If you learn nothing else about me today, you should become aware of this – I am a guy who likes surprises. I – no joke – close my eyes during previews for movies I actually want to see. Even the slightest hint of giving away any part of the film that might tip me off while watching it later irks me to no end. I am a huge Star Wars fan (see video for evidence) and I have not watched one second of any of the teasers or trailers for The Force Awakens. Hand to God.
So after hearing Jeff Kiesel say time and time again that they would never do a multiscale, that it was a fad, that it wouldn’t be worth the R&D, I went down to the factory and showroom at his invitation. He said he had something special he wanted to show me, and I couldn’t tell anyone – then he showed me the prototype for the Aries Multiscale. I threw my head back and laughed my fucking ass off. He did what all my favorite movie directors did: set my expectations one way, then totally surprised me with exactly what I wanted.
The Aries Multiscale is a superbly done fan fret guitar. Like all Kiesel/Carvin guitars, it’s made in their factory near San Diego, California, and no guitar I have played from them has been less than stellar. This guitar (and the 7 string version I played, but didn’t get to borrow to review) also had some real special features that put it ahead of many of the multiscale guitars I’ve played.
Kiesel did a really great job of not making these guitars feel huge, despite the longer scale length. They seem to have achieved this by keeping the overall length of the guitar the same (as the Aries with standard frets), and integrating it into the headstock design, rather than lengthening the guitar. This helped immensely with the feel of the guitar. I also like the parallel fret at the 9th fret, it allows the fan to feel balanced.
Slanted pickup placement aren’t just an aesthetically pleasing detail of fan fret guitars, they’re a necessity. If you don’t slant your pickups relative to the bridge, you’re gonna have a bad time. The tone, from the bridge pickup especially, won’t be what you want it to be – rhythm tones aren’t crunchy enough, leads on the neck are too round and too brittle on the bridge. The difficulty lies in procuring pickups which are slanted so that the poles line up close enough to the strings to do their job (it’s generally not that big of a deal if the pole pieces don’t line up perfectly, but depending on the slant it could be pretty far out of whack). Because of this, many multiscale guitars wind up with active pickups by default (active pickups use bar magnets instead of individual pole pieces), or resort to ordering custom slanted pickups, which are more expensive.
However, Carvin makes all their pickups in-house, so for them to make their passive Lithium pickups slanted perfectly to match their fan is no problem. This gives them an advantage over other companies in this regard. As you may have caught from my 5 Carvin reviews, I love the Lithium pickups, and the ability to have slanted passive pickups of that quality come stock in a guitar is pretty spectacular.
Also new with this guitar is the offset fretboard inlay dots, currently only available on this model (although I hear it’s coming for other models soon) and the Hipshot Solo bridges, also only available (and only necessary for) the multiscale.
As with all Kiesel/Carvin guitars, you can customize many options, such as wood type, finish, and hardware color. However, the options on this guitar are a bit less customizable, since it is highly specialized, so you are limited to one headstock design, one type of inlay (offset dots), and one bridge type. It’s also currently only available as a bolt-on, while many Carvins are neck-through. Still, with your pick of woods and finish, it’s more flexible than the majority of fan fret guitars available on the market.
I thoroughly enjoyed the Aries Multiscale, because every detail of it has been very well thought out and masterfully constructed. So if you’re in the market for a quasi-custom multiscale guitar that destroys most of the competition but won’t obliterate your wallet, head over to Carvin’s website and spec one out for yourself.