Who are Chapman Guitars?
Chapman Guitars is a British company that has taken the guitar world by storm in recent years, quickly blossoming into an established, popular and respected guitar brand. With humble beginnings, Chapman Guitars is the eponymous brainchild of YouTube guitar personality Rob Chapman, who founded the company back in 2009 with the support of his followers and forum community.
Considered the first guitar brand to collaboratively design their models with the public (an ethos that they still uphold), fans can vote for particular features that they want to see on their future models. From body shapes to hardware options, this diplomatic system has proved a huge success for Chapman, essentially giving players tailor-made instruments for a fraction of the prices of their custom-made counterparts.
Using traditional designs with a modern twist, Chapman’s original ML1 model adopted an S-style shape with a versatile HSS pickup configuration. Becoming their flagship instrument, later models have undergone further enhancements to meet the demands of fans, with additional models added to their range over time.
This includes the LP-inspired ML2 and the T-shaped ML3, which have remained affordable and accessible to the fans that contributed to their designs. 2017, however, marked the biggest overhaul of Chapman’s catalogue, in an effort to give the brand more identity and cohesion.
In this next section we’ll take a look at their current ranges and models, identifying the main features of the instruments belonging to those lines. You may be surprised by the high-quality appointments that these instruments boast, especially considering their modest price tags.
What are Chapman Guitars’ ranges?
At the 2017 Winter NAMM show, Chapman unveiled a number of fresh new models, including the Explorer-inspired Ghost Fret and the ultra-modern MLV. With new signature instruments and extended range guitars too, this abundance of new designs culminated in a split of Chapman’s catalogue, becoming the Standard and Pro series’.
The following year, Chapman expanded its catalogue even more so, offering hand-made, custom-spec models built in the UK - the British Standard range. Accomodating for three distinctive budgets, let’s check out what these specific ranges are all about, and look at the features of these instruments in relation to their prices.
Chapman’s Standard lineup features a raft of affordable, mid-priced instruments. With none exceeding the £500 mark, you’ll find Chapman’s ML1, ML2 and ML3 models in the Standard range, as well as the Explorer-shaped Ghost Fret and a sleek-looking baritone.
Ideal for inexperienced players looking to purchase their second or third guitars, these instruments still boast a number of high-quality features that’ll satisfy even seasoned pros. And despite their differences aesthetically, the Standard models share a lot of these forward-thinking appointments.
Standard Series Features
With satin-finished Maple necks, Chapman Standard models provide you with a super-smooth feel, unlike instruments with lacquered necks that can cause your thumb to stick in warm conditions. Rolled fretboard edges further enhance their playability, offering even more comfort and a “played-in” experience. The Standards also feature jumbo frets to give you better control over your vibrato and string bending.
In a similar style to the guitars that they derive from, the Ghost Fret and ML2 Standard models feature set-neck constructions, while the ML1 and ML3s have more traditional bolt-on neck designs. Although the set-neck instruments have exceptionally-sculpted heels to ensure brilliant access to the upper frets, the bolt-ons similarly boast well-designed joins for unhindered performance.
Chapman Standard instruments also sport GraphTech TUSQ nuts, made of a precision-engineered material that efficiently transfers the vibrations of the strings through a guitar. This results in a harmonically-rich tone with enhanced resonance, giving these instruments a more open and natural sound.
All Standard guitars feature Chapman-designed pickups, but are far better than you may expect. The ML1 and ML3 Modern guitars, for example, feature their Sonorous Zero humbuckers, emitting a clear and high-output sound that can handle high doses of gain with ease. With push/pull tone knobs too, you can attain split-coil sounds for extra versatility.
Chapman Pro Series
The Pro Series is a step up from the Standard, stretching into high-end territory in terms of features. Aimed at contemporary players looking for a pure performance guitar, these stunning instruments carry over a lot of the features of their Standard counterparts, but with a number of improvements.
A noteworthy contender in the Pro Series is the MLV, a metal-centric Floyd Rose-equipped V guitar. There are also more extended range instruments, with 7-string variants of the ML1 and Ghost Fret models.
At around the £800-£1000 mark, Pro series guitars are within the reach of many players, but may require a bit more thought. However, with their particular hardware choices and constructions, not to mention their amazing burst colour schemes, you’ll understand why they are worth the extra money.
Pro Series Features
Whereas the Standard models have satin-finished necks, Pro Series instruments have this smooth, ergonomic finish over their entire bodies and necks, giving a modern matte-style look and a more ergonomic feel all around. With many of the models adorned with Flamed Maple tops (as opposed to veneers on the Standards), they also convey a high-end look that is matched by the quality of their components.
Featuring sculpted tops and contoured bodies for extra further playing comfort, these guitars also have neck-through constructions for improved sustain and low-end projection (with the exception of the ML1 and ML3 Traditional guitars). The Pro Series necks are also fitted with jumbo stainless steel frets rather than nickel, a trend that many guitar brands are taking notice of and implementing, as they are far less susceptible to wear.
In terms of hardware, many of the Pros are fitted with class-leading Hipshot Grip-Lock Open tuners. Based on a locking design, these tuners ensure excellent tuning stability, decreasing the chance of tuning slips as less wraps around their tuning posts are required.
Fitted with Chapman-designed pickups too, the Pros come with higher quality iterations of the Standard pickups, for better overall sonics. At their prices, you may expect aftermarket pickups from the likes of Seymour Duncan, DiMarzio or EMG, but Chapman’s own designs are of a similar calibre tonally, and have allowed the brand to refine other areas of their instruments.
At the top of Chapman’s range you’ll find the British Standard series. Handmade in the UK by a team of experienced luthiers, British Standard models are meticulously-crafted from the finest tonewoods and components available.
Available to order to your very own specifications, you can choose from Chapman’s four main body shapes (ML1 Modern, ML2 Modern, ML3 Traditional and Ghost Fret) and pick from over 20 different finishes!
Installed with handwound pickups, it doesn’t get much more genuine than a British Standard. With prices starting at around £3500 though, they’re not cheap. However, they are definitely worth the money considering the time and effort that goes into each and every model. It’s worth remembering that these are Chapman’s equivalents of a Fender or Gibson Custom Shop, and are priced competitively and in line with these instruments.
Custom order your very own British Standard by clicking here!
So, are Chapman Guitars worth the money?
With regards to the Standard and Pro series guitars, it’s fair to conclude that they are most definitely worth the money. From the main features identified across these ranges, it’s clear that Chapman Guitars has given its audience thoughtfully-designed instruments, thanks in part to their own voting contributions.
The Standards in particular are unparalleled at their price-points, especially when you look at the competition. You could go for a more conventional guitar from a larger brand, but Chapman offer instruments that are a bit different, all designed in the UK.