By Eric Kirkland
Britannia Guitars president Marc Alexander became fascinated with Lucite when he saw the Rolling Stones’ Keith Richards and Bill Wyman playing translucent Ampeg Dan Armstrong guitars in the Sixties.
Both men raved about the natural sustain of their instruments. In the 50 years that followed, luthiers have produced only a handful of instruments made of Lucite: the material is not only heavy but also difficult to work with. Undeterred, Alexander developed precise manufacturing methods and solved the weight issue by using extensive cutouts. His new Scorpion Elite is an excitingly ornate Lucite masterpiece that’s as sonically impressive as it is visually intriguing.
Aside from saving weight (my Scorpion Elite weighed 8.6 pounds—less than a typical Les Paul), the cutouts serve as carry handles or as a stabilizing grip during one-handed fretboards flurries. All the hardware is gold, and the tremolo’s block is custom built for lower weight and proper depth. Alexander loads the Scorpion Elite with Gold Lace Sensor pickups that are veneered in genuine blue abalone and sealed with nitro lacquer.
These are wired to a five-way switch, dual tone controls and a push/pull volume pot that taps the coils. The 22-fret bolt-on maple neck offers a deep, D-shaped profile and an extensive tree-of-life abalone inlay. In addition, all 2012 Britannia guitars now feature a sharper headstock shape that’s more befitting of the guitars’ eye-popping designs.
Lucite is neither extremely loud nor particularly dynamic, and it is most-often prized for its balanced response, long sustain and detailed presentation. These qualities were joyfully apparent when I paired the Scorpion Elite with my Mesa Mk V. Chords sounded more even and complete than on many wood-bodied guitars, and double-stops had greater depth and note separation. The low-output Gold Lace Sensors accentuated these attributes, bringing clean tones to life with round warmth. As I stepped up the gain, the Scorpion Elite’s even-order harmonics took on a life of their own, adding zing and grind that are rarely experienced (think Clapton’s “Bad Love” solo, only fatter).
List Price $2,650
MANUFACTURER Britannia Guitars, britanniaguitars.com
The Bottom Line
Britannia Guitars’ Scorpion Elite takes Lucite guitar design to the extreme, rewarding players with balanced tone, inspiring note distinction and vibrant sustain.