Humble 1960s designs are reborn in a high-performance boutique gem.

The latest model from Portland, Oregon, based luthier Saul Koll is an upscale tribute to down-market American guitars of the 1960s. As such, it’s part of an emerging trend among boutique luthiers: re-envisioning the funky budget guitars of the past as immaculately crafted, high-performance instruments.

Aesthetic DNA
According to Koll, the Super Cub shares “aesthetic DNA” with the Harmony Bobkat, Epiphone Wilshire, and Gibson Melody Maker. Back in the ’60s, these were considered relatively humble models for beginners. Both Hendrix and Springsteen played Wilshires in their youth, while Billy Gibbons started out on a Melody Maker. Nowadays, though, they’re often embraced for their innate warts-and-all coolness. For example, Annie “St. Vincent” Clark has recorded amazing things using her Bobkat.

The Super Cub’s curiously cubist headstock is an obvious Bobkat reference (though it pays homage to Kay and Custom Kraft designs, too). And while the Cub’s body features Koll’s signature “Glide” shape, that offset, double-cutaway design isn’t worlds removed from the Bobkat’s silhouette. Meanwhile, the Cub’s sides are rounded relative to other Koll models, much like the Bobkat and Wilshire. And like the instruments that inspired it, the Cub has a thin, light body. It’s a svelte 1 1/4" thick. Players who prefer lighter/smaller instruments are likely to be happy here.

I can tell you that these “silver-foils” sound cool and unique, and that they’re largely responsible for the Super Cub’s distinctive voice.

Improving the Past
Unlike its ’60s inspirations, the Super Cub is an exceedingly high-performance instrument.

The set neck, with its 22 medium-jumbo frets and relaxed C shape, is a joy to play. The ends of the expertly installed frets are rounded to pearly smoothness. The lower cutaway lets you access the 22nd fret as easily as the first, with no need to stretch out of position. Despite the six-on-one headstock, the neck is set into the body via a clean, comfy joint. The bone nut is a beaut. Unplugged, the guitar’s tone is complex and rich in sustain, thanks in part to the spiffy Schroeder bridge.

The Super Cub’s cosmetics are a delight. Staring into the black-sparkle nitro finish feels like gazing at the stars on a dark night. Lovely single-ply binding complements both the starry black body and the golden-brown mahogany neck. The curvaceous aluminum pickguard evokes mid-century modern coffee tables and swimming pools. It looks magnificent surrounding the custom Curtis Novak silver-foil pickups. Transparent plastic knobs complete the Space Age effect. And while there are position markers on the neck binding, the fretboard is free of ornamentation.

 

Ratings

Pros:
Unique voice. Superb build. Striking design.

Cons:
Pricy.

Tones:

Playability:

Build/Design:

Value:

Street:
$3,600

Koll Super Cub
kollguitars.com

Foiled Again
Though other pickup options are available, the pickups in our review guitar are reportedly copies of the foil pickups in some Japanese Guyatone models. These seem to be customized versions of Novak’s Guytone NB model, with silver foil embossed with the Koll logo. I’ve never used original Guyatone foil pickups, so I can’t address the historical accuracy of Novak’s replicas. But I can tell you that these “silver-foils” sound cool and unique, and that they’re largely responsible for the Super Cub’s distinctive voice.

Like other reproduction gold-foils I’ve spent time with recently (Jason Lollar’s version and the Roadhouse models in recent Supro guitars), the Guytones have a bright, almost acoustic-like high end—only more so. Clean tones have crisp, decisive attack with bold, clangy overtones, as heard at the start of the demo clip. It’s a spectacular tone for fingerstyle picking, vintage R&B, and maybe even for jazz.

Those highs never seem shrill—probably because they’re grounded by round, warm lows with rock-solid fundamentals. The unrestrained treble can sound at times like a direct-recorded guitar, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing. If you told me the riff at the clip’s 01:20 mark was a blend of miked amp and DI signal, I’d believe you. With heavy overdrive and fuzz, tones get loose and spattery in a bitchin’ punk rock way. Dig the sheer mass at 00:29.

The Super Cub features a Les Paul-style 3-position selector switch. Each pickup has its own master volume, while the single tone knob affects both pickups. A high-end G&G deluxe hardshell case is included.

The Verdict
I love the Super Cub’s unique voice and modernized retro styling. The guitar is light, comfy, and ridiculously fun to play. Its tones are surprisingly versatile, ranging from authoritative and articulate clean tones to brash, punky chunk. The only stumbling block for me is the price, which seems lofty despite the instrument’s distinctive design and fine hand workmanship. Still, Koll’s Super Cub is one of the most appealing and inspiring guitars I’ve encountered lately.

Watch the Review Demo:

A few simple chords is all it takes.

Beginner

Beginner

  • Learn to play a 12-bar blues, in three different keys, using one shape.
  • Study an assortment of strumming and picking patterns.
  • Gain a basic understanding of the 12-bar blues form.
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As usual, there is more to this lesson than the title implies. We will be working with one chord shape at a time, but over the course of the lesson we’ll study three different shapes. The final example in this lesson incorporates all three shapes to demonstrate how a few basic ideas can provide us with infinite possibilities.

It is important to know that for every chord name in this lesson there are countless shapes—also known as fingerings or voicings—available. For this lesson, I chose what I consider to be the most practical and flexible shapes.

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See a sampling of picks used by famous guitarists over the years.

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Submit your own artist pick collections to rebecca@premierguitar.com for inclusion in a future gallery.

My years-long search for the “right” Bigsby-outfitted box finally paid off. Now how do I make this sumbitch work in my band?

Considering the amount of time I’ve spent (here and elsewhere) talking about and lusting after Gretsch hollowbody guitars, it’s taken me a remarkably long time to end up with a big Bigsby-outfitted box I truly love. High-end Gretsches are pricey enough that, for a long time, I just couldn’t swing it. Years ago I had an Electromatic for a while, and it looked and played lovely, but didn’t have the open, blooming acoustic resonance I hoped for. A while later, I reviewed the stellar Players Edition Broadkaster semi-hollow, and it was so great in so many ways that I set my sights on it, eventually got one, and adore it to this day. Yet the full-hollowbody lust remained.

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