Battle of the Headless Guitars: Strandberg Boden OS Vs. Kiesel/Carvin Vader

This is far and away the most requested comparison in Gear Gods’ history. Having spent a great deal of time with both the Kiesel/Carvin Vader and the Strandberg Boden OS models, I’m in a pretty good position to compare the two.


If you haven’t read my full reviews and watched their respective accompanying videos, you should do that first – there’s a lot I had to say about each, and it’s a bit more in-depth than what you’ll find below.

The first thing you need to consider is this – both of these guitars are marvels of modern guitar building. I can’t see anyone being anything other than ridiculously ecstatic with either of these guitars, I loved them both. That being said, they are very different in many ways, and it’s important that you get an idea of which one is right for you before you invest a pretty good chunk of change into either of these puppies.

Here’s a chart that should help you right off the bat:

carvin kiesel vader vs strandberg boden os 2

So, there are a lot of factors to consider here. Do you need fanned frets? The Vader doesn’t have them. Do you want to customize any features? The Boden comes as is, love it or leave it. If you want a certain top, neck woods, and a variety of finishes to choose from, the Vader is where it’s at, although if you go crazy with the specs you could wind up spending WAY more than on the Boden. Keep it conservative, and you could easily keep some cash over buying a Strandberg. The Boden is a swamp ash body with a flame maple top, and a maple neck with either a birdseye maple or rosewood fretboard. Both have a 20″ fretboard radius.

One thing that divides many players is bolt-on vs. neck-through construction. Although I do like a neck-through I honestly think it matters less than people think it does, for me the difference is more in the feel than anything else. But if it’s important to you, then it could be the deciding factor as the Boden only comes as a bolt-on and the Vader only as neck-through.

Pickup variety is essentially nil in both models: although Carvin will install any pickups you send them for a fee, the Lithiums come standard and there’s no option on the order form for any others, and the Boden has EMG 707x’s in the 7 string and a Seymour Duncan JB/Jazz set for the 6. Luckily, that’s an easy thing to swap out after the fact if you feel it’s warranted, although I quite liked all three pickup types.

The Boden is a bit lighter than the Vader, although as the Boden is the lightest guitar I’ve personally ever played that’s not much of a contest. With the chambered option the Vader is still very, very light. The forearm contour on the Vader is much more aggressive than the Boden, which is very important for me. I’m of the opinion that a more pronounced forearm slope is the only ergonomic improvement that Strandberg could make at this point, and if I ever get a Made to Measure guitar I’ll be sure to include that.

I will say this: the Kiesels are built better than the OS series Strandbergs. There is a difference between getting a custom made in the USA guitar and one from a Korean factory (although Strandberg’s US based quality control is very good) and I did notice a difference in some of the details. This isn’t to say that the Boden isn’t an extremely well-made guitar, because it is (especially for an import); only that the Kiesels are over the top.

I’m not going to tell you which one is “better” or which one you should buy. I’m merely giving you the information you need to make an informed decision. If you read this whole article, read both reviews and watch both videos, and you still can’t decide, just flip a damn coin. Heads or tails, you’ll wind up a happy camper.

Order a Boden OS here, or a Vader here.

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As Editor-in-Chief of Gear Gods, I've been feeding your sick instrument fetishism and trying unsuccessfully to hide my own since 2013. I studied music on both coasts (Berklee and SSU) and now I'm just trying to put my degree to some use. That's a music degree, not an English one. I'm sure you noticed.