Price paid: € 359
Features — 8
- Model: Spear, Gladius series, Gladius HG HT - Made in Korea, 2013 - Construction: set in - Scale: 25,5", 24 frets - Body: mahogany - Body style: superstrat - Neck: Canadian hard maple - Fingerboard: rosewood - Binding: white single - Pickups: H-H with coil tap, Spear GOP 1 and GO2 passive humbuckers. Guitar is also available with active EMG pickups (but at a higher price). - Tuners: Spear 18:1 diecast tuners - Controls: 3-way, 1 vol, 1 tone (push-pull for coil tap) - Bridge: fixed - Hardware: black nickel - Color/finish: uhm... varies, it has a hologram finish, so the colours change as the light hits it (like the inside of a seashell). Standard, its a cool grey/blue.
Sound — 8
I play a lot of different types of rock, metal, from Foo Fighters to Diecast. I play blues as well and occasionally foray into the wonderfully weird world of jazz. I play with a moderately high gain setting. I use a Mesa Boogie 50/50 tube power amp to combine the warmth and power of an all tube amp with the versatility of todays modelling technology (which comes from my Line 6 device). Guitar-wise, for reference, I also own a Les Paul Custom, custom made "Telecaster," Epiphone (with added EMG 81/85 active pickups) and a Schecter Damien Elite 7 FR CR (also with active EMG's). This guitar has a bright sound. When playing with distortion, I mostly use the treble pickup and cut its tone just a little bit. I use the combined pickups for a warm yet searing lead sound. Clean, I use the combined setting and the bass pickup, OR activate the coil tap function for a single coil sound. When playing clean, I find this guitar extremely versatile. I often use the combined setting and the bass pickup, which are rich in sound and warm, and great for arpeggios and even jazz. I also use the coil tap for a nice single coil rhythm sound. The pickups respond well to the dynamicism in my playing, if you know what I mean (I'm not a native English speaker, sorry). When playing with distortion, I have to say that this guitar rocks. Or ROCKS. Sound- and sustain-wise I prefer it to my Schecter, which has active EMG pickups AND set me back 800 euros at the time. It plays just as good as the Schecter, and better than my Tele and Epiphone. With "better" I mean smoother, lighter and that it fits my playing style better. I am very content with this guitar. When gigging, I really want to leave my treasured Les Paul Custom at home, but have struggled to find an adequate replacement. The Epihone with EMG's works for me, but I still dislike playing leads on it, as it simply doesn't play that well. I have used the Gladius live last week and found it to be a better match, because I can get it to sound the way I want a guitar to sound, because it plays better than my Epi and stays in tune better. This is now my main live guitar for the foreseeable future. I find it shocking that a 300 euro guitar outperforms my 700-900 euro guitars. I wonder how the Gladius will sound with EMG active pickups. They are available with this guitar, but that will make it more expensive. I am thinking of selling the Epiphone and Schecter and getting another Gladius with EMG's. I would be interested in reading a review of this guitar with EMG's.
Action, Fit & Finish — 8
The guitar was set up perfectly. It was in tune all over the neck and the action was set lightly. Just to avoid confusion due to a possible language barrier: the strings where nice and close to the neck, which means it plays light, without ringing or buzzing noises. It stays in tune well. I could not find any flaws. And I was looking for them, as it is a "cheap" guitar. I was pleasantly surprised. I owned a "Vintage" once (the brand was called Vintage, it may now be Wilkinson, and found flaws there, just as I did as I recently picked up a Richwood in my local guitar store, but I have to say the Spear Gladius is at another level).
Reliability & Durability — 7
At this point, I have gigged only once with the Gladius. It stayed in tune under the hot stage lights and could handle my "far from subtle" live playing style. The hardware and finish seem like it will last. I intend to keep using it live, as it performed well. One point of criticism: the top strap button is located on the back of the guitar, which is odd. I prefer it on the side. It doesn't bother me much, but I just wonder why they placed it there. I gave this a 7/10 just because I do not own it for years. Of it stays in this shape for the next years, the rating should be higher.
Overall Impression — 9
I would recommend this guitar for beginners and intermediate guitar players. In my experience though, really advanced guitar players save up (or make money playing) to buy top-of-the-bill instruments, so they probably won't even look at the Spear Gladius. And this guitar is not designed to compete with a top line PRS, or John Petrucci's most expensive signature guitar. The Gladius does however outperforms my Schecter, Telecaster and Epiphone. I would say that this is a 3-400 euro guitar, that plays like a 8-900 euro guitar (1 euro = 1,3 US dollars). If it where stolen or lost I would definitely get another. I would be bummed out because I like this guitar a lot. The fact that it cost me a relatively small amount won't change that. Some guitars you own, some guitars you love. I gave this a 9/10 because in todays market, this guitar offers a great deal for a small sum.