.3k (neck). It’s worth mentioning that Crimson offers the option of a pair of its own Aquila P-90s should you prefer. Controlled in both cases by single volume and tone pots and a three-way toggle, the 61’s tonal arsenal is enhanced by the inclusion of a push/pull coil-split.

The other Descendant is taken from the One range and, although it offers the same body shape as the 61, is somewhat different in vibe and spec. It’s certainly more down to earth, and its two-piece ash body features backplates fashioned from meranti.

The satin-finished neck is also made from meranti, sometimes referred to as Philippine mahogany. Crimson’s James Blackburn tells us more. “Meranti is as close to mahogany as you can get without actually being mahogany,” he says. “It has very similar grain, weight and tone, and we have selected the best pieces to make sure we have the right wood for making necks.”

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The One Series Descendant has a striking headstock, Gotoh tuners and carbon-fibre nut

It’s not as red as mahogany but, with a tight grain and a warming brown hue, it certainly looks the part. The neck feels somewhat large and, with minimal apparent rolling of the fingerboard edges, comes as something of a shock when you first pick it up. Don’t be put off, though, as it doesn’t take too long to become accustomed and it proves the diversity across the range.

Artist Descendant 61 & One Series Descendant in use

Considering the difference in spec, it’ll come as no surprise that the guitars have contrasting voices. The Descendant 61 is the more tonally versatile and balanced, with plenty of maple-enhanced high-end bite that’s kept in check by the compact lows and middly sustain of the ash.

Bereft of a maple cap and neck, the One Series Descendant is tonally sweeter and more rounded, with the neck pickup’s throaty character particularly worthy of mention.
The low end is sufficient for emotive blues licks and, as you increase gain levels, the tone stays with you without straying into the land of mush. The treble pickup is also nicely balanced and is just the ticket for rock styles of pretty much all intensities; it’s capable of some lovely clean sounds at low guitar volume, too.

guitar-bass-january-gear-24If the One Series had a coil-split like the 61, it would increase its versatility, but we’re impressed with the performance and range of the Crimson ’buckers across both guitars. Despite only minimal dimensional differences, the One Series’ neck feels much chunkier than the more traditional taper of the 61, but both guitars play very nicely indeed.

We can’t really argue with the One Series Descendant’s £800 price tag: it’s good value considering its custom roots, and it sounds good, too. The figure of £1,400 for the Artist Descendant 61, whilst obviously positioning it in an area of the market populated by some heavyweight names, is reasonable and the look of our example is most enticing.
Crimson is one of several UK brands that are making jaw-dropping instruments at the moment, and if you’ve yet to experience one of its guitars, we suggest putting right that wrong – pronto.
guitar-bass-january-gear-72Key features – Crimson Guitars Artist Descendant 61
• Price £1,400 (with Hiscox Liteflite case)
• Description Solidbody six-string guitar, made in Great Britain
• Build Two-piece solid ash with flamed maple top and backplates; flamed maple neck with matt finish; ebony fingerboard with 12-inch radius, ebony/steel inlays and 22 nickel-silver medium/jumbo frets; carbon fibre nut and Gotoh tuners
• Electrics 2x Crimson Valenti humbuckers (with option of 2x Crimson Aquila P-90s)
• Controls Volume, tone, three-way toggle and push/pull coil-split
• Left-handers Yes
• Finish Black Cherry (as reviewed), Natural, Midnight Blue, Blue Jeans, Charcoal Black, Vintage Amber
• Scale Length 648mm/25.5”
• Neck Width 43mm at nut, 51mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 22.5mm at first fret, 25mm at 12th fret
• String Spacing 35.5mm at nut, 53mm at bridge
• Weight 3.63kg/8lbs
screen-shot-2017-01-10-at-13-50-05One Series DescendantKey features – Crimson Guitars One Series Descendant
• Price £800 (with Hiscox Liteflite case)
• Description Solidbody six-string guitar, made in Great Britain
• Build Two-piece solid ash with meranti backplates; meranti neck with matt finish; rosewood fingerboard with 12-inch radius, white inlays and 22 nickel-silver medium/jumbo frets; corian nut and chrome tuners
• Electrics 2x Crimson Valenti humbuckers (with option of 2x Crimson Aquila P-90s)
• Controls Volume and tone, three-way toggle
• Left-handers Yes
• Finish Black (as reviewed), Natural, Red, Blue
• Scale Length 648mm/25.5”
• Neck Width 43mm at nut, 52mm at 12th fret
• Neck Depth 23mm at first fret, 23mm at 12th fret
• String Spacing 38.5mm at nut, 53mm at bridge
• Weight 3.54kg/7.8lbs
• Contact Crimson Guitars 01300 348863 crimsonguitars.com

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