Iconic Solana VM review – does this modern twist on the iconic S-type succeed?
With lofty ambitions to blend the best of the past with the playability and style of more contemporary guitars, Iconic tips its cap to yesteryear while diving into the future.
San Diego-based custom maker Iconic Guitars was formed by Kevin Proctor in 2012. Its mission statement? To make your shiny new Iconic instrument the “best-playing guitar you will ever own”. Buy its new Solana VM, an S-type built for versatility, and it might just succeed.
It’s been said that the first note is played with the eyes, and there’s no doubt that the Solana VM is a very pretty electric guitar. Our jaws are suitably agape as we crack open the included G&G hardcase and see the Aged Ice Blue Flake finish – which is tastefully distressed to the point of lacquer-checking but no further – and striking dark roasted flame maple neck. It’s a modern twist on a classic aesthetic.
We need no further encouragement to pick the Solana up and get playing, and the medium thin C-profile neck fits so comfortably in the hand that travelling up and down the neck is as easy and natural as it gets. The Gotoh tuning machines and bridge bring the premium feel and performance you’d expect at this price point, but the true test is in the whammy wanging.
It’s always reassuring when a vibrato arm toes the line between snug but not too tight while also giving you adequate control. We give the arm some generous use and are impressed that the tuning remains stable. Divebombs here we come.
The Solana’s HSS arrangement promises real tonal versatility. Plugging in, we find Iconic’s Revolution pickups hot yet smooth. A push/push switch on the tone pot gives you a coil-split option on the nickel-covered bridge ’bucker to further enhance your options too.
There’s no huge volume jump when flicking between the five positions of the selector switch, even when we activate the bridge on dual-coil mode. It’s a bolder sound from the humbucker, of course, but not one that’ll have you reaching for the volume knob. It’s a similarly positive experience when we activate the push/push button on the tone control for the coil split; there’s no huge drop in output, nor does it sound flimsy.
Though this is a modern take on the S-type, some of the sounds on offer are not what you’d traditionally expect from such a guitar. The neck pickup’s midrange, for example, is more prominent. The Solana VM wants to be heard at all costs but, if you’re a Strat purist, that might not be the kind of character you’re looking for.
There are many high-end S-style guitars on the market, many of which are designed to stay as close to the original recipe as possible. With the Solana VM, however, Iconic is trying to grow its own distinct branch on this esteemed tree.
Iconic hasn’t reinvented the Stratocaster but, with visual and sonic tweaks to the original design, it has developed a stellar instrument with its own flavour and a high-end look and feel that isn’t out of place at this price point. For a brand barely a decade old and staffed by a modest team, that’s no small achievement.
- PRICE £2,999 (including G&G hard case)
- DESCRIPTION Solidbody S-type electric guitar, made in the USA
- BUILD Two-piece alder body, 5A roasted flamed maple neck with medium C-profile, compound 10”-14” radius, 22 frets
- HARDWARE Gotoh SD91 tuners, Gotoh 510 Tremolo – both nickel
- ELECTRICS Iconic Revolution HSS pickup set, humbucker with coil-split
- CONTROLS Volume, 2x tone, (one with push/push control for coil split), five-way blade selector switch
- SCALE LENGTH 25.5” (648mm)
- NECK WIDTH 42.85mm at nut, 49.5 at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 19.8mm at 1st fret, 16.5mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 11mm at bridge, 8mm at nut
- WEIGHT 3.374kg/7.7lbs
- FINISH Aged Ice Blue Flake (as reviewed), Surf Green, Transparent Sonic Blue, Aged Sage Mist Green, Sienna Burst, Night Sky Sparkle Black, Aged Burgundy Mist Sparkle, Aged Ferrari Yellow
- LEFT-HANDERS Custom order only
- CONTACT Andertons