Guitar

KDH releases video Chapman Are Doing It Again – Déjà vu?

KDH releases a video analysing Chapman Guitars' latest Workshop Series of UK-made guitars and the looks at the story so far

The KDH YouTube channel this week released a new video entitled Chapman Are Doing It Again and it looks at the brand’s third, or possibly fourth attempt to launch a premium guitar using the budget brand name of Chapman.

Déjà vu?

This is an odd one, as Chapman Guitars is not known for making high-end guitars. In fact, according to the Andertons website that sells them, they are billed as being built for budget-conscious musicians. See that statement here:

Founded in 2009, Chapman Guitars has become a key player in the musical instrument industry despite its short history. Specialising in high-performance guitars that don’t break the bank — they’re perfect for contemporary, budget-conscious musicians!

MonkeyLord

Rob Chapman is a YouTube guitarist that formed Chapman Guitars back in 2009 via a voting system on his now-defunct Monkey Lord website. The concept was simple, let the players vote on what they would like in a guitar i.e. style, headstock shape and specifications, etc

Once the votes were in he sourced a manufacturer and built some nice guitars for an affordable price point. The Monkey Lord LTD company is owned by Rob and his wife. Nowadays, the Chapman Guitars LTD brand is owned by Rob and also Lee Anderton of Anderton’s fame.

UK Luthiers

The brand has unsuccessfully tried to launch a premium guitar range for a number of years, using various UK luthiers, including Jaden Rose Guitars, who made a few of the early Chapman Explorer-style guitars These were named the Ghost Fret and would supposedly retail for £1500 each.

I have actually played the green prototype model owned by Rob that is shown in the image below at a guitar show and I will say that it was a very nice guitar.

Chapman Guitars GhostFret
Chapman Guitars Ghost Fret

Then there was a second attempt with a Strat-style model called the British ML1 that also looked to be built by Jaden and you can see KDH talk briefly about these three guitars in the video.

They would supposedly retail for £899 each, which is pretty reasonable. I have never seen or played one myself, so cannot comment, though one of the original owners has talked about the guitar on the KDH YouTube video.

The blue British ML-1 was mine. It was built by Jaden Rose along with one for Nick Johnston and Rob himself (who sold his own model as soon as I informed him that I was going to sell mine and terminate the relationship). The guitar itself was fine but not better than any of the guitars that Jaden built under his own name. And that is where the problem lies – by “Chapmanising” guitars from Jaden Rose, Sims Custom, PJD or any other workshop, the guitar buyer loses out. They have to pay a substantially higher price and lose the experience of having a guitar built to their own specifications.

British ML1 owner comment
British ML1 owner comments on the KDH YouTube channel

British Standard

Then on the third attempt, there was a new British Standard range to be built at a guitar workshop in the UK. They produced a small number of guitar prototypes to take to shows and do promotional shots with. Unfortunately, this third attempt never made it off the ground and various reasons were given as to why.

Chapman Guitar Battle Worn
Chapman Guitar Battle Worn

Battle Worn

These included that the luthier that ran the workshop wanted to retire, which is fair enough and that is beyond the control of Chapman Guitars. Many have guessed that Martin Sims of Sims Guitars was the guitar builder, but he hasn’t retired from working, so perhaps he just changed his mind. Some of these guitars have turned up for sale on Reverb and a few were also given a relic treatment and sold as Battle Worn back in 2020.

But this blow did not deter Rob and it looks like he has now found a UK company to build his Best of the best guitars.

Workshop Series

Now there is an all-new UK-built Workshop Series being launched and it looks like PJD Guitars is making them for Chapman Guitars. KDH speculates and a few other sources have done some comparisons and it certainly does look like PJD Guitars is making these latest models.

This is great as they are well known for making high-quality guitars.

ML1 X
ML1 X

Made In England

The Made In England Workshop Series features nine new ML1 X guitars, all featuring various combinations of high-end components and based on the flagship ML1 S-style build.

These are available in gloss or satin nitro including Autumn Woodland Burst, Winter Sky, Hawk Wing Fade, Dark Dimension, Quick Sand, Cluaran Fade, Mountain Stream, Cardinal Red and Midnight Raven.

Workshop Series
Workshop Series

How much?

I guess the real issue for many guitar buyers will be the price quoted at £3499.99 in the UK and £2999.99 ex-tax outside the UK. My day job is reviewing guitars and a guitar like this has some pretty stiff competition.

There are a few customisation options included in this price point though, so if you are interested then you can register your interest here.

It is certainly an interesting saga and shows just how difficult it is to launch a new UK-made guitar brand. Hopefully, this new venture will work out and create some UK jobs. As there is always room for a well-made British guitar in the marketplace.

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