Nik Huber: Special Custom

At First Glance, The Special Custom From Germany's Nik Huber Appears to be one of those “better mousetrap” guitars that we’ve come to know and love from makers such as PRS, Hamer, and Tom Anderson (as well as newer builders like Gadow, McInturff, and Don Grosh). They all do their own spin on the concept of honoring tradition while moving forward, knowing exactly what was great about the classics from the ’50s and ’60s, as well as seeing what could be improved. With its single-cutaway mahogany body, two P-90- style pickups, and Bigsby, the Special Custom is staking its claim in the rootsy, bluesy world, and backing it up with super-clean workmanship and topquality materials.
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The Special Custom sports a deliciously big neck that feels meaty and substantial. It arrived with fairly high action, but, because of its powerful acoustic voice, it’s only natural to just dig in and hit it hard. The cosmetics are nicely done, with ebony on the headstock veneer and tuner buttons to class things up. The set-neck joint is unique, functional, and pretty. Viewers were split on the gold hardware, but I like the way it complements the creamy white finish. The natural binding is another nice touch. The Special Custom’s only high-tech elements are the knurled locking posts on the Schaller tuning pegs.

Plugging the Special Custom into an Egnater Rebel 20 really brought it to life. This guitar simply kicks a lot of sonic ass. The pickups do precisely what great P-90s should do: They embody the best qualities of single-coils and humbuckers while somehow sounding better than both. Anyone who thinks the terms “chime,” “clang,” and “snarl” are meaningless when it comes to pickups should try the Special Custom, because it does all of those things big time. The ability to tap the bridge pickup is an added bonus. The slightly high action didn’t bug me at all once I plugged in—it just made me butch up and bend and pick with conviction. You need to play this guitar like you mean it. I noticed a couple of minor rattles on the roller bridge when playing acoustically, but through an amp those noises were non-existent and certainly didn’t hamper the guitar’s awesome sustain. The Bigsby takes some getting used to for those of us weaned on Fender and Floyd whammies. You have to do a lot of work to get a little vibrato. It also took a while to settle into stable tuning. I did eventually get the Bigsby to an equilibrium point so that a quick jiggle to the bar brought everything back in tune. Here’s the great news about the system: There is almost no whammy sag, where you bend one string and the other five go flat, which makes double- and triplestop bends a joy.

Huber has done an outstanding job on the Special Custom. Anyone looking to break out of the same-old same-old while still maintaining a somewhat familiar look, feel, and sound will have a friend in Nik Huber.

Nik Huber Guitars (011) 49-(0) 61 06 - 77 21 66;
MODEL Special Custom
PRICE $3,553 retail/street N/A
NECK Set mahogany
FRETBOARD 25.5"-scale Brazilian rosewood
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
BODY Swamp Ash
PICKUPS Two Nik Huber P-90-style made by Haeussel
CONTROLS Master Volume, Master Tone (with push/push button for bridge pickup coil tap), 3-way pickup selector
BRIDGE Bigsby with Tune-o- Matic-style roller bridge
TUNERS Gold locking Schallers with ebony buttons
FACTORYSTRINGS Elixir .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.8 lbs
KUDOS Great construction. Superb tones.