A NEW BRITISH INVASION
Cream T’s guitars prove that Europe is on the map when it comes to innovative guitar design that still feels familiar. Time for a closer acquaintance.
Europe may be there
During our permanent search for “a new guitar”, we are increasingly focusing on Europe. Because there is plenty to discover in the field of guitar in our own continent. Nothing against guitars from the USA of course, but the times when the “real stuff” only came from America are over. In addition, Europe is close by, which saves transport costs and energy. We came across Cream-T when we were looking for pickups for our own Kauffmann Cozy model. And then it turns out that they also build guitars.
Cream-T Guitars and Pickups
Cream T is a pickup and guitar builder from the UK. The club is owned by Tim Lobley who owns a guitar shop Sound Affects in the UK and Scandinavian Thomas Nilsen. Thomas designs guitar pickups for serious guitarists and has a clientele that includes many big names. In his design he uses a method he calls the “Oracle Pickup Scanner”. In doing so, he discovers ins-and-outs of the pickups from the old Bursts such as the Pearly Gates by Billy Gibbons or the Beast by Bernie Marsden.
During one of those design assignments he befriended Billy Gibons and he had some ideas for a new guitar. Together with Thomas, Billy Gibbons created the first Cream-T guitar, the Aurora. The guitars are built in the workshop of PJD Guitars in the UK. And that is reflected in the simple but very well executed architectural style.
At first glance, the Aurora is a Les Paul inspired guitar. And if you look a little further, you see that the body is actually a crossover between an LP and a Tele. The bottom of the body has the more square contours of a Tele. Visually, that takes some getting used to, it looks a bit strange. And then we guitarists are prone to that to have. But after 15 minutes it actually gets cool and the other visual things in the design stand out. Like the flawless understated finish. Also immediately eye-catching is the leather case that comes with the guitar. It contains two extra pickups. And that’s a special twist; the guitar comes with interchangeable pickups. You can of course expect that when you let a pickup builder design a guitar.
The pickup swapping system is borrowed from the Swiss Relish guitars. And is really click & play. The pickups click into the back of the body. And you can adjust the pickups in height by a rotary knob on the back of the pickup. This way you can replace your pickups in 10 seconds, without tools, without removing strings and without soldering. genius. Almost all Cream T pickups can be ordered with the swapping system. This way your guitar becomes a platform for a very large tone palette.
The Aurora comes in different versions. The Standard version is the simplest and a real ‘working men’ guitar. The mahogany body without binding in a matte open-pore finish gives the guitar a tough appearance. Especially in the black Noche Black version. The neck also has an open pore finish and has dot inlays on the fretboard. Just no frills, not at all! The exuberance of this guitar is in the build quality and the ingenious pickup system.
If you want French, you can. Then look at the Aurora Custom, which comes with a maple top, top binding and trapezoid inlays in the neck. The maple top has a more traditional Sunburst or, as Cream-T calls it, a Whiskerbucker finish. The Custom also comes with a rugged Hicox case.
How does it feel and how does it sound?
The Aurora has an LP ’59 style neck but is slightly thinner and narrower, just a nice full C. The thinly sprayed matte nitro finish of the neck fits perfectly into the picture. Just like the rosewood fingerboard with rounded edge. The neck therefore feels very natural and played in. As you would expect on this guitar, the Aurora has a scale length of 24.75′ or 63 cm. And then of course you also expect a 12” radius, but it does not have that. The radius is 10” and to be honest, we didn’t notice it until we measured it. Because the guitar has a low action and a very nice playability.
The guitars all weigh around 3.5 kg and that is just a nice weight for this type of guitar. This is also due to the somewhat large pickup cavities that make the pickup swapping system possible. And air simply weighs less than wood.
There is a three way switch where you would expect it on this guitar and that is on the top shoulder. The guitar has two volume knobs that both also double as a coil split with which you can convert any humbucker into a single coil. And there is one tone button for both elements. So far everything is fine with our Aurora.
Just plug in. And then you hear the magic. The Aurora comes standard with Cream-T Whiskerbuckers humbuckers. These are the first elements that Cream T made with their Oracle Scanning method. The elements they took a closer look at for the Whiskerbucker are the PAFs from Billy Gibons are Pearly Gates Les Paul. Now Cream T is not the first to replicate these elements, but they do it very well. Everything you are looking for a PAF can be found here. Punch and bite in the bridge position and a warm transparent tone from the neck position. In addition, you can split the elements so that you also have very usable single coil tones at your disposal. They aren’t the quietest pickups we’ve ever heard, but they all sound natural, especially when you crank up the amp a bit for some classic rock sounds. This is good!
The supplied alternative set of pickups is also welcome. A Duches P90 for the neck position and a Banger & Mash Humbucker for the bridge position. Changing the elements is really a piece of cake. Click and done. The Duches P90 is too loud compared to the Banger and Mash but with a turn of the adjustment knob the pickups are in balance and we have a completely different guitar. Where the Whiskerbuckers have a clear Les Paul orientation, this set is more Tele based. Especially if you split Banger & Mash you get a piercing tele bite from your guitar. Mix and match is of course also possible by combining Whiskerbucker with the Banger and Mash. Really plenty of options for great sounds. As you may have heard, we are quite a fan of Cream T pickups and we use them extensively in our own Kauffmann Cozy models.
What can that cost?
That of course depends on the implementation. The most decorated model The Aurora Custom 2, including two extra elements, will cost you a dent of €3595,-. But you do get something in return. A top-built original guitar that sounds like a clock and brings a wide range of sounds. If you want to take it a little easier, the Standard might be more your thing. Without the extra pickups you are in business for €2395. That is still money, but if you consider that you are playing on a quality instrument, built in Europe and with the ear-pleasing Whiskerbuckers pickups, then we can speak of an attractive deal.