When Carvin recently split into two separate companies for instruments and amps and audio equipment, the guitar division was named Kiesel in tribute to Lowell Kiesel, who founded Carvin in 1946 and passed away in 2009.
At Kiesel Guitars, Lowell’s son Mark and grandson Jeff are carrying on the family tradition, offering custom guitars under the Kiesel name as well as Carvin brand models.
Kiesel Custom Guitars is their flagship line, offering a staggering variety of options that allow customers to select features that perfectly fit their needs and preferences in exacting detail. We took a look at a Kiesel V8 Vader eight-string fully loaded with a variety of impressive options.
The Kiesel V8 Vader features a compact, headless design that is ergonomically designed for maximum playing comfort and balance. All V8 Vader models have a 27-inch scale neck-thru-body design—our example had an ash body with antique ash treatment, five-piece black limba and koa neck, zebrawood fretboard with no inlays, 24 jumbo gold alloy frets, and a 20-inch radius. Kiesel even offers a choice of seven different logo styles—ours had a gold drop-shadow logo.
The hardware and pickups were both black to perfectly complement the dark, rich colors of the zebrawood and antique-treated ash. The Hipshot headless system bridge also houses the eight tuner mechanisms, and controls consist of master volume, master tone, and a five-position pickup selector switch. Pickups are a pair of Kiesel’s Lithium Series passive humbuckers with Alnico V magnets and Patented Torx head adjustable pole pieces.
Kiesel’s emergence as a separate company has enabled them to focus exclusively on developing new models and improving on existing designs. It has also enabled them to cut costs significantly, and the savings are passed on to customers thanks to the company’s direct sales model. As a result, our V8 Vader offered craftsmanship, attention to detail, and materials comparable to a guitar costing three to four times more than our example’s street price.
The V8’s light weight and ergonomic design makes it ideal for six-string players making the transition to eight strings as well as anyone who wants an eight-string that is simply very comfortable to play. (Kiesel also offers the Vader in six and seven-string versions in both 25.5-inch scale or 27-inch scale.)
The five-position pickup selector delivers instant access to an impressive variety of full humbucking and split-coil tones, and the pickups are well balanced across the entire extended frequency range, providing crisp, defined tone whether using a clean setting or saturated high-gain distortion on a wide variety of standard guitar amps. The V8 is a particularly wise choice for guitarists who want to make an eight-string their main instrument.
DIRECT PRICE $1,199 (starting); $1,599 (as tested)
MANUFACTURER Kiesel Guitars, kieselguitars.com
• Kiesel Lithium Series passive humbuckers provide powerful, crisp, defined tone across the entire frequency range.
• The headless neck-thru-body design offers players a compact, comfortable design that feels and plays like a standard six-string instrument.
THE BOTTOM LINE: An incredible value, the Kiesel V8 Vader is an affordable alternative for guitarists looking for their first eight-string as well as an outstanding upgrade for eight-string players looking for a more comfortable axe.