Review: Viitasaari Guitars OM

Viitasaari OM – headstock

Olli Viitasaari is a young luthier from Järvenpää in the south of Finland.

After completing his training at IKATA, Olli has been working on his own electric guitar model (in addition to doing repairs and customising jobs), which he since displayed at Fuzz Guitar Show (Gothenburg, Sweden) and Turenki Tonefest (Finland).

Turenki Tonefest 2015 016

Fuzz 2016 – visitor at Viitasaari Guitars

Olli’s guitar model is called the Viitasaari OM (OM = Offset Model, prices starting from 2,500 €; a Hiscox case is included), and it represents Olli’s vision of the perfect Jazzmaster-style guitar. Guitarists have reacted very positively to the Viitasaari OM, and there are already a few guitars in active use by Finnish and Swedish guitarists.

Kitarablogi.com would like to thank Mr. Juha Pöysä for the loan of his personal guitar!

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Viitasaari OM – full front 1

The basic building blocks of the Viitasaari OM use the tried and trusted recipe of its 1950s forefather:

The OM’s body is made from alder, while the bolt-on neck has been carved from hard rock maple. The fretboard is rosewood.

The first indication that this isn’t your run-in-the-mill Fender-clone lies in the scale length. Olli has chosen 25 inches for his model, which places this guitar’s scale length in the same territory as a PRS – right in the middle between traditional Fender and traditional Gibson.

Viitasaari OM – back beauty

As Viitasaari Guitars is a true boutique builder there’s plenty of options for the customer to choose from, both in terms of pickups and electronics, as well as the guitar’s finish.

Juha Pöysä’s OM comes in a very fetching blue satin finish for the body, and a natural satin finish for the neck. The customer can also specify gloss finishes or oil-based finishes for his (or her) own guitar.

Viitasaari OM – Gotoh tuners

This guitar sports a set of Gotoh HAP-tuners, which combine vintage looks with height-adjustable tuner posts.

Viitasaari OM – Mastery bridge

Leo Fender’s original Jazzmaster/Jaguar-vibrato is both loved and loathed among guitarists. Players tend to love the soft and slightly spongy action, but often tend to find the original design’s many quirks and idiosyncrasies extremely annoying.

Fender’s original design features tiny grub screws for the height-adjustment of the bridge’s separate bridge saddles. These screws often tend to work loose during playing, causing rattles and involuntary changes in string action. Additionally, there’s only a relatively shallow string angle over the bridge, exacerbating the string rattling, and sometimes even causing a string to jump out of position, especially with modern light gauge strings. In extreme cases, a bridge saddle may even turn upside down in the middle of a solo.

US-based hardware company Mastery has put a stop to all these problems by redesigning the Offset Bridge from the ground up. Naturally, this fantastic system has been chosen for the Viitasaari OM.

Viitasaari OM – body beauty 2

The OM’s 9.5-inch radius and fatter-than-vintage frets give the Viitasaari a modern playing feel.

Viitasaari OM – J Salo pickups

The two P-90-type pickups have been developed especially for the Viitasaari OM by Olli and Finnish pickup maker Jarno Salo.

Viitasaari OM – pickups and controls

The special feature of these Viitasaari/Salo-pickups are their dual coil taps, giving you three different basic sounds (and output levels) per pickup. A slide switch above each pickup lets you select between the full coil and the two coil tapped variations.

You can choose between a three-way blade switch (as on the reviewed instrument) or a three-way rotary for the pickup selector.

The controls are master volume and master tone. You can also specify a built-in fuzz effect as an option, which is then activated by a push/pull-switch inside the tone control.

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Viitasaari OM – beauty shot 1

The Viitasaari OM is a top-drawer boutique guitar; it is lightweight and easy to play.

Comparing a Viitasaari to a mass-produced guitar makes the differences blatantly obvious – even though the Jazzmaster/Jaguar-shape is already a very ergonomic design, Olli Viitasaari’s craftsmanship takes the smoothness to new levels. The OM feels like a natural extension of the player’s body.

The workmanship and finish on this guitar couldn’t possibly be any neater – you could call t exemplary. The playing feel with the 0105 [sic!] set of strings is precise and bendy at the same time.

Mastery’s Offset vibrato system really is the best that has happened to the offset-vibrato since its inception in 1958. This is how the bridge and vibrato should have been designed right from the start! The Mastery Offset takes all the whammy abuse you can throw at it without any untoward side effects – no tuning problems, no strings jumping about. No wonder so many Jazzmaster and Jaguar-players have already updated to the Mastery Offset-system.

Viitasaari OM – beauty shot 2

The clean sound of the Viitasaari OM is Fender-ish in its fresh brightness and clean midrange, even though these P-90s are slightly more powerful than Fender Jazzmaster pickups. We get a high quality version of the Jazzmaster-tone with clearly less hum and buzz, thanks to the fine Viitasaari/Salo-pickups.

Using the coil taps will give you two quieter and slightly more rounded versions of the full pickup tone.

Here are the neck pickup’s three variations:

And the same for the bridge pickup:

As we all know, P-90s love chunky overdrive sounds, which opens the Viitasaari OM up to all sorts of tasty crunch tones:

I feel the coil taps are especially useful in distorted Rock/Blues-settings, making it possible to go from rhythm to lead playing without having to step onto an effects pedal. The shorter coil variations cool things down nicely, while the full coil gives you a ”boost” in volume and bite for lead guitar parts.

Here are the neck pickup’s three variations:

And the same for the bridge pickup:

In recorded the demo track’s guitar parts using a T-Rex Replicator analogue tape delay:

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Viitasaari OM – full front 2

What a gorgeous guitar! To me the Viitasaari OM is simply the best Jazzmaster-type guitar I have ever played.

The workmanship is boutique grade and the OM plays like a dream. The Master vibrato is the icing on the cake, taking this design to new levels.

In my view the best thing about the OM, though, is the way Olli has incorporated double coil taps in his design. The OM takes the lead/rhythm idea of the original Jazzmaster, but transforms it into something that actually works much better in a modern context.

Viitasaari OM – body beauty 1

****

Viitasaari Guitars OM

from 2,500 €

Contact: Viitasaari Guitars

Pros:

+ handmade in Finland

+ workmanship

+ finish

+ Finnish pickups

+ Mastery-vibrato

+ sound

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