Ever since 1997, when Joe Naylor launched Reverend Guitars out of a small garage in Detroit, the company has delivered reliable—even spectacular—electrics at fair prices. Reverend has earned impressive devotees, including Billy Corgan, studio ace Carl Verheyen, and Grammy-winning country-rock guitarist Pete Anderson. Anderson’s relationship with Reverend has already produced some cool instruments, including the company’s first hollowbody, the P-90-equipped PA-1. Reverend now offers an interesting variation with the PA-1 RT, an Anderson signature model with Revtron pickups.
Like its predecessor, the Korean-made PA-1 RT has an all-laminate body with a spruce top and maple back and sides. The neck is three-piece korina with a dual-action truss rod and a rosewood fingerboard. The design looks traditional, but incorporates Reverend’s Uni-Brace, an L-shaped, half-inch-wide piece of wood as deep as the guitar, extending from the neck block to a block under the bridge. This permits use of a Tune-o-matic-style bridge instead of the less stable bridges found on most hollowbodies. That’s a plus for players like Anderson, who use string bending extensively. The Uni-Brace also reduces feedback and enhances sustain.
The PA-1 RT comes standard with a Bigsby B70 vibrato. As pitch-picky players will tell you, a Bigsby can cause tuning problems. But thanks to a graphite nut, low-friction roller saddles, and Reverend’s pin-lock tuners (which use thumbwheels to push steel pins through the tuner posts, locking the strings in place) the guitar’s tuning is relatively stable.
The PA-1 RT features a pair of Reverend’s Revtron pickups, the company’s take on the venerable Gretsch Filter’Tron. The pickups are controlled via a three-way switch, master volume and tone knobs, and a bass contour control, which passively rolls off low frequencies. The model comes in three standard finishes (Satin Red Burst, Satin Metallic Emerald, and Satin Rock Orange) plus two that are exclusive to the dealer Wildwood Guitars (Gold Metal Flake and Silver Metal Flake). Our review model is Satin Rock Orange, which, like the pickups, is a nod to a 1950s Gretsch.
The guitar is handsome, with its segmented f-holes, graceful single cutaway, crème binding, and asymmetric headstock. Although some players might view a satin finish as a cost-cutting measure, Reverend says it actually costs more than a gloss finish, and that it was chosen in order to give the PA-1RT a broken-in look and a more comfortable feel. On the latter point we can't argue—the neck in particular feels great.
The PA-1 RT’s craftsmanship is very good. The 22 medium jumbo frets are perfectly dressed and polished, and the nut slots and roller saddles are cleanly notched. All binding is tight and flush, and the finish is applied evenly, with just enough transparency to reveal the tight grain of the spruce soundboard and nice curvy pattern in the maple on the back and sides. Close inspection of the f-holes reveals a little irregularity in the cuts, but you have to look closely to spot it.
From Twang to Swing
Weighing in at a burly seven pounds, 10 ounces (partially due to the Uni-Brace and the Bigsby), our PA-1 RT doesn’t feel very hollowbody-like, but it’s still comfortable to hold and play. With silky low action and a medium C-shaped neck, it feels great in all registers whether fretting barre chords or playing single notes. The 15th-fret neck-to-body junction allows greater access to the highest frets than most hollowbodies. The 12" fretboard radius makes it easy to execute bends.
Unplugged, the PA-1 RT is a little quieter than most hollowbodies of similar dimensions, but it has a nice woody tone and impressive sustain. The Bigsby works great for adding a bit of shimmer to chords. The arm, fully depressed, lowers the sixth string by about a major third.
At 7.5k ohms, the bridge pickup is plenty twangy without being the least bit shrill, and it works well for anything from a hot rockabilly solo to countrified Telecaster-toned lines. With an output of 5.5K ohms, the tamer neck pickup delivers lovely, glassy single-coil sounds when the Bass Contour knob is used to attenuate lows. Roll the tone knob back and you get warm traditional jazz tones for bebop lines and chord-melody playing.
With both pickups engaged, the PA-1 RT has a beautiful chiming sound that lends itself to George Harrison-style leads and Chet Atkins-style Travis picking. The two pickups also pair well with moderate-to-high amounts of grit dialed in, which is where the design’s resistance to howling feedback pays off. That said, it’s not difficult to coax musical feedback from the instrument when you want it.
Reverend’s PA-1 RT is a smart modern hollowbody. Finely crafted and highly playable, it offers dramatic performance improvements over many original 1950s guitars. The guitar’s lovely, woody voice is a natural fit for a wide range of styles. It’s wonderfully feedback-resistant, and its pitch is stable for a Bigsby-equipped instrument. The PA-1 RT has real “go-to-guitar” potential, and it earns our Premier Gear Award.