Bright and Brilliant
Though Sweetwood also lists Lollar pickups as an option for this model, the review unit shipped with a pair of zebra colored 'Wolftone Sweetwood' pickups. These scatter wound pickups feature Alnico II magnets and sounded very clean and bright, though the ebony fretboard and maple top lends itself to a brighter tone as well. I used a 100-watt Marshall to test the Comet, which certainly imparted some additional high –frequency characteristics. So I often ended up rolling off the tone knob almost a quarter turn to help tame the top end. It also appeared that the pickups had been adjusted so that they sat a little higher under the first three strings. By lowering the pickup and making some tone knob tweaks, I found a happy medium—bright but not too bright, and still detailed and clear.

The single volume and tone knobs each have a push-pull switch. The volume pot switches the neck humbucker from series to parallel, giving the guitar a nice clean shimmer that was more like a Stratocaster single-coil than Gibson P-90, but without the hum. The tone knob serves the same function for the bridge pickup. Issues with high end were more noticeable with the pickups set to parallel, which also caused a noticeable drop in volume compared to the pickups set in series. On an overdriven amp, the bridge pickup set in parallel mode sounded surprisingly Strat-like, especially considering the very Les Paul-like specs of the guitar. There is a lot of tonal diversity on tap with the Custom Comet. Series modes for both pickups sound very PAF-style fat with a very pure tone and with a wide frequency range. The combination worked great on clean amp settings. I didn't have to roll back the volume knob to get crystalline tones, but the guitar would distort with plenty of harmonic clarity when pumped through an overdriven amp. I especially enjoyed accessing the dark, rich tones of the neck pickup for lead lines that were delightfully clear and free of muddy blur.

The Verdict
The Sweetwood Custom Comet is a really well built guitar of exemplary sonic versatility. Only a few very minor (and disputable) design miscues detract from the overall playing experience, and Sweetwood says they intend to address each of them in the 2011 production models. The Comet is a bright guitar, but the tone can be massaged easily by taking advantage of the myriad pickup combinations. Comfort and feel are all absolutely top notch. And those are the things that a sub-standard builder cannot fake. Given the things Sweetwood got right, watching the company evolve should be quite interesting indeed.
Buy if...
you want a great feeling and playing electric with a superb neck and tone sculpting capabilities.
Skip if...
you make minimal use of tone controls or pickup switching when you play.

Street $3250 (as reviewed) - Sweetwood Guitar Company -