With the Airline Espanada, Eastwood has delivered a great-playing hollowbody that brims with vintage authenticity, even if it doesn’t deliver all of the mojo of the original.
The 1950s may have witnessed the rise of the solidbody, but hollowbodies ruled the decade. Some of rock ’n’ roll’s greatest vanguards are synonymous with archtops and hollowbodies: Scotty Moore backed Elvis Presley on a Gibson ES-295, Chuck Berry reeled and rocked with an ES-350, and rockabilly pioneer Eddie Cochran wielded a Gretsch 6120. But as cool as they looked, those instruments were out of reach for most burgeoning rockers. The Harmony Company—the largest musical-instrument maker in the United States at the time—did a remarkable job of filling the void with affordable hollow and semihollow guitars like the Meteor, Rocket, and others that, over the next six decades, would propel everything from the Rolling Stones’ salvos to Dan Auerbach’s fuzz riffs. That enduring appeal has made Harmony guitars (and those they built for companies like Kay, Airline, and Silvertone) the subject of collector affections.
The H63 Espanada is among the rarest and most coveted of Harmony instruments, drawing auction bids in the thousands of dollars. So it was a logical subject for reinterpretation (or reissue, depending on how liberally you define such terms) by Eastwood, which has been revisiting oddball guitar designs since 2001. In tackling one of Harmony’s most elegant designs, Eastwood has delivered a great-playing hollowbody that brims with vintage authenticity, even if it doesn’t deliver all of the mojo of the original.
Like the original, the Eastwood Airline Espanada features a hollow 16-inch body with a Venetian cutaway. The top and back are made from laminated maple, the sides from laminated mahogany, and the set-neck is solid maple with a rosewood fretboard. The Fender-like 25 1/2" scale (just a hair longer than the original) and Gibson-ish 1.6875" nut make for a comfortable, spacious-feeling neck that works well for complex chords.
Many of the design details that endeared the Espenada to collectors remain intact, including the black glossy finish, white binding and pickup rings, diamond-shaped toggle plate, and cupcake-style knobs. The pickguard retains the original’s shape but is spruced up a touch with a black pinstripe and the Airline coat-of-arms logo. Eastwood happily deviated from tradition when it came to several critical pieces of hardware: Instead of an unreliable wooden bridge, the Espanada features a TonePros Tune-o-matic-style bridge, and it’s also outfitted with modern Grover-style tuners. Vintage-spec sticklers might argue that vintage-style, open-geared tuners with smaller buttons would look a bit more authentic and not add significantly to the bottom line. They may also wish Eastwood had reproduced the original harp-style tailpiece instead of throwing on a conventional trapeze, but it’s likely the latter would have been prohibitively expensive.
The Espanada is built well where it counts, but it could use more attention to detail in a few areas. The finish is irregular in spots, especially around the f-holes. Similarly, the plastic parts—especially the pickguard—are not as neatly cut as one would expect them to be. And inside the guitar there’s sawdust left over from the manufacturing process.
To be fair, original Harmony guitars were far from impeccably built—you still see sawdust inside some originals!—but we’ve grown accustomed to improved quality on imported guitars. Given both the Espanada’s $999 price tag and the quality work we usually see from Eastwood, it would be nice to see tighter quality control.
Dressed up Like a Player
Eastwood describes the Espanada as a light guitar, but at 7.3 pounds (which might be light for some solidbodies) it isn’t exactly featherweight. It is, however, well balanced and very comfortable to play either seated or standing. The neck feels great—neither too skimpy nor too ample—and the action is sleek and easy right out of the case. It’s easy to zip around on the neck playing single-note lines and barre chords alike, which is something you can’t say about all vintage Harmony instruments of this type. But though it’s outfitted with fairly light D’Addario .010s, the Espanada (like many big hollowbodies) isn’t an instrument that’s conducive to deep string bending.
Plugged into a Fender Deluxe Reverb, the high-output P-90-style pickups sound great. The guitar has a robust, transparent voice with excellent clarity and fairly uniform note-to-note output. The bridge pickup’s tone can be quite aggressive and responds well to everything from a hot, hybrid-picked rockabilly solo to punk-rock downstroked eighth-notes.
The neck pickup is a bit more subdued and lends itself nicely to jazz explorations. It’s easy to dial in a warm but cutting tone for single-note lines in a Grant Green mold, or something darker for chord-melody-style work in the manner of Joe Pass or Wes Montgomery. In any of these styles, it’s a very fun and responsive guitar to play.
The Eastwood Airline Espanada is based on a sound premise—to build a new guitar with the playability and quality of a good modern instrument and the appealing aesthetic of a vibey vintage specimen. Eastwood falls short of this goal on a few counts—mostly cosmetic— and some of the cool and unusual details found on the original were too hard to include without making the guitar too expensive.
The upside is tone and playability. On both counts, the Espanada is a fine performer, and roots-rock players, punks, rockabilly cats, and country and jump-blues players will all be hard-pressed to find a hollowbody that can deliver this combination of faithful vintage aura, sounds, and smooth playability.
Watch our video demo:
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Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
LegendaryTones, LLC today announced production availability of its new Mr. Scary Mod, a 100% pure tube module designed to instantly and easily expand the capabilities of many classic amplifiers with additional gain and tone shaping. Created in collaboration with legendary guitarist George Lynch of Dokken and Lynch Mob fame, the Mr.Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage and an onboard Deep control, which together are designed to enable an amp to have increased sustain while still retaining note definition and dynamics.
Originally released as the Lynch Mod in February 2021, the updated Mr. Scary Mod features the same core circuit as the Lynch Mod but is now equipped with a revised tube mix combo per George’s preference as well as a facelift in a newly redesigned electro-galvanized steel enclosure. As with the Lynch Mod, each run will be limited and the first run in Pumpkin Orange with Black hardware is limited to just 150 pieces worldwide.
The Mr. Scary Mod adds an adjustable tube gain stage on top of the cathode follower position, keeping note definition and articulation while further increasing sustain. Each Mr. Scary mod is meticulously built by hand in the USA, one at a time, and tuned using high-grade components. Equipped with a single ECC81 (12AT7) in the first position and ECC83 (12AX7) in the second, the Mr. Scary Mod can clean up beautifully when rolling down your guitar’s volume, and still adds scorching gain when you roll it back up. This is a gain stage that’s been tuned and approved by the ears of the maestro George Lynch himself.
“The Mr. Scary Mod excels with dynamics and is incredibly touch-responsive, allowing me to shift from playing clear, lightly compressed cleans to full-out aggressive sustain and distortion –and control it all simply by varying my guitar’s volume control and picking,” said GeorgeLynch. “In many ways, it’s an old-school approach, but it’s also so much more natural and expressive in addition to being musically fulfilling when you can play both the guitar and amp dynamically together this way.”
The Mr. Scary Mod installs in minutes, is safe and effective to use, and requires no special tools or re-biasing of the amplifier. Simply insert the module into the cathode follower preamp position of compatible amplifiers (includes Marshall 2203/2204/1959/1987 circuits) and
immediately get the benefit of enjoying a hot-rodded amp that delivers all the pure harmonic character that comes with an added pure tube gain stage. The handmade in the USA Mr. Scary Mod is now available to order for $319.
For more information, please visit legendarytones.com.
October Audio has miniaturized their NVMBR Gain pedal to create two mini versions of this beautifully organic-sounding circuit – including an always-on gain device.
The NVMBR Gain is a nonlinear amp that transitions gracefully from clean boost to overdriven tones. Volume increases from just over unity to about 10db before soft-clipping drive appears for another 5db of boost. Its extraordinary ease of use is matched by outstanding versatility: you can use it as a clean boost, push a stubborn amp into overdrive or create a just-breaking-up sound at any amp volume.
October Audio’s new family of mini NVMBR Gain pedals includes a switchable version that allows you to bypass the effect: one option features brand logo pedal graphics, while the other sports a fun “Witch Finger” graphic with a Davies knob as the“fingernail”.
The second version in the new lineup is an always-on device featuring the Witch Finger graphic and Davies knob, with the same NVMBR Gain circuit that lies at the core of the switchable version.
- Knob controls gain and clipping simultaneously
- Stunning silver hammertone finish
- Switchable versions are true-bypass, available with classic or witch finger graphics
- Authentic Davies knobs, including the “fingernail”
- 9V center negative power supply required
- Dimensions: 3.63 x 1.50 x 1.88 in
Witch Finger (always on NVMBR Gain) demo
All October Audio pedals are assembled in Richmond, VA, and available for purchase directly through the online shop. Street price is $109 for NVMBR Gain footswitch versions and $89 for the always-on device.
For more information, please visit octoberaudio.com.