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Review: Gil Yaron Bone

April 25, 2014
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Once in a while a manufacturer comes along who totally realigns your understanding of just how good a handcrafted guitar can be. Frequent swimmers in the deep end of the boutique guitar pool will likely be aware of Gil Yaron’s exquisite LP-style reproductions, widely considered to be among the best small-shop single-cuts available anywhere. The Israeli guitar maker has lately stepped out into the world of original designs, while simultaneously seeking to beat himself at his own game. The quest: design and build a guitar that captures all the magic of the best ’59 Les Paul, but improve upon the acknowledged shortcomings in the original, namely in playing comfort, weight, sonic range, and versatility. Enter the new Bone, a guitar that is instantly familiar, even classic in its looks and feel, yet is constructed like nothing that has come before it, with its own sublime and timeless elegance.

Lifting the Bone from its case triggers a series of axis-tilting impressions. First, it’s surprisingly light for a solidbody. Second, it feels thoroughly vintage and “played-in,” despite being new. Third, it reveals a massive and very lively acoustic presence for a “non-acoustic” guitar (a quality further emphasized by how muted my very good Les Paul sounded in comparison). The neck carve is a superbly comfortable rounded ’59 profile, and thanks to a first-class setup, the Bone offers a very pliant playing feel.

Yaron builds every Bone entirely by hand, usually in batches of three, from old-growth stocks of the de rigueur single-cutaway tonewoods, including a lightweight mahogany body shell and neck, private-stock figured Eastern maple top, and CITES certified Brazilian rosewood fretboard. The significant addition to this traditional formula comes from within, though, in the form of a solid, ultra-lightweight paulownia body core. To construct the Bone, Yaron hollows out the mahogany body-back to a “shell” which, before being capped with its carved maple top, is filled with a precisely cut silhouette of solid paulownia. The result is a guitar that behaves much like a solidbody in sustain, attack, sonic body, and feedback resistance—because, in essence, it is one—but with the weight and enhanced resonance of a semi-acoustic.

Another essential of the Bone formula is the patented pickup, designed and constructed by Yaron himself with the aim of capturing the best of a vintage PAF, but with a broader frequency response and an edge of “Tele on steroids” thrown in. Elements of this unique humbucker are its marriage of one PAF-style and one Broadcaster-style coil under the same cover, with adjustable poles in both bobbins, and an entirely unique “air gap” pole design that allows intricate adjustment of the magnetic pull on each string, as well as its relative brightness, deepness, and output level. Among an abundance of other meticulous details and quality appointments are an original proprietary trussrod design with body end access (with the added bonus of a stronger neck-to-headstock point), the use of NOS ’50s wiring harnesses and the Yaron paper in oil tone caps, a NuBone nut, celluloid nitrate dot inlays, and triple-ply top binding. Given the variables in old-growth figured maple tops, each Bone will look a little different, but this one is a real stunner, its rippling-waved grain finished in a “dirty lemon burst” of hand-rubbed shellac topped with very thin coats of low-plasticizer nitrocellulose. Is there anything that I don’t like about the Bone so far? Perhaps only that it carries small vintage-style aluminum strap buttons, which you’ll likely want to replace with something more secure to prevent a fatal plunge before gigging with a beauty like this.

Plugged alternately into a Matchless Phoenix 1x12 combo and Dr. Z Remedy head with 2x12 cab, and using with a variety of pedals, the Bone revealed an astoundingly broad array of voices, all with outstanding depth and complexity. My current go-to cranked-plexi test riffs—the breakdown section from the middle of the Hold Steady’s “Stuck Between Stations”— sound ballsy and confident, yet a slight reduction in amp gain and a flick to the neck pickup puts me straight into a Wes Montgomery state of mind. Nashville twang? No problem. Plummy electric blues? Most definitely. Ardent single-cut fans might miss that classically fat midrange punch, yet once I dialed down my preconceptions, I found the guitar would do everything I could wish for from a traditional LP, with plenty more besides. The added acoustic-like zing and heightened fidelity in the Bone tone make it a powerful tool for nuanced players who enjoy hearing every element of their touch translated to their tone. And while it might not be a first choice for death metal or extreme shred, the Bone still rocks mightily, too. For sheer build quality, effortless playing feel, and sonic virtue, the Bone by Gil Yaron seems entirely reasonable at this price, and earns itself an Editors’ Pick Award.

 

MODEL

GIL YARON BONE

CONTACT gilyaronguitars.com
PRICE $7,500 street

SPECIFICATIONS

NUT NuBone, 1 11/16" wide
NECK Old-growth mahogany, rounded ’59 profile (any size/ shape for custom builds)
FRETBOARD
Brazilian rosewood, 24 ¾" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium
TUNERS Gotoh open-gear
BODY Old-growth mahogany shell, paulownia core, carved figured Eastern maple top
BRIDGE GraphTech Resomax adjustable lightweight wraparound with Yaron-made steel posts
PICKUPS Two patented Yaron AirGap Bone humbucking pickups
CONTROLS Dual Volume and Tone controls with paper-in-oil Yaron tone caps, 3-way switch, NOS harness wiring
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 6.1 lbs
BUILT Israel
KUDOS An impeccably crafted guitar made to a unique new design. Superb playing feel. Broad tonal range. Beautiful look.
CONCERNS Would prefer larger strap buttons to keep this beauty safe.

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