Kurt Ballou delivers hip throwback looks and riff-ready tones.
Compound fretboard radius. Great blended-pickup sounds. Good low-end clarity. Excellent build quality.
Expensive for a Korea-built instrument.
God City Instruments The Constructivist
As both an in-demand producer and a member of the hugely influential and long-running Converge, Kurt Ballou has put his sonic fingerprints all over heavy music. In the past few years, he diversified his output and made his way into the instrument business, growing God City Instruments—which shares a name with his Salem, Massachusetts, recording studio—into a unique artist-owned manufacturer of pedals, pickups, DIY PCBs for courageous tinkerers, and guitars and basses.
It’s no surprise that Ballou’s instruments are designed to deliver the massive tones one would expect from his records. But the visual aesthetic of GCI’s instruments includes playfully retro-inspired body styles and bright candy colors. Ballou’s newest are the Constructivist guitar and bass. It’s a model that looks classic, but not overly so, and feels as solid as the riffs you’ll want to head up to Salem and record once you get your hands on one. At $1,749, though, the Constructivist is in a price class with some heavy hitters, which could be hard to live up to for a Korea-built instrument.
Retro Looks and Formidable Function
Like GCI’s other offerings—the Craftsman and the Deconstructivist—the Constructivist wouldn’t look completely out of place in a ’60s Teisco catalog. The cherryburst finish is handsome, and the ash body’s German carve feels upscale and classic. The six-saddle hardtail bridge reminds me a little of a vintage Peavey T-60. And like that model—or at least what I remember of one—it’s a sturdy, comfortable place to launch a variety of picking attacks.
The Constructivist’s bolt-on, roasted-maple neck has a flat-C profile that makes it easy to grip. The satin polyurethane finish is flawless. The playability feels a little stiff right out of the box, but you sense a good breaking-in period would make it feel more personal. The block inlays look good across the bound rosewood fretboard’s flat 12" to 16" compound radius, which delivers easily reachable playability.
With a 25 1/2" scale, medium jumbo frets, and set up for standard tuning with a set of .011s (God City instruments typically ship in D-standard tuning), it’s a riff-blasting beast. I really clicked with the Constructivist when I jammed on the lower end of its range, where I found lots of resonating sustain at higher gain settings. Venturing up beyond the 12th fret, the compound radius provides a nice, even playing field, though it’s not quite as bend friendly as you might suspect.
Creamy, Cutting, and More
Plugged straight into my Deluxe Reverb, GCI’s P-90s deliver a fine creamy tone. I was delighted to hear a wide frequency response from both neck and bridge pickups, which both have lower bout on/off sliders that are nice and tight, so there's no chance of accidental switching. But the Constructivist is no bebop machine—as hip as that might be for a guitar that looks like this—and I restricted my clean playing to strums and open-chord arpeggios.
The Constructivist sounds even better with some dirt. I clicked between a couple different boxes—a Klon KTR, an Analog Man King of Tone, and an EHX Ripped Speaker—where I spent most of my time. The bridge pickup cuts while maintaining body. On low-end riffage, I found a twangy clarity, even when dosed with gain. Up top, I did my finest Duane Denison impression in search of scathing sustained clusters, which seem right in line with the GCI’s agenda, and they sounded screechy enough to be nasty, but clear enough to hear all the notes.
The neck pickup delivers an articulate clarity that doesn’t succumb to swampiness. There’s enough brightness in this P-90 to sing through heavy doses of gain. But I spent the bulk of my time with both pickups on, using each volume knob to carve out tones. The dynamic response of these pickups seems to encourage picking subtleties, which illuminates the nuances found in pickup blending. That’s something I rarely do on my own guitars, but on the Constructivist, I was able to dial in the sound I wanted, adding body to cutting high-end leads and giving dark power chords a little extra edge.
It’s no big surprise that this guitar is a riff machine. Like much of Ballou’s musical work, it’s sturdy, sounds heavy, and is aesthetically tight. Maybe that’s a fancy way to say if you love his music, it’s likely you’ll get down with this guitar.
But you’ll be paying a hefty price to do so. At $1,749 street, the Constructivist is expensive for a Korea-built instrument. Then again, God City uses a small-batch shop, rather than a large-scale contractor. Additionally, compound fretboard radiuses require care to get right. Plus, the attention to detail on this instrument is noticeable—this isn’t something that just left the factory without a good going-over. That said, I’d expect the same quality from any domestic instrument in the same price range. Only time will determine if this is an early indicator of guitar pricing to come, or if the Constructivist is just costly for a Korean import. My gut tells me that, at this price range, it will appeal most to players whose specific tastes really align with Ballou’s. But it’s still a fun, well-built guitar.
- Converge: Kurt Ballou's Second Nature - Premier Guitar ›
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- Rig Rundown: Kurt Ballou - Premier Guitar ›
Kick off the holiday season by shopping for the guitar player in your life at Guitar Center! Now through December 24th 2022, save on exclusive instruments, accessories, apparel, and more with hundreds of items at their lowest prices of the year.
We’ve compiled this year’s best deals in the 2022 Holiday Gift Guide presented by Guitar Center.
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About Mystery Stocking
Each year, Premier Guitar likes to put out these mystery boxes as a part of bringing some fun to the holiday season. Remember, this is supposed to be a fun holiday treat! If the contents of this box will ruin your holiday, deplete the last of your bank account, or end your ability to see the good in humanity, it may not be for you.
- This year's Mystery Stocking will cost $44.95. ($39.95 + $5 Flat shipping)
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Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
Origin Effects introduce the new M-EQ DRIVER mid booster & drive pedal. Based on a vintage Pultec studio EQ, this unique pedal offers a range of mid-focused tones, from a subtle mid boost to thick, resonant overdrive. Featuring the Adaptive Circuitry recently introduced on their Halcyon Green Overdrive, Origin Effects have brought us a pedal with a character all of its own and a new flavor of drive.
A choice of three mid-range frequencies ensures that you can boost just the right part of your guitar signal and, when pushed harder, can elicit a range of saturation from a classic “mid-hump” overdrive to fierce “cocked wah” distortion. Thanks to the Adaptive Circuitry, the high-end roll-off of the Cut control is reduced as the pedal cleans up. This allows for a smooth transition from warm overdrive to bright clean tones in response to playing dynamics or guitar volume knob changes.
Introducing... M-EQ DRIVER || Mid Booster & Drive
Built-in the UK to the highest standards, the M-EQ DRIVER continues the Origin Effects tradition of vintage, studio-inspired tones in modern guitar pedals. The Origin Effects M-EQ DRIVER is available now from Origin Effects dealers worldwide.
RRP: 259 GBP (Inc VAT) / 319 USD (Ex TAX)
For more information, please visit origineffects.com.
The Badlander 25 is designed to carry the tradition of high performance, high gain forward with tight low end, an aggressive midrange character, and enhanced harmonic content.
Badlander 25 Head
Mesa/Boogie’s Badlander Series of amplifiers draw inspiration from Mesa’s legendary Dual Rectifiers, paying homage to rock and heavy sounds in their own distinctive and percussive way, with a focus on today’s musical genres. Its tight low end, refined top end, and defined mids combine with Mesa gain for huge tones that will appeal to rock leaning guitarists who like a bit of Brit influence with their American-voiced gain. The Badlander 25 Head uses the same straightforward channel format as its 50 and 100 Watt siblings, with 2 identical, footswitchable channels each containing Clean, Crunch, and Crush modes that feed an EL84 power section to deliver an unprecedented fierceness and harmonic complexity. The Badlander 25 Head combines these ingredients in a small package and power range that adds a raw character all its own, offering the essential voice, performance, and features of the Badlander 100 and 50 in a fiery-sounding, ultra-portable low-power format that’ll gratify those not seeking big horsepower.
Badlander 25s employ a pair of EL84 power tubes operating in MESA’s proprietary Dyna-Watt Class A/B Pentode for maximum power, punch, and clarity, producing 25 Watts or switched to its 10 Watt Class A/B Triode setting for lush harmonics and a sweet, liquid feel at lower volumes.
The Badlander 25 Head packs a built in CabClone IR Direct Interface making recording and cab-less live capture consistent and easy. Players can choose from a preloaded collection of eight Rectifier Closed-Back and Boogie Open-Back Cabinets IRs from MESA’s standalone CabClone IR for a wide array of sounds and responses.
A Tube-Driven, Series Effects Loop acts as a circuit bridge, permitting players to patch their favorite outboard effects between the preamp’s end to just before the Driver tube feeding the power section.
For guitarists seeking the tone and feel of an all-tube amplifier with huge sounding gain that is voiced to handle the demands of today’s musical genres, the Badlander 25 Head delivers from a package that fits in an overnight bag.
Badlander 25 1x25 Combo
Mesa/Boogie’s Badlander Series of amplifiers draw inspiration from MESA’s legendary Dual Rectifiers, paying homage to rock and heavy sounds in their own distinctive and percussive way, with a focus on today’s musical genres. Its tight low end, refined top end, and defined mids combine with MESA gain for huge tones that will appeal to rock leaning guitarists who like a bit of Brit influence with their American-voiced gain. The new Badlander 25 1x12 Combo uses the same straightforward channel format as its 50 and 100 Watt siblings, with 2 identical, footswitchable channels each containing Clean, Crunch, and Crush modes that feed an EL84 power section to deliver an unprecedented fierceness and harmonic complexity. The Badlander 25 Combo combines these ingredients in a small package and power range that adds a raw character all its own, offering the essential voice, performance, and features of the Badlander 100 and 50 in a fiery-sounding, ultra-portable low-power format that’ll gratify those not seeking big horsepower.
A UK-made Celestion Creamback 65 Watt speaker is MESA’s driver of choice for this 1x12 Combo amp. G12M-65 Creamback is ideally suited for the Badlander 25 as its power handling permits added low-end grunt complementing the warm and vocal mids, crunchy upper-mids and sweet, refined highs.
The Badlander 25 Combo packs a built in CabClone IR Direct Interface making recording and cab-less live capture consistent and easy. Players can choose from a preloaded collection of eight Rectifier Closed-Back and Boogie Open-Back Cabinets IRs from MESA’s standalone CabClone IR for a wide array of sounds and responses.
For guitarists seeking the tone and feel of an all-tube amplifier with huge sounding gain that is voiced to handle the demands of today’s musical genres while being incredibly portable, the Badlander 25 1x12 Combo delivers.
BADLANDER™ 25 Head & 1x12 Combo | MESA/Boogie
Explore and shop the Badlanders on www.mesaboogie.comand at all authorized Mesa/Boogie dealers.