RS Guitarworks TeeVee Custom Electric Guitar Review

A V-shape body paired with the handsome, classic appointments of an early-’60s Telecaster Custom

Download Example 1
Bridge pickup, Tone and Volume at 10
Download Example 2
Middle position, both pickups in parallel, Tone and Volume at 10
Download Example 3
Neck pickup, Tone and Volume at 10
Clips recorded through a TomasZewicz 35112 Amp, Lava Cables, and Sony PCM-D-50 Recorder.
Go ahead, look again—your eyes do not deceive you. Yes, that is a V-shape body paired with the handsome, classic appointments of an early-’60s Telecaster Custom, faded to what looks like period-correct patina. Could this be the result of a clandestine meeting between Ted McCarty and Leo Fender years ago? Well, not exactly. Aptly named the TeeVee Custom, the integration of these two timeless designs is the brainchild of Roy Bowen and Scott Leedy, owners of RS Guitarworks, based in Winchester, Kentucky.

The roots of RS Guitarworks can be traced back to 1994 when woodworker and musician Leedy moved to Winchester and forged a friendship with fellow woodworker and guitarist Bowen, who was a seasoned repairman for a local Fender repair shop. They shared a passion for vintage guitars—particularly an interest in the components that made certain examples of these instruments special. Two years later, they set up shop in Bowen’s basement offering repairs, vintage restorations, custom projects, and distressing jobs. RS has since grown into a full-service shop occupying a large, newly built facility with a staff of six. RS still offers repairs, restoration services, and custom builds, and has also generated a substantial following for its aged parts and electronics upgrade kits, but with guitars like the TeeVee, the company is fast establishing a reputation for building top-shelf vintage-inspired instruments.

A Touch of Vintage
If you didn’t know better, you would swear that the TeeVee Custom was a vintage guitar. The aging of the finish, hardware, and overall appearance is nicely executed. The TeeVee even smells old. Consisting of a few dings and some checking and worming that look pretty authentic, the played-but-loved distressing treatment is tasteful and not overdone.

The guitar is finished with a proprietary blend of three different nitrocellulose lacquers, and I particularly like the aged, 3-tone sunburst finish with its receding brown and red hues that actually appear more vivid on the back of the guitar than the front—not unlike a guitar that spent years sitting in a sunny music store window. And the yellowed cream binding, aged 3-ply mint-green pickguard, and aged nickel hardware add to the instrument’s convincing vintage aura.

Weighing in at a comfortable 7 pounds, 1 ounce, the TeeVee Custom stays close to its Telecaster Custom inspiration with a center seam, non-contoured, 2-piece alder body and a bolt-on, 1-piece maple neck with a dark rosewood fretboard. The 25 1/2" -scale neck has a 10" fretboard radius and is affixed to the body at the 16th fret, which enables excellent upper-register access.

The neck carve, which RS calls the “63C,” is inspired by the shape of Bowen’s favorite 1964 Stratocaster that has a C-shaped tapered carve measuring .835" at the 1st fret and .960" at the 12th fret. (Other carves are available.) And on the back of the neck, the worn satin finish combined with rolled fretboard edges gives the TeeVee a super-silky feel. The neck is topped off with the compact RS Guitarworks Tele-esque headstock that features aged nickel TonePros Kluson-style tuners. The fretboard sports a 1 5/8" Tusq nut and is capped with 21 polished 6105 nickel-silver frets. The TeeVee’s clay-dot fret markers contrast nicely with the dark rosewood ’board. True to its vintage specifications, the single-action truss rod is accessed by removing the neck—not the most convenient setup, but true to the TeeVee’s inspiration.

The guitar has a pair of proprietary, vintage-voiced Lindy Fralin RS 60 staggered single-coils that feature alnico 5 bar magnets. The nickel-covered neck pickup is wound hotter than the bridge pickup (these aged pickups spec at 7k and 6.2k, respectively).

The electronics and hardware reflect exacting standards and an eye for vintage realism and high quality. The TeeVee has a low-profile RS-stamped Glendale Bridge (with its treble side ground down), compensated aluminum saddles, a 280 kΩ RS Superpot for volume, and a CTS tone pot. All the parts are aged, and, where possible, conform to period-correct specifications. The builders at RS even dye the guitar’s cloth-covered wiring to match the instrument’s finish.

Perhaps my only real qualm with the instrument’s design is the location of the Tele-type control plate on the V shaped body, which places the volume knob a bit closer to the bridge than I’d like, and right in the path of my picking hand when I’m strumming.

Care Translates to Tone
The high degree of craftsmanship on the TeeVee Custom translates into an instrument that has exceptional playability and offers a wide range of sounds on tap. The lightweight, resonant guitar sounded great before I even plugged it into the blackface Fender Bandmaster and TomasZewicz 35112 amps I used for this review.

The combination of alder body and rosewood fretboard works well with the spanky Fralin pickups to emphasize the lower midrange. In general, the tone seems somewhat more muscular and less bright than a typical Telecaster, but there’s still plenty of traditional snap and twang on tap if you need it. The bridge pickup is not overly bright, and the tone control has a really broad range that enabled me to move from brighter Tom Petty-like rock tones to darker and more aggressive sounds.

The folks at RS and Fralin devoted a lot of time to designing these pickups, and the attention to detail is evident in their sound. The hotter neck pickup was a pleasant surprise, featuring a clear, harmonically rich color that’s perfect for single-note passages or fingerpicking. And the middle position (pickups in parallel) also offered up some truly funk-worthy textures that were simultaneously fat and chiming with a trace of out-of-phase quack. In any setting, the Fralin pickups are impressive, consistently delivering sweet, balanced sounds in both clean and high-gain applications. The TeeVee Custom has enough sonic variety to adapt to virtually any musical style—just like a good Tele.

The Verdict

With its quality components and meticulous craftsmanship, the TeeVee custom stands out as a top-notch player’s tool, and its unique synthesis of Tele and V designs and relic’d look make the RS TeeVee a real showstopper onstage. But the icing on the cake is the TeeVee’s full-bodied, muscular tones and silky playability. This combination makes the TeeVee a professional-level instrument fit for a guitarist who doesn’t mind a bit of flash.
Buy if...
you’re looking for vintage Tele tone in a more individual-looking guitar, and you’re not a wallflower.
Skip if...
the integration of the two classic designs doesn’t resonate with you, and you like a Tele-sounding guitar to look like one too.

Street $3095 - RS Guitarworks -

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