Kauri & Langcaster Cobra review in
Guitar Magazine USA , March issue !
With the Ultimate
Lo-impedance Pickups and Overdrive.
Review by : Ray Matuza
Langcaster has an interesting website
with sound & Movie samples: www.langcaster.com .
Fred and Wilma's kitchen cabinets were probably made of it. Dinosaurs
could have chomped on its leaves and limbs. And now, centuries
later, New Zealander Joh Lang has been building his guitars out
of it. Yeah, this Kauri tree goes a long way back.
While I may have conjectured humorously over the modern stone
age family's cupboards and even the culinary delights of Pterydons,
Stegasauri, etc., luthier Joh Lang does indeed use this wood,
indigenous to his homeland to build the Langcaster Dark Kauri
and Cobra. Thirty five thousand year old pieces of this wood to
be exact. I'd say that's pretty darn old.
With the obvious different body styles aside, both instruments
share a lot of similar family traits
The tung oiled, hard rock maple neck on both models feature a
shallow D-shaped profile with an ultra smooth feeling ebony slab
finger board curved to a fifteen inch radius. The necks are attached
with six bolts (the usual four with two under the neck plate)
for better security and energy transference.
Neck width is very comfortable. The twenty two medium jumbo frets
are given their due, boasting excellent crowning and polishing.
I especially dug the steep beveling of the fret ends making for
an almost non existent feel as you do your thing up and down the
for hose knowledgeable in Maori culture, you will certainly notice
the head stock carving which reflects traditional Maori designs
and motifs. Indeed. Because of this unusual shape, the top three
strings 16:1 locking Schaller tuning pegs jut out over the others
on the peghead. This causes the need for string trees to keep
the strings in straight alignment with the nut. Well, okay.
The 25 1/2" scale length ends up at the chrome Schaller 3D
bridge/tailpiece which not only allows intonation and individual
string height adjustment, but string spacing adjustments as well
thanks to the roller saddles. There is also a locking side screw
which keeps all the adjustments in check.
With their striking appearance, checking out the bodies of these
two instruments is like taking a look into the past. Despite the
"coffee table" vibe due o the considerably deep, ultra
smooth and polished two -component lacquer finish, the fossilization
and fissures contain interesting "elements" It kinda
looks like all the flora and fauna one can see wile watching one
of those deep sea diving adventures on the History Channel.
the price for all this visual coolness comes in the instrument's
weight. They are a little bit on the hefty side for sure.
Neck adjustments were in order as well as getting' that action
Once accomplished, the Dark Kauri and Cobra had a pretty much
identical, pleasant feel with slinky string tension and easy playability.
Unplugged, the former has a very eve tempered tone, not too bright
or dark with a sappy bite while the latter was slightly warmer
and fuller. All reservations of the thick fish dampening the tone
to any great extent pretty much wet out the window.
In addition to the unique look of the instruments, Lang as developed
a low impedance, hum free pick up system and overdrive circuit
build into the guitars. Both are powered by 9-volt batteries housed
in a spring loaded compartment of the back plate
Test driven through my usual collection of amps, the overall tones
with a clean setting were extremely clear and open. While the
pickups don' have a bell like chime in the Fender vibe, they capture
every nuance accurately without being sterile. Sloppy technique
need not apply here.
The Dark Kauri's wiring s pretty standard with the exception of
switch position three. This setup cleverly employs the neck and
bridge pick up rater than just the middle, producing a very friendly
nasal tone. Position two gets my thumbs up award for its nice
warmth and ringing sustain and clarity.
The Cobra's voice speaks more with a Fender accent, adding perhaps
something extra on the bottom end. This is especially noticed
wit the neck pickup flying solo. Both pickups produce a sweet,
funky vibe, while the bridge aloe clucks with a little less feathers
on the head and more in the tail.
For all the happening' clear tones, the real fun of these guitars
lies in the built-in Ultra Drive overdrive circuit. A push of
the button switch opens the way to a very musical and natural
sounding distortion that is reminiscent of a cross between a Boss
OD-1 and a TS-808 with a bit more clarity in the midrange. On
the Dark Kauri, a gain control replaces the bottom tone control.
Both models feature a switch plate mounted LED which responds
in intensity to your picking dynamics. Grind factor ranges from
a mild, chewy crunch to very organic, ballsy distortion. While
the overdrive isn't dynamically sensitive to backing off the volume
on the guitar, it does respond to varying degrees of pick attack.l
At any setting, however, chords are rich and fat wit good definition
and space between the notes. Check out the open, throaty vibe
when blowin' solos wit the Dark Kauri's neck pick up. If ol' Joh
needs a few extra bucks, I think he should package this circuit
in a box and put it out as a pedal.
Langcaster's attention to design and detail from a little bit
of a different angle is a nice, fresh breath amidst a sea of Strat
and Tele style instruments.
And you can bet your dino dung Fred and Barney would be playing
them if they were around today.
Special thanks to Pai
Chung (Philadelphia USA ), for the loan of the instruments .
35OOO Year old Kauri is hard
to find and a treasure to have.