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Rating and Reviews: Bill Kelliher Explorer

Kelliher's custom "Golden Axe" Explorer features a top-bound solid-mahogany body that's loaded with split-coil Lace Nitro Hemi humbuckers.

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The Wow Factor
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"Gibson Golden Axe Bill Kelliher Explorer" submitted May 9, 2013

By Steve F in Austin, TX
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Musical Background: 5 year Touring Guitarist
Music Style: Rock, Alt Rock, Modern Rock, Hardcore, Post-Hardcore
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Overall: I just received this guitar today. After ordering it this past Saturday. Zzounds was extremely helpful and the guitar showed up quickly in perfect shape. On to the guitar. I don't play Explorers, I just don't I leave that to guys in Metal bands like James Hetfieild, Bill Kelliher, Matthias Jabs, etc I just never thought they were my thing. This thing resonated with me from the first moment. Fit and finish is tight you can see the grain through the gold and the black fade is consistent. The knobs and push pulls are solid don't feel like low end Gibson they feel smooth and sturdy. Same with the selector no low end components. Metal jack cover not plastic tuner ratios great. Lace Senor Hemi Nitros... You have to make you call on these, Super clear and high output. Great bass response. I personally love them but it could be something guys aren't into if videos online aren't giving you any ideas it's like a Gibson 500T with a bit more output and clarity. Overall I dig Mastodon and Bill and I think Gibson did something really cool here I'm not typically an explorer guy but this guitar is now my main touring instrument. I'm extremely stoked with Gibson and Zzounds it's the best bang for my buck I feel i've ever gotten for a guitar. The end, If you think you want this you won't regret it. Sight unseen this thing was everything I thought it was going to be.
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"Golden Axe " submitted September 15, 2013

By Josh M in Las Vegas, NV
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Musical Background: Guitar/Bass/Drums/Violin/Electronic
Music Style: An eclectic mix.
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Overall: From the moment I opened the case, I realized NO picture of this guitar does the finish justice. The Nitro Hemi pickups sound awesome clean, and are hotter than you would expect. The quality of this build is near custom shop quality, at less than half the price. I have had this guitar a few weeks now, and "The Wow Factor" is still a solid 5 stars. The coil tapping feature is fun to play with, and the pots, and switch are set up with ease of use in mind. I cant stress enough how much better this guitar looks in person. Gibson, and Bill really worked magic here.
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"A Killer Guitar" submitted February 4, 2014

By Michael C in Mesquite, TX
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Musical Background: Playing guitar for 11 years, in several small bands
Music Style: Hard Rock, Heavy Metal, Post Rock, Prog, Blues, Grunge, Rock'n'Roll, Classic Rock
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Sound: Thick, meaty, chunky - the sound has all you'd expect from a mahogany body Gibson and does so much more. The style I mainly play is a heavy rock and roll with strong influences from thrash and modern metal and for that it works perfectly. What surprised me most was how great it sounds coil tapped in the neck position through a clean Fender amp, though. I could get all the sweet blues tones I know and love without the super bright sound of a Strat. Feature: I really like the way the pickup selector and tone and volume knobs were switched around. The selector is closer to the bridge which feels more natural and makes it easier to interact with and the two speed knobs (one for volume and one for tone) simplify the control scheme nicely. I love that it's got coil tap, I look for that in a lot of guitars because I like to clean up every now and then at a show and lay a little funk or blues down. Ease of Use: From day one I've had no problems running this through my Fenders, my Marshall, my POD HD500X or my pedalboard. It handles everything I throw at it like a champ (I'd expect nothing less of a Gibson guitar) and above all else, it plays like a dream. It's got a slimmer neck than I expected and because of that, the speedy runs I sometimes need to make are that much easier to pull off. Quality: So far I've seen no issues with quality on a manufacturer scale. Everything on the instrument seems sturdy, from the hardware to the neck joint. It's finish hasn't received any notable dings or scratches in it, though I've hit it on more than a few cymbals and other things since I've started playing. Value: I want to say yes, because it is indeed a great guitar. I think it's a little high considering most Gibson Explorers are in the $1,400 range, but it's also an artist signature so I can see why. If you don't mind shelling out another couple of hundred dollars this will definitely catch more looks from other musicians than the standard black with a white pickguard look. Manufacturer Support: I didn't deal with Gibson on this particular occasion, however I have spoken to and dealt with them in the past and they're always courteous and professional. Never had any problems from them. The Wow Factor: It's beautiful and even more so in person. It has that awesome sort of vanilla smell lingering in the case and making the guitar smell like a piece of candy. It's easy to play, cleans up nice after a heavy night or rocking out and has no tuning issues. I gotta say, this is the first guitar that I've ever been truly blown away by. It's amazing. Overall: This is one of the best guitars I've ever played.
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"Gibson Explorer- Bill Kelliher Model" submitted October 1, 2013

By Roger T in Hanover Park, IL
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Musical Background: Playing guitar for 28 years. Currently am lead guitarist for Sparkplug Assassins and play out regularly.
Music Style: Rock, Metal, Alternative. Punk
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Overall: As a longtime Gibson Explorer fan. This guitar was a must have. Body binding, neck binding, trapezoid inlays, gold hardware and some screaming pickups. This is a premium instrument more striking than dare I say "Thunderhorse". All the Gibson quality is there with an amazing factory finish. One improvement that could be made is the Gibson logo at the headstock is a decal. A guitar of this caliber deserves an inlaid, Mother of Pearl logo on the headstock.
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"A Great Collection Addition" submitted September 24, 2013

By Mark in South Lyon, MI
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Musical Background: Guitarist for 35 years
Music Style: Classic rock, Country, Christian
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Sound: This guitar screams playing with a dirty sound. All the notes are clear and the tone is super. However it is my opinion that the clean sound capability of these pickups is very limited. I have Les pauls,and Strats with everything from stock pickups to Fralins, My main guitar is a Gibson 347 and this explorer is no where near as versatile as any of these others but this Explorer is not really made to be versatile. That said it does an excellent job playing and sounding for its intended purpose. Feature: The bling aspect of this guitar is awesome, which is why it interested me, Limited production, and about the nicest looking explorer Gibson makes. Ease of Use: plays like a standard Gibson straight out of the box. Could use a setup. Quality: Quality looks like standard Gibson. I read another review where they are suppose to have plastic pots, That would/ is disappointing. Value: If you like explorers the value vs cost is good. Manufacturer Support: Don't Know. The Wow Factor: Again this is where this guitar really shines. The looks are awesome especially when you lift the lid of the case for the first time, or every time for that matter. The guitar gold burst against the white lining looks super every time. Overall: Nice Guitar, Beautiful finish, Sounds great when using distortion.
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"Great Bargain Gibson" submitted October 14, 2013

By Peter J in New York, NY
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Musical Background: Manager/Producer - Les Paul, PRS, Stratocaster, Telecaster
Music Style: Rock
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Overall: I bought this for my son who is a working * recording musician in NYC. I played it first and was very impressed.. My son has been using a Jackson Randy Rhodes as his main guitar and he loves it. It went straight into the recording studio and became the main sound on the sessions with Les Pauls and a Stratocaster filling the bit parts. Easy to play, suiting the shredder, powerful sound and great looks.
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"Excellent Explorer" submitted May 13, 2013

By Matt C in Grimesland, NC
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Musical Background: 25 years playing guitar, i'm a jammer
Music Style: metal, hardcore and classical
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Overall: I placed my order for the BKE, and received it 2 days later. ZZounds is an excellent place to order. As for the guitar, it's a brilliant work of art, i really like the gold. the action is super light and smooth you can really rip on this golden axe. if you want a great custom USA gibson, and you like the look and you like Mastodon,,go for it..I did and it was worth every penny..
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"Great looking axe!" submitted January 31, 2014

By Jeremy Moreira in sandy, UT
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Musical Background: Jam at home. been playing for about 9 or 10 years
Music Style: Metal, Hard Rock, Bluegrass, Blues,
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Overall: I bought this guitar about 2 weeks ago and it has been just fantastic. The finish of the guitar is stunning. The play ability is unreal and the pickups are super hot and heavy. Zzounds is awesome too. The play as you pay is a great deal. Overall, Gibson and Bill Kelliher have produced a masterpiece. Thank you Zzounds for making it possible for me to own this guitar!
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"Gibson Bill Kelliher explorer guitar" submitted December 22, 2013

By a customer from yahoo.com
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Overall: totally happy with the price and delivery time, Great looking guitar and sounds better than it looks, 100% on the wow factor
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"Beautiful Guitar, plays great, but expect to upgrade and set up!" submitted September 7, 2013

By Jay B
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Musical Background: playing 30 years, professional and hobbyist
Music Style: Rock n Roll, metal, blues, R&B
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Overall: When I saw this guitar, I had to have it. I was immediately impressed by the beautiful finish with the binding and trapezoid inlays. The neck is a bit of a different profile than my '92 Les Paul Classic with 60s neck, but after a couple of days I like it. My issues: for the price of this guitar, one would expect that small things, like a properly slotted nut, would be taken care of. The strings stick in the nut (ping) like crazy when tuning. If you don't have a nut file handy, it will drive you nuts until you pay a tech to smooth the nut slots! Aside from a poorly slotted nut, this guitar will not stay in tune. I literally have to re-tune each string after every five minutes of playing. Annoying! Another concern: The volume and tone knobs are sticky when turning - enough so that a smooth volume roll is not possible. To my surprise, I opened the control cavity and discovered that the pots are plastic! If I didn't like the finish on this guitar so much, I would have promptly packed it back in the box and sent it back for a refund. I do love the look and playability of this guitar. I can see, however, that Gibson's reputation of cutting corners to cut costs in the last few years is spot on. Very dissappointed in the overall quality.
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"Gibson Golden Axe Explorer" submitted July 13, 2013

By Jimmy McGuire in Cheyenne, WY
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Musical Background: I've played in bar bands for decades. I own Gibsons and Fenders and a few other odds and ends
Music Style: We are primarily a heavy alternative rock band that dabbles in many other styles
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Overall: As I hoped, it plays and sounds awesome. It crunches beautifully and has a cool gritty clean thing that is very responsive to pick attack. I haven't even tried it on my live rig yet (AC30) (tonight), but through my Fender Deluxe and Roland Cube 80XL in the living room, she sings beautifully. The balance standing or sitting is perfect. She feels very fast and makes me play some things I haven't tried on another guitar. Sometimes I like to practice with the TV, and played along with Foos and Neil Young in NYC a few weeks ago. I was nailing all the Gibson tones clean to heavy perfectly. The axe is really resonant and has this cool laggy quality (is that a word?) so cleans are very rich in humbucker and split coil. Tweaking the volume knob a little makes a big difference too. It won't replace my Tele for trebly high end things, but I won't hesitate to try some of them live with the Golden Axe. Alright, now my only complaint. The finish while overall quite spectacular, is marred with what looks like someone wiped it while the thing was still wet. I know they're cranking them out to keep up with demand, but QC really failed. The pickup selector ring is also canted, rather than flush with the body. I'm hoping Zzounds will compensate, as the resale value is clearly diminished with all these perfection seeking collectors. I'm glad I bought it, and it will get a lot of play as it fits a lot of what we do perfectly and looks cooler than evryone else around here.
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"golden axe" submitted October 7, 2013

By Stephen J in maple hill, NC
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Musical Background: jam at home over 20years I play 80s rock metal and blues guitar
Music Style: metal,blues,rock
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Overall: awesome awesome awesome
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