Fazley Midas FLP318GT (aka Gold Top copy)

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edited February 8 in Guitar Reviews
Having seen the sparkling reviews of this, and being that I already have a (now discontinued) Fazley FDC 418, which is their double cut LP Junior and is really good, I thought I'd see if this Gold Top-inspired guitar of theirs was any good. Pic of it here:

Bax product page

So, looking on the Bax website, the price of these is curretly 143 quid, but most of the time you can find B Stock versions of their products for quite a bit less, and in this case that's what I bought for 123 quid which included delivery. Now of course a B stock guitar might have the odd blemish, or might just be a return, but in all cases, they list what may or may cause it to be a B stock item, so you aren't buying one of them 'blind'. Mine has some minor finish blemishes (basically the paint is a little bit rough for about half a milli at the forward edge of the bridge pick up cut out, but it's not really that noticeable, and there is a very minor paint chip of about 2mm at the upper bout edge near the binding). Upon arrival it still had the clear plastic on the pick ups and the poker chip, and was not set up at all, so I doubt it had ever been played.

Neither of the small blemishes bothered me, and upon seeing it in the flesh still do not, thus that's the one I bought. It is Serial Number: 220009. After all, people actually pay to have things relicked, and I buy guitars to use, not hang on the wall, so these very minor finish defects are stuff it would probably end up having anyway, and there is no point in being too precious about a guitar which costs the same as a decent night out on the piss with your mates. So, is it any good?

Well, starting at the top of it, Fazley headstocks are quite a pleasing shape which is reminiscent of the old Harmony Sovereign headstock shape, so no complaints there. The same cannot be said of the Fazley logo. I've no issue with it saying Fazley on it because I'm not a brand snob, and this is a Fazley guitar after all, but what I do have an issue with, is the Fazley logo itself. If I was a barely competent graphic designer circa 1976, this might be the font I would choose for a minicab logo if I'd already used Cooper Black for a different logo I'd designed earlier that same morning. This is undeniably an inexpensive guitar, but there is no need to turn that into a virtue by having a cheap and nasty-looking logo, so if you are reading this, for the love of Zeus, Fazley/Bax, have someone design you a better logo. I don't work as a designer any more, but I used to, and I'd be willing to come out of retirement to do it for you guys lol.

Anyway, to continue, the guitar has a set of gold plated tuners of the kind common on cheaper guitars. They are okay and do keep it in tune, but their ratio is pretty low and for me it is always on the cards to switch these out for some Grovers or similar on any budget guitar I ever buy. That said, the ones it has are not so bad that I'd find this a particularly urgent need to address. They are adequate for the moment. Continuing down the neck, there is a plastic nut - another thing I'll be swapping out, for probably a brass one to maintain that blingy look - but it was very well cut with string grooves requiring no real attention to speak of.

Under the truss rod cover there is the usual dusty white powder you find on less expensive guitars, and when you blow all that away, you find a typical allen-key adjustable truss rod. On my example, this required a bit of loosening off to introduce a bit of relief to facilitate twang room, since the fretboard was basically flat as it came which would have precluded having a decent low action, on the plus side of that however, a flat fretboard is of course ideal for when you are levelling the frets, and some of that was required too; it wasn't terrible, but there were one or two frets which needed taking down slightly. Having done all that malarkey, I gave the frets a decent crown again and all was good. 

The fretboard on this thing is apparently poplar, which initially had me a bit concerned since poplar is a comparatively soft wood compared to other materials found in fretboard construction, but that concern was unfounded, it looks and feels pretty much like rosewood to me and seems pretty hardwearing. It was a bit dry and dusty, but some lemon oil sorted that out and given that the wood is probably dyed, I can report that its stayed dyed when that oil was applied and rubbed in. The neck is a C shape and the frets are medium. There are mother-of-toilet-seat trapeziod block inlays, which are of course never gonna be abalone on a one ton guitar, but they look alright and are very nicely inset into the wood with none of that filler gloop around them. Fret ends are smooth and nicely seated, although as noted, a bit of minor levelling was needed to get things as I like them.

Where this differs from the Gibson Les Paul Gold Top from which it clearly takes inspiration, is that this thing is blinged out to the max, with not just a Gold Top, but a gold bottom, gold sides, gold neck and all the hardware is gold plated too. They picked the right name in calling it the Midas, and really, they should have put that on the headstock rather than 'Vintage Series', because it's a great name for it. 

Up at the dusty end, the set neck has a good join to the body; if I was being really picky, the painted bit in between the end of the neck binding and the neck pick up is not absolutely mirror smooth, but you'd have to look closely to notice it. Both neck and body are allegedly mahogany, but as everyone knows, that's a pretty broad description of wood type, so make of that what you will. The guitar weighs 4.4kg, which is 9.7 lbs in real money. Under the cavity covers it does indeed look like mahogany, so there is that. There is no maple cap or any of that malarkey, but it does have a carved top. Whilst those covers were off, no real surprise to find some cheap small 250k pots in there, but the wiring and soldering is very tidy. I think most people who want the thing to be decent would be swapping those pots out for something better, and that includes me, but for the moment they do an okay job, feel okay when turning the vol and tone knob controls and work okay. Tone and Vol knobs are the old style ones which are found on typical Gold Top guitars.. The cream body and fretboard binding is very tidy and flush.

Hardware-wise, as noted, it's all gold plated, with a Nashville tune-o-matic rather than an ABR-1, which wouldn't be my preference of the two, but it's not gonna break my heart either. From a quality standpoint, it's pretty good stuff.

So, onto the actually important bit; what does it sound and play like?

Well the short answer is, very nicely. The P90s have an excellent tone and the toggle selector for front, back or both pick ups gives a lot of variety. Having spent a bit of time setting the thing up nicely in terms of neck relief, action and intonation, I can say it plays very well indeed; just as well as any of my other guitars and I'm very pleased with the noises it makes, the pick ups are a keeper for sure, to the point that I will be careful when swapping out the wiring and pots (at some point) to ensure I don't alter that tone.
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  • BillDLBillDL Frets: 7474
    edited February 8
    Good review.  We are definitely spoiled for choice these days when you consider that you have a nice looking and well built guitar for only £143.  Even at their (supposedly) normal price before 27% off i.e. £197, it would still be a really good guitar for the price going by your review.  I think the pickups in particular on a lot of these budget guitars these days are good quality and exceptionally good for the price, and people should reserve judgement and not plan a pickup "upgrade" until they receive and play the guitar.

    My first thoughts about good guitars that are freely available at budget prices is that beginners now can have their pick of very playable guitars for a meagre outlay, however it's the little issues like rough / sharp fret ends, the occasional high frets, and the setup that actually would stop me from recommending them to beginners - unless they know somebody that can do the work fairly cheaply or even for free.  With that said, a beginner would most likely have to spend almost 3 times the full price of that guitar to get one that would probably have very well finished frets and would probably be playable out of the box, but even some £600 and £700 guitars often need a setup and don't have particularly well finished frets.  I find it incredulous when I read some really nit-picky observations by people that have bought a new £150 LP style guitar and complain about aspects like the poker chip being a bit misaligned, even though it's not one of the cheap thin stick-on ones and all it would take is a spanner to make it straight.  Those are all insignificant things.  It's the build quality that's more important than all other aspects, and in general budget guitars are infinitely better now than back in the 80s and 90s.

    The Poplar used for the Fazely fretboards puzzled me as well.  I assume it has been treated (e.g. "baked") to harden it, but there are different species of Poplar and it's possible that it's even a generic catch-all name for harder wood similar to Poplar.  Although considered a "hardwood", it's way down the Janka hardness scale compared with more commonly used fretboard woods, and not an immediately obvious choice for fretboards.
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  • edited February 8
    Yup, I did originally write a 'would I recommend it?' bit but it exceeded the character limit for a post, so I deleted that bit. It said pretty much the same thing in that I would recommend it with the caveat that 'so long as one has the tools, knowledge and inclination necessary to give it a decent set up, or one is prepared to find someone who can do it for you or pay perhaps forty quid to a techie to do it.'

    I also added that if one was prepared to throw another seventy quid or so at it to get better tuners and some better wiring and pots, it would cross the finish line at aout the two hundred quid mark all-in, and you'd end up with a really nice guitar which would stack up well against many much more expensive offerings.

    And oddly enough, whilst it might not seem the obvious choice for a beginner's first outing into the guitar world, I do think that a guitar with P90s is one which - being that they are sort of halfway between humbuckers and single coils in their range of tones - one could actually do a lot worse.
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