Of course, no Junior or Special ever came with a Strat-style vibrato bridge. The sturdy Wilkinson version here was set up to float, and it rocked smoothly and stayed in tune as well as any nonlocking whammy I have played. Further, the instrument’s 24.625" scale, 12" fretboard radius, and medium-high, flawlessly finished frets made the Tornado a dream to play—sliding into notes and bending proved equally easy, while its 7 pound 10 ounce weight was easy on the shoulders.

Bark and Bite
The Tornado’s pickups stray from the ordinary, as well. They’re made by TV Jones, and they use Gretsch Filter’Tron-style magnets to produce a variation on the traditional P-90 voice. And when driving an Orange Tiny Terror or the lead channel of an Egnater Rebel 30, they delivered all the bark—think “Mississippi Queen” or Humble Pie—that has made the P-90 style pickup a rock-and-roll legend. But with the Tiny Terror set clean, or through the Rebel’s clean channel, they offered a bit more twang than your average soapbar. These pickups make this particular Tornado model especially versatile. The neck pickup had enough bite for articulate solos in everything from clean-ish blues to higher-gain hard rock. Pairing the two pickups in the middle position produced plenty of jangle for pop or, with a little whammy-bar rocking, creditable Gretsch sounds. In clean mode, I felt right at home chicken-pickin’ with the bridge pickup, but as soon as I started pushing the gain, the classic P-90 snarl reared its aggressive head and fattened my leads.

The P-90 pickups could be a little noisy— like any high-output single-coil. The signal-to- noise ratio of these pickups ensures that, in most live situations, you will not be bothered by the hum while you are playing. However, when you stop playing you will want to be quick on the volume knob or pedal (or use a noise gate). Such are the trade-offs for a sweet-sounding P-90.

The Verdict
There are some custom builders who build objects for collectors, and there are those that build guitars for working players. Saul Koll has several years of practical touring and playing experience, and it shows in this instrument. The Tornado is beautiful and meticulously constructed and finished. But it is, first and foremost, a player’s guitar that reflects the savvy of someone who knows what performers want and need. Such an essentially simple instrument might seem pricey at over three grand, but what you get is a guitar that can serve a variety of purposes without requiring a manual— and that rings and plays like only an brilliantly constructed instrument can.

Buy if...
you love P-90s and want them mounted in a first-class instrument.
Skip if...
more traditional single-coils, humbuckers, or stop tailpieces are your thing

MSRP $3700 - Koll Guitar Company - kollguitars.com