An outrageously cool semi with Queens Of The Stone Age in its DNA and a neck to die for. Chris Vinnicombe takes one for the team…
The Esperanto (named after an invented language devised in 1887 by Polish physician and philologist LL Zamenhof) came about after Echopark mainman Gabriel Currie began working with Queens Of The Stone Age star Josh Homme back in 2013. “He commissioned five instruments, three of which were semi-hollow,” remembers Currie, then based in Los Angeles but now building out of Detroit.
“We had the same tastes and leanings sonically so I went to work on a couple of ideas, twisting the design in a couple of ways to make it Echopark. I own an ES-330 from 1959 with a dot neck and it’s got a perfect feel. He has a Casino from 1964 that we love too – it’s really a combo of those two with the offset kinda design that is not as wide as an ES-335, not as bulbous, a little more feline…”
Having turned to Gibson’s golden era for inspiration, Gabriel says that he studied the company’s lamination technique from 1958 and found that “the centre lam is cross grain and the glue is very specific for that process – a resin type that is extremely rigid.
I wanted to employ that because those late-50s semi-hollow instruments are just magical. I also went with a mahogany centre block versus maple and spruce kerfed lining for the top/back brace and sides as well as long steel bushings for the stopbar and a vintage reproduction of the non-wire ABR bridge with raw brass saddles.”
In addition, Currie opts for a full neck tenon, “just like on a ’58 Junior. Big, deep, long and set with fish glue.” The result of all this is an instrument with wonderful acoustic ring and sustain with none of the slightly plunky, banjo-like response of even some of the best ES-335s. Strapped on, the 15.7-inch wide lower bout and 8.5-inch waist make for a feel that’s a fraction more compact and the guitar balances perfectly, with no neck dive to fight against. Time to amplify…
Dimensionally speaking, the Esperanto’s neck is a monster – one of the deepest you’re likely to encounter on a modern electric guitar. But it’s worth reiterating that it’s the shape of the carve that determines player comfort. Gabriel’s V-to-D profile has very little shoulder and a smooth transition that complements the way your hand position changes as it moves up the neck. Along the way, access to all 22 of the guitar’s medium-jumbo frets is a breeze.
Arcane pickups have consistently impressed us and these units are no exceptions. Through several flavours of 6V6 combo there’s a delicious dark sparkle here that bristles with harmonic complexity. Situated where the bridge tone control would usually be, the coil split blend proves very useful and throughout its taper the voices are clear and mush-free. As you might expect from a guitar with a Josh Homme connection, the Esperanto handles dense overdrive with class and complexity, and driven lead tones have a fluid, vocal quality. Pretty or mean? You decide, the Esperanto does both very well.
ECHOPARK ESPERANTO 313
• PRICE £6,899 (inc hard case)
• DESCRIPTION Semi-hollow double-cutaway electric guitar. Made in USA
• BUILD Maple laminate body with mahogany centre-block. Set mahogany V-D profile neck with 12-inch radius quartersawn pau ferro fingerboard. 22 Jescar 9055 frets
• HARDWARE Vintage-style Kluson tuners, vintage-style ABR bridge with brass saddles, stop tailpiece
• ELECTRICS Arcane Gold Coil (neck) and Echotron (bridge) pickups, 2x volume, master tone, coil split blend, three-way pickup selector switch
• SCALE LENGTH 24.75”/629mm
• NECK WIDTH 42.0mm at nut, 51.3mm at 12th fret
• NECK DEPTH 23.8mm at first fret, 28.2mm at 12th fret
• STRING SPACING 35.3mm at nut, 52.1mm at bridge
• WEIGHT 7.4lb/3.3kg
• FINISH Pelham Blue nitrocellulose
• CONTACT Coda Music 01438 350815, www.coda-music.com, www.echoparkguitars.com