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Teye Guitars La Pirata Custom Plus Electric Guitar Review

Teye Guitars La Pirata Custom Plus Electric Guitar Review

A single-pickup, metal-faced guitar with an unexpectedly wide range of tones

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Clips recorded directly into a Line 6 DT50 112 amplifier mic'ed with a Shure SM57 into ART Tubeamp Studio preamp into Garage Band.

At first glance, a Teye guitar could easily be

mistaken for one of the rare metal-faced

guitars that made Tony Zemaitis a legendary

luthier in the 1970s and a favorite of elite players

from Keith Richards to Chris Robinson.

But though the design homage is clear, the

resemblance is mostly superficial. Thoughtfully

designed in all aspects—from their proprietary

hardware and electronics to handrubbed finishes—Teye guitars occupy a singular place in

the world of boutique instruments.

These excellent axes are the creation of

Teye, a Dutchman who resides and works in

Austin, Texas. As a rock ’n’ roll-loving teenager,

Teye began tinkering with his electric

guitars under the direction of his engineer

father. Eventually, the two got into guitar

making together, creating a Lucite instrument

so that Teye wouldn’t have to take a beloved

see-through Dan Armstrong to gigs.

Teye studied classical guitar at the

Netherlands Conservatory of Music and

devoted 25 years of his life to playing flamenco

guitar. But he remained connected to the

electric guitar, and in the 1990s, after acquiring

two Zemaitis guitars, he became inspired

to make a metal-topped solidbody of his own

that drew from what he’d learn about sound

production and analysis of the construction of

his flamenco instruments.

In 2006, Teye starting building guitars like

the stunning, triple-pickup Electric Gypsy La

India and La Mora models, each of which now

sells for just under $10,000. More recently,

though, Teye introduced the T-Series—including

La Pirata, El Platero, and Media Noche—

which are made by a team of three luthiers that

he oversees, and which range in price from

$2275 to $2950. The La Pirata (“the Pirate”

en Español) reviewed here is so named because

it has a single pickup instead of the customary

pair or trio—a configuration Teye likened to

the plight of a peg-legged buccaneer. But, like

a crafty pirate of the high seas, the Pirata is no

less dangerous for such limitations.

Super Stylish and Solid

Our review La Pirata, a Custom Plus, came

with a number of upgrades—a korina body

and walnut neck (standard models use mahogany

for both), an elaborate “Bedouin” fretboard

inlay pattern, neck binding, and a handrubbed

finish—that doubled the its base price.

Our Pirata is undeniably cool looking,

especially in terms of the metalwork, with its

Southwestern-inspired motifs. The back control

cover, an undecorated piece of metal extending

diagonally between the upper and lower bouts,

is fittingly shaped like a sea creature.

The woods were also visually appealing.

Devoid of filler, and handrubbed with a light,

violin-style finish, the black-spalted korina body

was deeply grained and luminous. Choice wood

specimens and careful wood selection were also

evident in the flawless ebony fretboard, walnut

neck, and walnut headstock overlay.

Most of the hardware on the Pirata was

designed and machined by Teye himself. The

bridge has a rigid aluminum construction, as

do the tailpiece, pickup ring, truss-rod cover,

and headstock logo—all of which are artistically

shaped and engraved. Besides being

visually appealing, Teye says these components

add vibrancy to the guitar’s sound. The only

non-proprietary parts on the guitar are the

Grover Imperial tuners (which are reminiscent

of those on fancy old archtops), the Schaller

strap locks, the DiMarzio Tone Zone humbucker,

and the control knobs.

Even more compelling than the Pirata’s

hardware are its proprietary passive electronics,

which were designed with purity of tone

and ease of operation in mind. The guitar’s

single DiMarzio humbucker is controlled by

three knobs—Volume, Tone, and M™d—from

which you can coax an impressive spectrum of

sounds, from single-coil twang to humbucking

roar. Overall, the craftsmanship on our

review model was excellent. The fretwork was

faultless and the setup was spot on.

Streamlined and Lively

Our La Pirata was much lighter than its

appearance would suggest, at just 7 3/4

pounds. It’s also nicely balanced between the

neck and body, and it was equally comfortable

to play standing or seated.

As a longtime Gibson man, I’m accustomed

to that brand’s standard 1 11/16"

nut and 24 3/4" scale. However, I found the

Pirata’s larger dimensions—a 1 3/4" nut and

25 1/2" scale—quite inviting. The mediumsized,

C-shaped neck was similarly comfortable

and easy to navigate, and with the wider

neck and longer scale, it feels quite balanced.

Even playing the Pirata unplugged, I was

struck by its liveliness and sustain, which are

likely helped by the guitar’s thin finish and

the bright, reverberative qualities of its metal

parts. Notes rang true and clear, even in the

uppermost regions of the fretboard where

tones can sometimes get thin and buzzy.

Teye guitars are clearly designed with the oldschool

player in mind, so I plugged directly into

some valve amps—a mid-’60s Fender Vibrolux

Reverb and a Line 6 DT50 112. Using the

enigmatically named M™d knob—whose workings

aren’t fully disclosed by Teye—I was able to

get a staggering assortment of tones. More, in

fact, than on a few twin-pickup guitars. With

the Volume, Tone, and M™d controls maxed

out, the guitar had a thick, beefy sound with

just a bit of spank—a combination of qualities

that might be aided by the guitar’s walnut neck.

Conversely, with Volume, Tone, and M™d set

at around 2, 10, and 0, respectively, the Pirata

sounded almost like an acoustic-electric. Turning

the Volume up to around 8 gave the Pirata a

warm but biting country twang.

Needless to say, it was incredibly satisfying

to get such an assortment of sounds not by

switching guitars or fiddling around with an

effects processor but by simply tweaking the

guitar’s smoothly responsive knobs. And all of

the tonal variations were extremely inspired.

Although I tried, I could not coax an unlikable

sound from the Pirata.

The Verdict

Teye’s La Pirata Custom Plus is a killer boutique

guitar that provides an uncommonly

wide range of tones from a single humbucking

pickup. It is highly playable, and its engraved

metal parts add brilliance to the sound and

an exotic flash to the appearance. Indeed,

if you’re the adventurous sort, the Pirata

Custom Plus is the kind of guitar you will

likely play, keep, and treasure for a long, long


Buy if...
you want a single, lightweight, extremely versatile guitar to gig with, and you’re interested in making a visual statement with that axe.
Skip if...
you’re a foe of the unusual.

Street $4000 - Teye Guitars -
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