A while ago, the guys from Halo's current management got in touch with me as they wanted me to review one of their guitars. After a few email exchanges, Halo chose to send me what is one of the members of their production line, a Merus 7 with a BKP Juggernaut 7 and Evertune installed. First off, the specs:
Construction Method: Neck Through Body
Scale Length: 27"
Body Wings: Solid Alder
Fingerboard Binding: White
Pickups: Your Choice
Neck Material: 11-Piece: Maple, Walnut, Mahogany, Rosewood
Body Finish: Transparent Black Top, Natural Sides and Back
Headstock Shape: Reverse Inline #2
Neck/Headstock Finish: Transparent Black Flame Maple
Frets/Size: 24, Jumbo
Inlays: Center Dots, White Pearl
Nut: Graphtech Black TUSQ XL
Hardware Color: Black
Bridge System: EverTune F-Model
Control Pattern: 1 Volume, 1 Tone, 3-Way Toggle Switch
Now for a few crap pics (why do you insist on not coming, summer?) and then the review and accompanying video (which is the review in itself, actually).
All crap on strings courtesy of yours truly.
As I hope the pics show, there are now wacky finish flaws, binding is pretty clean and the overall vibe on inspection is that of a well finished instrument. Acoustically it's alive and resonates well, and the ET makes sure that it stays in tune. It's worth noting the tuners work quite well, as there was no slippage that might alter the feel.
First for the bad bits:
- frets needed some work in the leveling department. While a substantial part of that was due to the guitar being kept in what I do know to be less than optimal conditions by the local customs office, my tech did detect some differences that didn't derive from any hardcore temperature and humidity changes, so the QC on that front does need some proper tightening (or did, as they were notified immediately and proceeded to say they'd get on that) ASAP. While it wasn't a mess, it isn't acceptable in the price range they are going for;
- pickups are excellent. Bridge is excellent. Nut is excellent. Tuners are excellent. Using cheapo pots and switch, in light of this, is sabotaging the guitar, and when I brought this to their attention, they agreed on upgrading them for this sort of range. They aren't crackling or fail to function, but I know a flimsy "I will fuck you mid-gig" switch when I see one, and controlling the gain via pot adjustments or tweaking the tone pot almost always proved to be a downgrade of sorts in terms of the general tone.
Now for the good part which, fortunately for Halo, has a lot more going for it, especially if they do the necessary production tweaks to minimize QC slips:
- tonally, it's pretty solid. Not just due to the pickups, but the thing does have merits acoustically, which do translate well when amplified;
- neck profile is quite good. It's not overly thin or thick, feels fast and not tiring, and it's quite well finished. Fret access is, as one would expect, great, and the guitar plays rather well overall - given the horrors I've seen under that brand in the past, I admit I was most curious to see what they had been doing;
- Halo is overly critical with their finishes. While they won't give the likes of Suhr a run for their money anytime soon, it's not like the thing looks shoddily made, and there aren't the all too common imperfections one tends to find on the binding and joint areas, but if they can improve on this without impacting the price, all the better, of course;
- communication from the company. They are enthusiastic, they are keen on receiving all sorts of feedback and appear to be hellbent on constant improvement. I respect that, especially since communication is one of the most frequent Achilles heels when it comes to online operation flaws. Should they be capable of applying the feedback they receive properly, I could see them shaking the ghosts of the Halo little shop of horrors in time.
Now for the vid with the guitar thingy, as per usual:
Conclusion: assuming the corrections to the QC procedure take place, the actual instruments coming from their runs should be quite cool and light years away from the utter crap they once put out for the better.
One thing does make me wonder, though. With the market in that price range (1299 with SD or DiMarzio pickups, 1499 with BKPs) busy as it is and chock full of heavyweights that are very well established in the market, I am not really sure that a company with such a nasty rep from their past mistakes and with a new operation being tuned and improved can capture that many customers in the near future.
Thanks for reading / watching!
Well, it doesn't look bad at all. I guess it's good to see they're sticking with it and trying to execute the production of decent guitars by incorporating all of the feedback, good and bad.