12 May 2012

NGD - Ran

My Ran arrived yesterday :)
As it hasn't been easy to find information on Ran apart from here, I'm going to write down my experiences ordering one and a couple of first impressions as well as some pics at end.

TL;DR version: I'm happy with it. Scroll down for pics.

I started communicating with Dariusz in November 2010 after it turned out he could build a KH2 NTB clone with a couple modifications for €1860.
I fiddled around on a KH2 in a shop a bit a couple weeks before that and everything just felt right, you know?
The real deal is about €2200 over on Thomann and that's without the modifications/improvements Ran could do (and the ESP is just a production guitar, not a custom shop).

I did some reading in old threads on a couple of forums, people were absolutely thrilled about their Ran and their reputation in Poland itself is very good as well.
I noticed from the posts prices kept going up over the years though.
Figuring prices would only continue to rise because of materials getting more expensive and of course Ran getting more and more exposure I figured I'd take my shot now.
ESP charges upwards of $6000 for custom shops...
Ibanez and ESP, to name only 2 major vendors, started out small as well so I wouldn't be surprised Ran will become a major player on the guitar market one day.
Cannibal Corpse, Vader, Annihilator and Clawfinger are just some of the bands already using Ran guitars.
So yes, it was an economical decision, I'm nowhere near the level of guitar expertise where I would require having custom shop guitars built.

Anyways, Dariusz answered my every question and it came to a point where I was happy with the specs and I wired a deposit of €1000.
The next day he sent me a mockup (see pictures) and based on that I changed a couple more things until I was satisfied.

Basically what I asked for was an ESP KH-2 NTB clone but with following changes:
* Sperzel locking tuners
* Stainless steel frets
* White body/neck/head stock binding
* Schaller strap locks
* Custom graphic on the back of the neck

€2060 in total (€40 UPS shipping + €160 flight case + €1860 guitar).

Dariusz is great to deal with btw, he offered his opinion when I asked for it and right up until a couple days ago when he sent word my guitar was going to be shipped the next day he kept up the the responsive communication.

So, Ran'd start building somewhere around 1/2/2011 and the build time would be approximately 10 months.
It turned out to be 15 months, but that's partly due to issues they had no control over.
Their spray booth was acting up and they were having problems with the distributor, creating a backlog of projects waiting to be painted.
I asked for it to be stringed with a specific brand and type of strings a couple months later which wasn't a problem at all.
It was clear to me no information nor pictures would be given during the build, but I got a notification when the woodwork was finished and a set of pictures when it was ready to send out.
On the pictures I noticed the guitar didn't have the arm rest contour the KH2 has.
Dariusz said they never do that for superstrat bound bodies which is fine by me, but it would've been nice if I had known that up front; after all I asked for a KH2 type body with a white binding.
No biggie, I payed the rest of the money (€1060) and 2 working days after they had received the money  the guitar was ready to be shipped out.
At least, that was before Dariusz discovered it was strung with a different string gauge.
They restrung it and sent it out one day later. took UPS 2 days to deliver.

So yesterday it arrived.
It took me about 15 minutes to liberate my guitar from the packaging ;)
The flight case was wrapped in an insane amount of bubble wrap and the guitar itself and the accessories in the flight case where packed in bubble wrap as well.

Despite all that the plastic thingy on the pickup selector switch was broken in half. One half I found in the Floyd cavity.

The flight case needs some additional work apart from it being well designed and very sturdy.
They put in foam padding so the guitar can't budge but the thing with that is the foam padding aren't all glued to the inside of the case so I'm going to do that myself.
The guitar was secure in the case during transit though, it was only after I removed all the bubble wrap I noticed I'd need to do some gluing for myself to make it a perfect fit.
Again, no biggie but it would've been nice if I didn't have to do that myself.

I played it for about 3 hours today, it's an amazing piece of work.
I have yet to find a single flaw in the finish and the setup is almost perfect.
Almost, because the 2nd and 5th string are a little bit sharp on intonation at the 12th fret.

Stainless steel frets in combination with the coated Ernie Ball's are a match made in heaven, bending has never been so smooth and effortless.
Action is set up exactly like I want it to be, which is pretty subjective but bonus points for them for being able to read my mind :)
The Floyd Rose is balanced perfectly, the ebony fret board and inlays are stunning.

The strings needed some stretching before the tuning got really stable but apart from that it plays like butter, what more can I say.

I don't really believe sound clips can really showcase the build quality or 'tone' of the guitar and that's why I'm not going to make one.
As I see it 'tone' comes from the amplifier/cab + effects used and the level of comfort the guitar provides the player with. Of course the guitar has tonal qualities of its own, but I don't see the point in doing a sound clip unless someone actually uses exactly the same equipment as I do.
Having said that, the thing plays like a dream and sounds fantastic, I couldn't be more happy with it.

Update: Dariusz offered to send over a replacement pickup selector plastic thingy.
Good customer service is in the little details like that.

And now it's picture time: