Michael Kelly Enlightened Collection - Weight-Relief 1955 and Patriot Electric Guitars
A new approach to a heavy problem ...
by Chris Loeffler
Harmony Central has reviewed several Michael Kelly electric guitars in the past, including their 50s, 60s, and Patriot series, generally favoring them for their bang for the buck, out-of-the-box setup, and flexible pickup configuration routing. Michael Kelly reached out to us for feedback on their newest electric guitar series, Michael Kelly Enlightened, and offered Harmony Central early review access to their first line of production models being created for their Kickstarter campaign. The Enlightened guitar series’ stated goal is to reimagine the classic Michael Kelly designs from the body to the tuning pegs to create the lightest possible instrument available without sacrificing tone or balance.
The Michael Kelly Enlightened series was designed to address consistent customer feedback that smaller frames, injuries or age were preventing them from playing their instruments as long as they would like/need. While some high-end guitar manufacturers address weight relief with chambering the body, or creating empty pockets within the body, there is no denying chambering changes the instrument's fundamental tone. While final configuration and options for the entire line were not available at the time of this review, by reviewing two very different guitars in the Enlightened line I was able to quickly get what was common throughout.
What You Need to Know
Visually, the Michael Kelly Patriot Enlightened and Michael Kelly 55 Enlightened electric guitars are nearly identical to their standard-weight brethren. For thorough reviews of the original instruments’ sonic and physical attributes, please see the 1950’s Series review and the Patriot Instinct Bare Knuckle review. This review will serve to compare and contrast as well as assess the instruments on their own merit.
While most guitars weigh between eight to ten pounds, the Enlightened series has a stated goal of having all instruments weigh in at six pounds or less (a 25-40% decrease in average weight) across the line. All Enlightened guitar bodies are built from a member of the mahogany family specially selected from dozens of trials for its balance of weight and traditional guitar tone. The body on both guitars is slimmer than their standard counterparts, but not to a degree that they feel obviously different. To avoid the added expense and tonal variance of chambering, the Enlightened series guitars have four ports at the heel of the guitar, removing material (and weight) from the part of the guitar body that has the least impact on tone.
The strap buttons are located slightly differently than on the standard models, obviously relocated for ergonomics and neck balance. The guitars themselves were both light enough that I was prepared to deal with neck-heavy issues, but the strap button placement obviated that concern. In a sitting position, both the 55 Enlightened and Patriot Enlightened displayed the familiar balance of a standard solid body guitar.
The hardware on the 55 Enlightened is aluminum, as opposed to steel, for greater weight relief, as are portions of the Patriot Enlightened. The pickups, while using the same pickup technology as the standard line, have been specially voiced and wound to further compensate for any tonal variations that occur from the weight relief solutions, and I found them to be as full and sustained in the 55 Enlightened as the 55, with the same Great 8 Mod push-pull coil tap in the bridge humbucker and new mini-humbucker. I was unable to do a direct comparison between the standard Patriot and the Patriot Enlighted because the standard Patriot I reviewed featured Bare Knuckle pickups, but the Patriot Enlightened certainly had the thick, punchy round tone one expects from humbucker pickups and I was pleasantly surprised at the sustain the guitar achieved.
Less a product limitation than an output of the distribution model, but early adopters likely won’t be able to check out the Enlightened series in a store for some time after the Kickstarter campaign, which might be a barrier for “need to play it first” potential customers.
The Michael Kelly 55 Enlightened and Patriot Enlightened electric guitars feel, play, and sound exactly how you would expect a guitar of their individual makeups to perform, but with a demonstrable weight reduction. If you’ve ever played 3+ hour shows, have a smaller frame, have back or posture issues, or just flat our want to give your body a break, the Enlightened series will get you there easily and without compromise. -HC-
Chris Loeffler is a multi-instrumentalist and the Content Strategist of Harmony Central. In addition to his ten years experience as an online guitar merchandiser, marketing strategist, and community director he has worked as an international exporter, website consultant and brand manager. When he’s not working he can be found playing music, geeking out on guitar pedals and amps, and brewing tasty beer.