Zachary Custom Guitars and Bass Guitar

010902      Gaia

Body Style
Body Wood
Neck Wood
Fbd. Wood
Neck Joint
Spalted Maple top,
Mahogany back
Pau Ferro
(AN, TZ)
6 lbs.


This is another killer guitar and I am convinced that this guitar will not work for you and you will not like it if you are not a good player. With all due respect, you wouldn't know what to do with it. This is a trick guitar and you need the technique to go with it, otherwise its just a useless piece of wood. Its incredibly smooth with a very fast neck and it practically plays itself but you have to feed it the content and the acrobatics. Someone with the chops of Van Halen, Malmsteen, Uri J. Roth, Rick Emmet, Steve Vai, Satriani or Zak Wilde would really fall in love with this guitar. This guitar differs slightly from past guitars. Due to some new tooling I have, my newer necks are even wider at the nut with a slightly wider string spacing as well. This one is 46 mm at the nut, up 1 mm from 45 mm. Don't kid yourself, 1 mm is a noticeable difference on a guitar neck. I also used a 20 inch sanding block on the fingerboard which due to the imperfection of hand-craftsmanship resulted in a flatter 16 inch fingerboard radius (quite flat, the way I like it). This is up from my usual 14" radius. Neck thickness at the nut is also up by about 1.5 mm, made possible by countersinking 4 of the tuner washers and if you are a guitar builder, don't you dare copy this design trick. I keep realizing how tremendous these ZachAttack pickups are. As smooth as you can imagine. They just sing. No harshness anywhere. Just a full, thick sound. Very musical. You don't just buy a guitar like this. You earn it. Well I think I earned it and that is why I am keeping it. For a while anyway.

It would be scary to think what some of the great players I mentioned could do with this guitar. I am sincerely convinced that they would play better than they ever did on this guitar. I would just love to put this belief to the test. That would be fun.

My second Zach Assault guitar video will be done with this guitar. I hope to do it soon. Make sure you get the video.

I really did not want to build this guitar yet. I had the body all cut out and someone e-mailed me looking for a guitar but the top had to have a certain look, without too much consideration about the guitar itself. I don't usually respond to such shallow requests because its indicative of not a serious player. Since I always thought that this guitar had rather nice wood, I sent him the the two pictures above. I was sure he was going to really like the top and the back. To my surprise he said that he really did not like it. This pissed me right off so in anger I decided to build this guitar just to show him how wrong he was. Worst yet, why is the top important anyway? Who cares about the top. My whole guitar building attitude is a protest against all the artificial stuff that's out there. A top has nothing to do with making the guitar any good. I never view guitars in such a superficial way. I view women in that way but never guitars. I build guitars, not tops. If you want a "top" you know damn well what company to buy from. Do I have to spell it out to you? Just call Carlos Santana and he will direct you to the right place. His number is in the phone book.

Hi Alex, She arrived safe and sound first thing this morning. We only had about an hour to introduce ourselves before I had to rush off to the lab. This must be what it's like to have an arranged marriage - you know you're going to be together for a long time, but you're a bit wary at first. Certainly, my Zee will take some getting used to.

Initial impressions - the photos didn't do it justice - unlike many guitars, which are all heavy, fat body and a thin neck sticking out as an afterthought, this is almost like a scaled-down six-string bass - it's good to play sitting, but it's divine strapped on. It's so light, it's so comfortable and it has perfect balance. - and what a neck! I love its extra width and flatness. Although the higher string tension and huge frets feel unfamiliar, the action is amazingly low. - and what a tone!!!! All the high, singing sustain - and more -with none of the bottom-end "muddiness" of the Les Paul. - and what a tonal range !!! It's uniquely responsive to even the slightest variations in picking technique. There is one quality that I look for that distinguishes a good guitar from a magic guitar. Very occasionally, I've come across and instrument where single sustained notes seem to swell in volume and then change timbre as they decay. No PRS I've tried can do this. I once came across a early Gibson Korina Explorer than had a hint of it. My Pack Leader has a bit of it. But the Zee has it in spades! I've never, ever come across anything like it. This guitar is made for long-note sustained solos like no other. I'll keep you posted after I've got to know her better of the next few weeks. In the meantime, I can only offer the highest compliment of UK-English vernacular - "Nice one" ! All the very best - and many, many thanks. Ludwik (England)

Hi Alex, "Like" is a big understatement. She now lives next to my desk at home, because I just can't resist picking her up every now and then to have a quick play while I'm working in the evenings. I've never heard a solid-bodied guitar with such an acoustic tone. Of course she's made to be played. That's the whole point, surely? I cannot fathom why people buy expensive guitars and never play them. But there's an interesting comment on Ed Roman's site ( about used PRS values. Apparently, Unless they are MINT MINT, nobody will buy them. Tone is not important. In other words, they really have become nothing more than collectors' pieces of fancy furniture. I've always used D'Addario XL "purples" (0.009 - 0.042), so with the slightly heavier strings and higher tension, bends aren't as easy. It won't take long to get used to it, as you say. I think I'll switch to 0.10's for my other guitars. What IS that bridge? It's a much better design than the ubiquitous tune-o-matic. I understand now why you rave about the Zack Attack pickups on your website. They are so LOUD, and yet with such definition, sweetness and clarity. I've had to turn my Marshall amp down from it's usual settings! They are miles better than the open-coil humbuckers on my Explorer ('83 model) and more output and much, much more clarity than the DiMarzio SuperDistortions on my Pack Leader. These p/ups are simply magic. Do you sell them separately? The customs and tax damage was surprisingly modest - almost exactly 100 US$ all in. I was expecting to pay much more, so I'm well pleased! Got to rush - there's a beautiful guitar waiting for me! All the best. Ludwik (England)

Take a look how beautifully the two piece back is bookmatched.

This is a Zachary guitar reviews taken verbatim from the Harmony Central website.
Features (9)
There are rubbish guitars, mediocre guitars, good guitars, great guitars - and Zachary guitars. Every Zachary is hand-built, every Zachary is different. They are not "custom" instruments insofar as they are not built to a customer's specifications - they are Alex's instruments. He makes them like this because he believes this is the right way to make guitars. These are stripped-down performance machines. The best way to describe this one is to look at it on the web site - 010902 (the guitar Alex himself played for a while), with a 24-fret maple neck, extending deep into the body, a striking spalted maple top and a mahogany back. I chose a bolted neck design after much dithering between this baby and the similar set-neck 050602 as a tight wood-to-wood joint arguably transmits sound better than glue. A tremendous amount of thought has gone into this guitar. It's full of innovations, such as the straight "Samurai" headstock, low-friction nut, recessed lightweight tuners and unique Kent Armstrong-made "Zach Attack" humbuckers mounted soapbar-style. These pickups are powerful, voiced for clarity, richness and articulation, rather than ultra-high output. The bridge is a fully adjustable ABM Wilkinson type strings-thru-body design. Controls are dead simple: volume, 3-way selector switch and a coil-tap switch. The switches operate with satisfying precision. The control cavity cover is made of wood. This Z2 has a huge, fat neck which doesn't cramp up my hand the way slim-tapered necks can. I believe this is the widest and flattest Zachary neck made, which suits my big hands perfectly. It has an extended (26-inch) scale, jumbo frets, a silky-smooth Pau Ferro fingerboard and the trademark Zachary dot-position markers in contrasting wood. Neat, elegant and effective. The contoured body is small and light and the finish is oil and wax - so warm and sensuous to the touch. So why a score of 9? Only because it has no tone control (I'm trying to be objective). I like to back off the treble for that overdriven "woman tone". Although it's wired so that the tone darkens when the volume is backed off, this is of no help overdrive. I guess the solution would be to replace the volume pot with a concentric tone and volume, so as not to spoil the purity of the design - but I'm reluctant to mess about with perfection.

Sounds (10)

Unplugged, it's like a semi-acoustic for volume and resonance - no need for headphones for quiet practice! Put through the clean channel, it has an airy voice with complex overtones and rich, sparkling harmonics. A wide range of sounds are available, from warm and intimate, through mellow, to Strat "quack", with sharp attack and ringing sustain. Notes are clear, full and musical. Simply magic. Overdrive on a tube amp brings a spectrum of blues, rock and metal sounds. From fat crunch chords to wailing or searing lead and screaming harmonics - it's all there. Yet every note stays clear and articulate, even on maximum overdrive. The sustain is astonishing and this baby sings like no other. Parisian Walkways - no problem, even at low volume! Obviously, it won't do everything. It's probably not bassy enough for nu-metal, nor plummy enough for some jazz guitarists. The bass is too tight and focussed for anyone looking for that thick Les Paul sound.

Action, Fit and Finish (10)
Alex's obsession with detail and shines through. This guitar is made and finished to the highest standards with nanometric precision where it matters, using top-quality components. The neck is dead straight and set for minimal relief, the jumbo frets are nicely rounded at the edges and polished, the intonation is spot-on, and the action is ultra-fast and low. This is probably the fastest, slickest neck I've ever played. I've never had to adjust anything and I don't expect I ever will. The guitar came with a top-quality fitted hard case.

Durability (10)
This is made to last. Absolutely rock-solid. No worries about neck-breaks with this baby. No worries about lacquer chips, either. It arrived in the UK from Canada in the middle of winter in almost perfectly tune, it's been played every day for the past 4 months (it even went on holiday with me) and it still hardly ever needs tuning, no matter how outrageously the strings are bent. It's the perfect gigging guitar. Simple controls and no worries about anything breaking or it going out of tune. It's very comfortable sitting and divine strapped on. It weighs 6lbs, but it doesn't feel it, so good is the balance. If were gigging for a living, I would have a backup (paranoia!) - which would have to be another Z2.

Customer Support (10)
Alex is really cares about his guitars and provides very comprehensive instructions about setup and aftercare (not that it needs any). He's friendly, helpful and responds promptly to emails. A far cry from the usual dealer and mass-production guitar factory. I can't imagine ever having a problem with this guitar, but I'm sure that if I did, Alex would help sort it out.

Overall (10)
I've been playing for more years than I care to count, with strong neoclassic leanings. I've owned many guitars over the years and tried many others, from Ibanez to various PRS models. Some I've liked and bought, a few I've kept. I currently own 2 Gibson Explorers - a Gothic and an '83 model with Gibson/Kahler trem upgraded to coil-tapped John Birch Magnums, a scalloped neck custom-order Fender Strat '57 RI and a collection of Brit axes - a Gordon Smith GS2 (the "British Gibson", but my least favourite), an unusual hand-made 1970's Pack Leader walnut thru-neck with DiMarzio Super Distortions, a 1980's Overwater with a mahogany thru-neck and Bill Lawrence L500s, a maple set-neck John Birch "fretless wonder" LP with Magnums and a 1992 Patrick Eggle Berlin Plus, which is every bit as good, if not better, than any PRS I've compared it to. I play through a Marshall JCM 2000 DSL all-tube amp. I occasionally use a Zoom 707II multi-FX for fun, usually into a PA rig to eliminate amplifier/speaker colouration. My all-time all-round favourite? - the Zachary. No question. I really enjoy playing my other axes, but not after the Zachary. What sets the Z2 apart is its feel, subtlety and responsiveness. It's so alive. This is the most expressive guitar I've ever played. If I could only have the one, this would be it. One review on HC compares a Zachary unfavourably to a PRS. This is like comparing a limo to a sports car. The Zachary Z2 is the Porsche GT2 of the guitar world. No frills, no ornaments, no gimmicks - just rock-solid precision, superb build quality, utter reliability, awesome performance and ultimate responsiveness. And, like a Porsche. It won't suit everyone and it's not for beginners. But, given the effort and commitment, it's very, very rewarding. It's the shredder's dream. I can honestly say that no other guitar has helped advance my techniques and my musical horizons like the Z2. If you want on ornament to hang on the wall - look elsewhere. If you are serious about playing guitar - you have to try a Zachary. If it were stolen, I would be devastated. As soon as I'd finished cursing the thief to the far ends of the Universe, I'd contact Alex for another.

By Ludwik (England)


You know how the saying goes, "tighter than a witch's c--t".

Very clever Alex. Recessed tuner washers in order to increase the neck thickness.