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A bit of a fluke that I managed to secure this highly desirable Collings i35LC Deluxe with a lightly aged faded cherry finish – I have other i35LC models on order, so a quick phone call to touch base with the UK/EU office for an update – Bad news was an additional wait for new orders to come through – Good news was a cancelled, so un-allocated i35LC Deluxe with a very rare one piece figured front and back – No issues at my end, so here it is in its full glory – Essentially the i35LC and i35LC Deluxe are the same guitar regarding feel, tone, spec and features – The only difference is the deluxe trimmings on the latter – So grained ivoroid body, fingerboard and headstock facia binding, truss rod cover, pick-up surrounds and control knobs – List price is £6125 so a nice saving as well at £5795

Information regarding this Collings i35LC – aged faded cherry can be summed up with this quote that I borrowed from the Collings Guitars web site   ‘There are lots of products created with no greater aspiration than to be sold to a consumer, but as consumers of expensive musical instruments, many of us value the subtle signs that tell us the builder cared more than he had to – that careful thought, superior materials and skilled hands have all contrived to create an instrument that transcends the ordinary and defines the extraordinary – This is the best reason, in our opinion, to consider buying a superior instrument like this Collings i35LC Deluxe in the first place – If you simply need a guitar, you can buy one that is reasonably playable and creates a reasonably good sound these days for under £200, but you won’t be buying an instrument that has been artfully crafted from the best materials, or one that is capable of producing an extraordinary playing experience and tone

 Lightly aged finish :-   Gibson have done it for a few years now with their VOS finish, along with a selection of more heavily aged models examples, courtesy of the fine work of Tom Murphy – Fender have run with aged finishes for over 30 years now,  with various options available from very lightly aged to ‘beat the crap out of it’ – Yet when a guitar builder such as Collings, with an exemplary fine reputation regarding quality and attention to detail, does it then questions will be asked and comments will be made – I suppose like Marmite there will always be the who like it and those who are 100% against it – I personally think Collings have nailed it down to a fine art – They did not need to do it – They would not have done it if they could not get it right – Furthermore, for how many aged examples Collings are going to sell then it won’t add a fortune to the bottom line of a balance sheet – But they have nailed it – I’ve sold and played various examples of 335 based guitars from the Gibson golden era and there is something special about the patina of a 50 or 60 year old guitar, that has been well cared for and Collings have captured this – Open the case and it somehow looks right and smells right – No dings, dings or heavy markings that can be so offensive to many – This is just about subtle lacquer checking, oxidization of a thin nitro finish, so it has faded, mellowed and aged gracefully, to capture the vibe of to many years spent in a smokey ‘blues joint’ environment – Likewise, all the nickel hardware and pick-up covers have been lightly aged accordingly with that misty oxidization vibe – No matter as to your liking of the aged vibe or not, it is an art form in its own right and can look very poor if it is not done right – It is like buying a leather sofa, jacket or bag with subtle aged character – The same can be said for pine, oak or ash furniture – It certainly removes that fear of buying a new shiny gloss finish, then marking it and moaning like hell – Collings have fully captured the aged patina of a vintage guitar that has been exceptionally well cared for – My words and pictures do not do it justice but I believe they have made an exceptionally fine semi acoustic even more desirable

Before I go into any product details, please click here to visit the Collings i35LC Deluxe web site page – Then click here to find various video clips of the i35LC in action – Then finally  Click here for a review courtesy of Guitarist Magazine – I know a couple of those examples are of the i35LC as against the i35LC deluxe, but the spec and features are the same, so all relevant – the only difference is the Deluxe trimmings

Now lets list the full spec and details for the Collings i35LC Deluxe with  a lightly aged faded cherry nitro finish

Playing a set of 11’s – most guitar players choose to play a guitar that is set-up with a set of 9 or 10’s, me included. so the thought of playing a set of 11’s may well put the fear of God into many players – Of course we are more than happy to supply the i35LC Deluxe with a set of 10’s, along with an appropriate check-up/set-up, but I do suggest you try it first with a set of 11’s – I believe that many guitarist will play the i35LC Deluxe and believe they are playing a guitar that is actually set-up with 10’s – Granted you may find string bending a touch more slow and stiff at first, but I think a short time of playing the i35LC Deluxe with a Collings set-up and a set of 11’s and you will be pleasantly surprised – The extra tension from the 11’s sure makes the neck vibrate and acoustically you can hear that this adds a depth of tone to this guitar

Aesthetics and Tribute:-  There is no mistaking the influence behind the i35, so as against trying to re-invent the wheel, the Collings approach is to simply add a few very effective yet subtle tweaks, select the finest ingredients, coupled with impeccable workmanship and attention to detail, to ensure the i35 delivers the ultimate playing experience – The Collings method is to build one guitar at a time, hence all woods, pots, capacitors and pick-ups are hand picked to ensure that all components work in harmony – Appraise the i35, then you’ll fully appreciate that the knowledge, evaluation, and attention to detail that Collings possesses pays dividends in the end – The i35 utilises a laminate maple approach for the body, in the same manner as the Gibson ES335 – Collings ensure that the premium grade maple is selected to optimise tone, but also to ensure that the figured maple possesses enough curl and flame to add some character – The i35 approach is to be simple, graceful and effective, as such it is not about ‘Private Stock’ graded maple tops – Even so, the Collings i35 is not a ‘plain Jane’ guitar and in many ways its simplicity is its beauty – Less is more approach – A large portion of the overall tone comes from the wood and in particular the neck – Fat neck, fat tone, thin neck thin tone, so like many good 335 based instrument, the Collings i35 has a comfortable medium to full neck profile – Enough girth to enrich the tone, sustain and stability, but not to the point that it impedes the playing experience – The Collings may not exactly play itself, but you try and put it down and stop playing it – The guitar is set up 11’s and a slick playing action

Now onto the Tonal character  – First of all I need to point out that the i35 is more than happy to be played with its controls wide open on 10, or with the pots ‘rolled off’ – Played with the pots ‘rolled off’ does not harm the guitars character one little bit, but it does deliver a softer voice, that is silky and smooth, yet retains its excellent articulation – For chilled out jazz and blues based players, or rock players with the foot of the pedal, the the ‘rolled off’ approach is the best option, with the volume pot around 5/6 or 7 – Trim the tone pot as required, with levels below five delivering some ‘woody’ jazz tones, but not mushy, just dark – For silky licks and seductive blues/jazz chords this approach works so well and delivers all the tone, emotion and soul that you’ll ever need – The Lollar Low Wind Imperial neck pick-up is fat, smooth and warm with incredible string separation, plus full, tight and clear lows and soft sparkling highs – The Lollar Low Wind Imperial bridge pick-up has enough bite to cut and add plenty of attack, coupled with enough mids to add body, with again enough bass to add depth – One of the best options is to leave the selector switch in the middle position, then just fade in/out the 2 volume controls as required to offer subtle, yet effective tonal variations  – From the fat blues tones of BB or Freddie King, to the slick and silky tones of Larry Carlton and Robben Ford, this a 335 semi based guitar at its absolute best – All this time we have still talked about the i35 with the pots ‘rolled off’, so now let’s take them back up to 10, to give you that wide open boost option, that many rock players may require – Plenty of attack and dynamics but still so musically warm – Very open tone, so even with hi-gain amp settings, you can still hear the guitars tonal qualities and expression – No shortage of natural sustain, so when hooked up to your amp it will wailllllll as long as required – I would point out that the character of the i35, with lo wind humbuckers, is more akin to the silky tones of Larry Carlton, than the thick powerful rock tones of Bonamassa or Clapton in his Cream Days – Don’t get me wrong, as no one guitar does it all, it can sing with subtle or hi-gain amp settings, but it always comes across as more pure and cultured, rather than that of a raw alley cat  – Overall the i35LC is a very infectious guitar, that is loaded with soul, character and expression and they are indeed great assets to be found in such a wonderful instrument

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