As an avid fan of Les Paul Junior-style guitars, will this budget friendly Vintage exceed expectations?
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Overview & Final Score: 6.9 out of 10
New for 2020, UK-based Vintage Guitars has released a wonderful take on a distressed Les Paul Junior at a very palatable price. The V120MRGHB is a single cut guitar made with a Mahogany body and neck, not unlike the very guitar that inspired this model. A Lignum Rosa fretboard has 22 medium jumbo frets and plenty of solid Wilkinson hardware and Graphtech NuBone nut. Wilkinson’s Deluxe WJ15 tuners hold the strings opposed a Wilkinson GTBCR wrap around bridge, with their own W90SK dog ear P90 pickup providing the growl. Pictured above is the “Gun Hill Blue over Sunburst” distressed finish I was sent, which is really killer in picture and person. Looking a lot like a nice Pelham Blue finish, I’m a big fan of the relic’d style appearance, even though that is sure to turn some off from this guitar right away. The single dog ear is controlled by standard master volume and tone, providing for a super straightforward instrument that won’t break the bank.
While single P90 guitars are right up my alley, I did have a few qualms with the Vintage V120 ICON’s tones. The P90 has great growl, bite, and mid-range punch but was actually a bit muddier than I was expecting. Note to note clarity seemed to get a bit lost once you dialed in higher volumes and more gain. However, I was actually able to get it back to a very clear, bell-like sound with some tweaks to my Vox AC15’s top boost channel that helped cut more treble through. Ultimately, it’s not a huge deal and it’s exciting to see you can uncover awesome sounds from this V120 ICON, but it took a bit more work than some comparably priced guitars have in the past. When I did get it dialed in, I loved the punchy tones of this guitar! It cuts through a mix and does all the classic rock and garage rock things I want in a slab guitar. It was rather resonant too, which helped give the amplified tone and nice sense of roundness, that fills quite a bit of space, even if the Wilkinson P90 was a bit muddy for my liking. Check out some clips below where I surprised myself with some almost Country-like clean tones.
While I was able to eventually dial in some awesome tones, I had a much harder time with the tuning stability. It was honestly just not reliable enough for me to take on stage in the current state. I assume it isn’t the nut, as I’ve heard good things about the NuBone from Graphtech before, plus it seems to be properly cut. My best guess is that throwing locking tuners on would make a big difference. But realistically I had like 15 minutes of playing before I had to stop and retune a string or two. Other than that, they did do an excellent job with the fret work and action right out of the box! It was comfortable, with a “soft C” shape that made it feel faster than I expected when moving up and down the fretboard. I think some players may be thrown off by the distressed finish, which leaves parts of the neck feeling like they are missing a chunk of finish, but I honestly loved the feel. Even better, with the blue finish covering the neck and headstock it never felt sticky or poorly finished.
Finish & Construction: 7
Overall it’s a beautiful guitar to look at and a ton of fun to play. The V120 ICON is ultra lightweight making it a real contender for some heavy stage usage if you can get the tuning dialed in correctly. As I said before, I’m sure some will have an issue with Vintage’s take on the distressed look, but if you love aged/beat up guitars, this is one of the best affordable LP Junior-style takes on the market! The fret work, finish job, and pickup adjustment was all great, making up for some other construction issues that would have otherwise lowered the score. There are a lot things working really well here, so if you are willing and able to tweak the guitar to really fit your amp/rig and maybe swap out the tuners or nut, you have a super fun guitar. Vintage really killed it on the finish, I can’t emphasize enough how rad it was to come home and see this on my guitar rack or hanging on my wall. It’s smooth, there were no signs of damage or lazy QA/QC, I’d be delighted if I got this out of the box as a consumer!
Vintage’s V120 ICON gets a few bonus points here because a quality Les Paul Junior-copy isn’t as easy to find as a Strat, LP, or Tele copy these days. Harley Benton and Epiphone have recently given this model more love, but for awhile you really had to get a questionable Firefly guitar off Amazon unless you wanted to drop $500+. That being said, I think there are some quirks that Vintage needs to iron out here with the tuning/pickup choice (unless of course mine just wasn’t the best of the bunch) to really compete with my favorite affordable guitars from 2020 so far. Huge improvements in oversea’s guitar production has made it possible for $250+ dollar guitars to be insanely reliable, which makes us all winners. Vintage put out an awesome guitar with the V120 ICON, but it is still a few points shy of being the best budget guitar of the year.
Good for: Country, Garage Rock, Punk Rock, Player Seeking Lightweight Guitars, Budget LP Junior Fans,
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