True Brit

Long-run­ning Brit brand Gor­don Smith, now in the hands of Au­den Gui­tars and with proper distri­bu­tion, looks set to be­come a ma­jor player

Guitarist - - News - Words Dave Bur­rluck Pho­tography Joby Ses­sions

We hail the re­turn of a clas­sic slice of Bri­tish gui­tar mak­ing in the form of the stripped­down Gor­don Smith GS-1 ‘60’, a no-frills sin­gle-cut thriller

Few long-time Gui­tarist read­ers will be un­aware of Gor­don-Smith Gui­tars: founded in the mid-70s, it is the UK’s long­est-run­ning pro­duc­tion gui­tar com­pany. Made pri­mar­ily by the hus­band/wife team of John and Linda Smith – with the con­sid­er­able help of Chris Smith (no re­la­tion) – it never ad­ver­tised its in­stru­ments, never had a bank loan and just kept at it. Af­ter 40 years and around 13,000 in­stru­ments later, John and Linda re­tired and GSG was sold, in 2015, to the Au­den Mu­si­cal In­stru­ment Com­pany, which now makes the gui­tars in its work­shop in Higham Fer­rers, Northamp­ton­shire.

So what’s changed? Well, not an aw­ful lot, if we’re hon­est. We’ve lost the hy­phen in the name (which im­me­di­ately dif­fer­en­ti­ates the new from the pre­vi­ous) and there’s a vis­i­ble wheel-style truss rod ad­juster, but out­wardly our GS-1 em­bod­ies GSG’s straight­for­ward, no-non­sense ap­proach.

Now, the GS was al­ways the start-point to the range: a thin-bod­ied (36mm), sym­met­ri­cal dou­ble-cut Melody Maker-style gui­tar. The sin­gle-cut ‘60’ op­tion was added in the 90s and, you could – and still can – spec your own flavour. So while the £600 base model GS-1 fea­tures a sim­ple spec­i­fi­ca­tion – all

cedar con­struc­tion with satin nat­u­ral fin­ish and sin­gle GSG hum­bucker – our sam­ple adds £295 in terms of up­grades (see spec on p11): lock­ing Go­toh tuners, all-ma­hogany con­struc­tion, a deeper 44mm-thick body, a pro­pri­etary P-90-style soap bar sin­gle coil, and a gloss-topped solid colour fin­ish. There are oth­ers, too, not least twin hum­buck­ers or P-90s, a GS-2, or a hum­bucker/P-90 at bridge with a neck-placed sin­gle coil – the wit­tily en­ti­tled GS-1.5. Left-han­ders are the same price and have the same op­tions.

The orig­i­nal Gor­don Smith gui­tars were a lit­tle idio­syn­cratic, thanks to their build. Neck shapes were in­ten­tion­ally slightly dif­fer­ent from gui­tar to gui­tar – the new ones have a thick or thin op­tion (ours is the thick and mea­sures 21.6mm at the 1st fret, 24.2mm at the 12th) and re­tain quite a wide width: 43.6mm at the nut, 52.1mm at the 12th. Finger­boards al­ways had a con­i­cal ra­dius – the new ones re­vert to a sin­gle 305mm cam­ber. But what­ever the slight dif­fer­ences, this sam­ple is very smartly built and at­tired in a very clean Vin­tage White. GSG seems to be in very safe hands.

Feel & Sounds

Com­par­ing the GS-1 with our ’57 Les Paul Ju­nior, the con­tem­po­rary gui­tar cer­tainly falls into the right ball­park with a sim­i­lar weight, slightly slim­mer, less-rounded neck pro­file and slightly airier top-fret ac­cess thanks to the lack of the Ju­niors’ lip in the cut­away.

GSG al­ways used what it be­lieved was the ac­tual scale used by Gib­son in the 50s – slightly shorter than the quoted 24.75 inches – and while it’s a per­sonal pref­er­ence, these gui­tars can eas­ily take 0.011s. Here, with a slinkier setup and lighter strings, it’s a lit­tle ‘plinky’ yet sounds a lit­tle ‘over­wound’, with a slightly rounder high-string re­sponse. There’s also pickup hum, al­ways a prob­lem with the P-90’s sin­gle-coil de­sign and some­thing you have to live with. Con­trol choice is also cru­cial to max­imise the ‘one’ sound. Our orig­i­nal Ju­nior al­ways sur­prises, the tone con­trol pulling back some of the ag­gres­sion for an al­most jazzy voice that can sound sur­pris­ingly acous­tic at lower vol­ume. The GS-1 is more so-so; there’s less tonal range. With a gained, crunchy Mar­shall voice, how­ever, the GSG gets close to

the ma­hogany ‘grunt’ of the orig­i­nal. There’s a lit­tle less power here (de­spite a 9.8kohms DC read­ing from the pickup), but that sub­tly cocked wah char­ac­ter is ev­i­dent, as is the more com­plex, grainy char­ac­ter of the P-90. With a few mi­nor tweaks (we added firm rub­ber un­der the pickup and moved it closer to the strings), the GS-1 gets close and like any good Ju­nior-style gui­tar has to be one of the de­fin­i­tive clas­sic rock rhythm ma­chines, a punk/garage sta­ple and a vis­ceral slash-and­burn lead axe, as well as a de­fault slide gui­tar.


It cer­tainly seems the new own­ers of Gor­don Smith have the pro­duc­tion know-how and distri­bu­tion to take this al­most ‘un­der­ground’ brand bang into the main­stream. GSG is also prov­ing that an old-school pro­duc­tion gui­tar can be made in the UK and still be af­ford­able, with prices that in many cases are bet­ter than Far East­ern im­ports, while of­fer­ing a raft of cus­tom op­tions. For us play­ers, it’s win-win. If you’ve never plugged in, now is most def­i­nitely the time. Here’s to many, many more GSGs!

With a gained, crunchy Mar­shall voice, the GSG gets close to the ma­hogany ‘grunt’ of the orig­i­nal… the more com­plex, grainy char­ac­ter of the P-90 is ev­i­dent

3 1. A clas­si­cally el­e­gant three‑a‑side head­stock with the new hy­phen‑ free logo. Our re­view model also fea­tures rear‑lock­ing Go­toh tuners – not re­ally nec­es­sary but a qual­ity up­grade and handy for quick string changes 2. A new fea­ture is the wheel‑style truss rod ad­juster (and more con­ven­tional two‑way truss rod), which makes any nec­es­sary neck tweaks dead sim­ple 3. This bar bridge means in­to­na­tion is a slight com­pro­mise; if that both­ers you just or­der an ad­justable bridge, a tune‑o‑matic/stud tail­piece combo or even a vi­brato. The soap­bar pickup is made to Gor­don Smith’s orig­i­nal recipe, which in­cludes an un­usual twin ce­ramic mag­net struc­ture



4. Clas­sic gui­tar mak­ing in terms of the neck joint. Here, un­der the solid white colour, we have a ma­hogany body and neck – the start‑up GS‑1 uses cedar 5. A long­time GSG fea­ture is this brass nut that’s height ad­justable should you need it – handy for slide play­ers 6. Con­trols are dead sim­ple, although un­like a Les Paul Ju­nior, the out­put jack is placed on the front, not the side, so you’ll need a right‑ an­gled jack 4



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