Contact: lipeguitars.com; phone (818) 352-6212
Mike Lipe has a wall of gold records. Why? Not because he’s a musical star, but because he’s a star to the stars. A former top builder at Ibanez, his creations have helped Steve Vai, Joe Satriani, Andy Timmons, and many others become luminaries on the instrument. Now on his own, Lipe is producing a line of hand-built instruments.
Lipe’s traditional-leaning Maestro is a solidbody guitar that incorporates bolt-neck construction and a Tele-meets-Jazzmaster design. Weighing in at an startlingly light five pounds, eight ounces, its body and neck are mahogany, its fretboard a dark, tightly grained rosewood with large 6155 Dunlop fretwire, a bend-friendly 12″ radius, along with a 25.5″ scale length, and a nut width of 1.70″. The neck is a handful, with a measurement of .90″ from front to back at the first fret, and .99″ at the 12th. The headstock has a 7-degree angle, which allows for elimination of string trees and promotes tone through greater downward pressure on the nut. Hardware consists of Hipshot locking tuners and a solid Strat-style bridge, with black knobs that go to 11. Electronics are two Amalfitano P-90 pickups, complemented with a three-way switch, master Volume, and master Tone controls. The body is stained deep red, while the neck is satin-finished, providing a friendly feel. Lipe does no CNC shaping of necks or bodies, and various neck shapes and fret sizes are available.
The neck of the Maestro has the size and feel of a vintage Precision Bass. Though large, it’s comfortable, and Lipe builds to suit the player’s taste. Finishes are beautifully applied and the woods are gorgeous. Playability is top-notch, facilitating clean bending, and intonation on our tester was spot-on, allowing chords to ring loud and true. The pickups are perfect for the instrument, bringing out the best of its Fender-meets-Gibson nature. The neck pickup offers a clean, articulate tone that’s warmer than most Fender styles, and less muddy than most Gibson-style instruments. The bridge pickup can get downright twangy, but never with harsh top-end. Run together, they produced a grand sound – clear, bell-like, and full. With either amp’s overdriven tones, as well as with dirty tones derived from a pedal, the Maestro worked equally well. No matter the level of drive or volume, the guitar never fed back or lost its character under the weight of heavy distortion.
The Maestro is beautiful, playable, and tonal. Its Fender-style neck and Kalamazoo-style tone woods, pickups, and headstock angle make for a pleasant mix.
This article originally appeared in VG February 2013 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.