An elegant beast…
Everybody who knows me and my taste in guitars also knows that I became a big fan of Jeff Kiesel’s designs, since I received my Kiesel Vader V6 in spring this year. When he introduced the new Aries model a couple of weeks ago, I was surprised…not about Kiesel making a 24-fret bolt-on guitar! I was surprised about how they would produce such a rich instrument in a price range, made in the US, where other companies present you their standard model, made…well, somewhere in Asia.
So when I was checking the “Guitars in-stock” section on the Kiesel/Carvin website the other day, I had a hard time deciding which of the available Aries A6 I should be going for. They all had identical features, but all of them came in a different exciting finish. I remembered that a buddy of mine once got himself a Blue Mist Metallic Carvin CT model, which looks stunning. So I got in contact with Kiesel…
Last Friday the friendly Fedex guy (they are actually really cool dude here in my area) delivered the package I just had to wait for around 5-6 days after placing the order. Kiesel does a great job packing the instruments and it looks like they’re using heavy carton material, since there was nothing ripped off or pushed against etc.
It’s all about the bevel!
When I filmed the unboxing, I guess everybody could see my stoked face when I took the guitar out of the Kiesel/Carvin softcase (if you wanna see that: https://youtu.be/-s0Z80SaeC8). The combination of color, finish, hardware and fretboard wood was just breathtaking. With a weight of just a little over 3,3 kilos the Aries is an easy-to-carry instrument, which comes in handy when playing live concerts a lot. But even more important…the Aries is a very comfortable guitar. I was giving it a long test ride. I guess I played it for several hours without even taking a break to eat or drink. You are able to feel how well Kiesel crafts their guitars and that certainly inspires you to play them a lot. But I also didn’t feel any fatigue, not in my forearm, not in my hands, nothing!
The Kiesel Aries features a deep bevel, which goes all along the upper side and becomes narrow on each towards the strap buttons. This allows for a comfortable and steady arm rest, no matter which angle your forearm has towards the strings. The Hipshot bridge with string-through-body construction feels comfy as well and allow for a good amount of control over palm muted strings or chords.
Neck & neck heel…
What makes the Aries even more comfortable, is its well-shaped neck. I would define it as a modern C-shape, exactly what you would expect from an instrument that addresses contemporary players as well as traditional Strat neck fanatics. The smooth satin finish lets you move quick and effortlessly up and down. The Aries A6 I received is equipped with medium-jumbo stainless steel frets, which not only feel great but will most likely also last until the end of time.
Neck heel designs have been evolved a lot, since players started using all areas of the fretboard up until the highest frets. Kiesel’s new neck heel on the Aries is not even noticeable, when you play in those higher registers. In combination with the deep-cut lower horn of the body nothing stops you from exploring this area of the fretboard, it certainly doesn’t stop my short, thick fingers to go there. 😉
Which brings me to the beautiful Zebrawood fretboard. Kiesel really selects wood of the highest quality and definitely watches out for optical highlights. And if that wasn’t enough, they also used Luminlay blue side dots to make sure you don’t loose overview on dark stages with extensive light shows. I think we can all agree that this guitar is practically born to perform under any circumstances.
But does it dj….oh, please stahp!
This is my third guitar which comes with Kiesel Lithium humbuckers installed and all of them have a different combination of woods. I’d say that’s a pretty good start to determine the sonic characteristics of those woods, don’t you think? So the Aries comes with an Alder body, which is known for its upper- midrange focus and clear accentuation. When played clean, the guitar has a very brilliant and present tone without being harsh or anything alike. With overdriven or distorted tones, the Aries A6 delivers a big portion of thickness and chunk, while responding very fast to the picking hand. When using the split-coil positions 2 &4 of the 5-way lever switch, you almost get that Strat-kind-of feeling without loosing thickness.
I would like to point out, that the installed tuners on the Aries A6 are designed by Kiesel as well. The Kiesel Premium locking tuners will not surprise you by design (although they look really awesome imho), but definitely because of how they work. I’ve had guitars with Schaller and Sperzel locking tuners, but they do not work as smooth as these ones do. The locking mechanism works way more responsive and tuning strings is a delight.
Up and running…
If you think I already mentioned all positive aspects of the Kiesel Aries…here’s another one for ya! Jeff Kiesel recently explained how they design their neck for maximum stability. Not only does every neck come with a dual-action truss rod, but also with two carbon fiber rods alongside. So I made the test and left the Aries naked in my studio over night with all windows open, after I heated the room up all day. When I came in the next morning, the guitar was still in tune and the neck hadn’t moved. Then I changed the string gauge from 010-052 to 011-056 maintaining a Drop C tuning…the neck still didn’t move one bit. This has to be the most stable neck construction in an under 1000$ guitar I’ve had in my possession so far! Awesome!!!!
Conclusion, Specs & Video
The area around 1000$ (or 1000€) is in heavy competition and might actually make the highest percentage on the overall market for guitars, since the semi-pro class of players with a limited budget is strong these days. The Kiesel Aries blows most of the competitors straight out of the water! Yes, you might argue about the looks of a guitar and you may also have your favorite brand/style/shape. But when it comes to build quality and consistency, I could not think of any other brand that impresses me as much as Kiesel/Carvin does currently. And the Aries is the best example for that! It feels like an instrument that received a lot of thought and planning before released to the world. Other than that…the possibility to customize the Aries in almost every detail is another big point on the plus side. The basic model already allows you to choose a variety of colors, a few fretboard options and lets you choose between high gloss, satin or tung-oil finish!
- Alder body (other body woods optional)
- Deep body bevel and lower horn
- Bolt-on maple neck with satin finish (other variations optional)
- Easy-access neck heel
- Zebrawood fretboard (rosewood or maple are standard)
- Mother-of-Pearl diamond inlays & Luminlay side dots (other inlays optional)
- 24 stainless steel medium-jumbo frets (nickel frets standard)
- 25,5″ scale length (648mm)
- 14″ fretboard radius (other variants optional)
- Pointed Straight 6 Inline headstock (other headstock variants optional)
- Kiesel Premium locking tuners
- Hipshot fixed bridge (Vintage, Wilkinson & Floyd Rose tremolos optional)
- Master Volume, Master Tone, 5-way pickup switch
- Color: Blue Mist Metallic Satin
- Kiesel/Carvin Softcase included