Will Ray's Bottom Feeder: Jay Turser Branson Model
Sometimes it pays to step back and do a little homework before bidding on an eBay guitar.
I’m no stranger to Jay Turser guitars. I’ve had many over the years and found them very affordable and well made. I’ve seen them all. Or so I thought. I spotted this baby on eBay a while back and was bewildered by the design. It has an interesting swirl carved right into the body, giving it a kind of futuristic look. In addition, it has a reverse-Firebird-type headstock, two slanted Turser “Phantom Coil” pickups, and an odd metal adjustable-height nut. I was baffled because I had never seen this model before. I tried doing a little research on it, but couldn’t find much. The auction opened at $150 and I won it for $207.88—my maximum bid. I barely won it because another bidder bid $207.34, so I ended up winning the auction by 54 cents. Whoa—that was strange!
I decided to do more research after I won and, to my horror, found that a guitar exactly like mine sold just a few months earlier (from the same seller, too) for only $100, so that bummed me out a bit.
Bottom Feeder Tip #381: Do your pricing research before you bid. Ha!
When the guitar arrived, it was difficult to play. The action was high and it had heavy-gauge strings, plus the neck had excessive bow. In addition, the strings buzzed all over the place. I changed strings to my gauge, adjusted the neck, and lowered the action, but it still buzzed with the open strings. Then I took a good look at the metal nut. I didn’t realize it had two adjustment screws, so I raised the nut just a pinch and all the buzzing went away. Whew!
Photo 2 — With its Phantom Coil pickups and contour-in-body design, this model has its own sound—which may need a little goosing up—and look.
When I gave it a spin through an amp, the guitar sounded very Strat-like, but with the addition of a 2-way phase switch. The Phantom Coil pickup design keeps the guitar very quiet, but it sounds a little sterile. The guitar seemed to lack a sonic personality you’d get from a Strat or Tele, so it took me a while to find the right amp and pedal settings. I use modeling amps, and the settings that worked best were a blackface Fender with some help from a compressor and a Tube Screamer.
Photo 3 — The headstock on the Branson is reverse-Firebird style, with the pegs at the bottom. Some contend this affects tuning, and it certainly alters the feel when bending low and high strings.
In all my research, this is what I found on the Branson: They only made a limited number for one year, around 2002. The model was available in natural (like mine), transparent red, or transparent black finish. It’s similar to the Fender Lead II guitars from 1979 to 1982. The pickups use some kind of phantom-coil noise cancellation. And that’s all I found. There’s very little information out there on these guitars, so if you know something more, give me a shout.
So it’s a keeper—at least for now. I probably paid more than I should have, but I love the look and it’s fun to play. And isn’t that enough? Listen to my sound sample and be the judge.