First Look: Fender Gold Foil Jazzmaster
The gold covers may hide mini humbuckers, but this Jazzmaster still dishes as much musical substance as style.
Inspired by the garage rock bands of the sixties and the cult classic guitars they played, the Gold Foil Collection combines timeless Fender designs with the dazzling style of a bygone era.
The Gold Foil Jazzmaster comes equipped with a bound ebony fingerboard, pearloid block inlays, mahogany body, Bigsby B50 vibrato and three Gold Foil mini-humbuckers. Other features include a matching painted headstock, vintage-style tuners with white buttons, 21 Narrow Tall frets and a Fender Jaguar-inspired switch plate.
Long on looks and aces in the tone department, the Fender Gold Foil Collection combines the enduring charm of midcentury mail-order guitars with the style and playability of an authentic Fender.
Shredding on a hardtail? This Schecter will show you the light.
Gorgeous, unusual tonewoods. Versatile pickups and switching. Fast, comfortable playability.
A case or gig bag would be nice at this price.
Schecter Sun Valley Super Shredder Exotic Hardtail Black Limba
David Schecter started Schecter Guitar Research in 1976. In the beginning, the company did repairs and sold parts in their Van Nuys, California, shop (much like their contemporaries, Charvel). But Schecter quickly developed a solid reputation among SoCal players and started selling complete guitars in 1979.
Not coincidentally, Schecter Guitar’s rise to prominence aligned with the acsent of L.A.’s ’80s metal scene. And their Sun Valley Super Shredder guitars, originally released in 2017, offer a nostalgic ride back to when the super strat ruled the world. Since its inception, the Sun Valley Super Shredder product line has evolved consistently, even embracing unusual features like a Sustaniac pickup. More recently Schecter introduced the Korea-built Exotic version of the line, which is primarily distinguished by more unusual tonewoods, like zircote and black limba, with the latter featured on our review guitar. But it also introduced features like a Hipshot Ibby HM hardtail bridge. That might seem like heresy to shredders accustomed to dive bombing with a Floyd Rose, but as our review instrument revealed, the hardtail bridge, black limba tonewood, and Schecter’s excellent Sunset Strip and Pasadena humbuckers add up to a wealth of very cool tones that effortlessly span styles.
- Mic Centered 1" Away — Dirty Bridge to Neck
- Mic Centered 1" Away — Clean Bridge to Neck
- Mic Centered 1" Away at 45-Degree Angle — Clean Bridge to Neck
- Mic Centered 1" Away at 45-Degree Angle — Dirty Bridge to Neck
- Mic Right of Center 1" Away — Dirty Bridge to Dirty
- Mic Right of Center 1" Away — Clean Bridge to Neck
Picking Things Up
Guitar customization is so common these days that many guitarists rush to switch out the stock pickups on relatively affordable guitars like the Sun Valley. The Sun Valley Super Shredder Exotic Hardtail Black Limba’s pickups, which include a USA Sunset Strip in the bridge and a USA Pasadena in the neck, however, are fantastic. And unless you are looking for a very specific tonality, it’s difficult to imagine a good reason for abandoning them. The alnico 5 Pasadena measures 8.4k ohms and has a vintage PAF vibe, while the ceramic 8 Sunset Strip is hotter, at 12.6k ohms. Interestingly, the Schecter pickups sell for around $129 apiece, so they’re far from outsourced cheapo components. In fact, they’re more expensive than many Duncans or DiMarzios.
The SVSS EHBL has a simple control layout with one volume control and one tone knob. But the 5-way pickup selector switch deviates in cool ways from the traditional Stratocaster-style 5-position setup. You can select bridge humbucker, bridge and neck in split-coil configuration, bridge and neck in humbucking mode, neck humbucker with coils in parallel, and standard neck humbucker. It’s a very versatile setup that makes the most of the pickups’ already considerable potential.
Fancy Lumber and Flat Fretboards
The SVSS EHBL’s build quality is impeccable. But the guitar is also a feast for the eyes. Rather than a typical mahogany or alder body, the SVSS EHBL's black limba is an attractively grained hardwood that shares many tonal characteristics with mahogany. The neck is made from wenge (another uncommon wood in electric solidbody circles), bolstered with carbon fiber reinforcement rods and a 2-way truss rod, and shaped into a thin C profile that gets slightly thicker as you move up the neck (from 20 mm at the 1st fret to 22 mm at the 12th).
The ebony fretboard’s 12–16" compound radius is perfect for fast fretting and deep bends and features cool cosmetic touches in the form of offset aluminum circle inlays and glow-in-the-dark side dots that contrast nicely with the dark sheen of the fretboard and add a touch of subtle elegance. The guitar’s playability is further enhanced by 24 stainless steel jumbo frets and a nicely contoured heel that facilitates easy access to the highest frets. A Graph Tech XL Black Tusq nut and Schecter 18:1 locking tuners anchor the strings at the headstock.
The neck humbucker in parallel-coil configuration has a quasi-P-90 vibe.
As shipped, the Schecter’s action was a little higher than I like. The truss rod spoke wheel is situated in the space between the neck and body, and adjustments are a breeze. Having 24-frets on a super-flat fretboard is, of course, an invitation to work the upper registers with abandon. Happily, I could bend fearlessly on the highest strings at the 24th fret area without fretting out.
Super Shredding Sounds
With amps set for high gain, the Schecter’s bridge pickup has an unmistakable vintage metal vibe with an aggressive edge. It’s got a slight scoop in the mids, which, to my ear, contributes extra picking definition. It’s also very open sounding, which makes it a killer for heavy rhythm parts. The neck pickup has a very appealing warm and round tonality. And with the tone rolled back it’s beautiful for sustain-heavy solos.
The split- and parallel-coil sounds add a lot of tone and performance possibilities. The second pickup position, which combines the bridge and neck pickups as single-coils, has a very Strat-like quality without the hum, while the fourth pickup position, with the neck humbucker in parallel-coil configuration, has a quasi P-90 vibe. I loved playing semi-dirty, octave-driven, funk-rock riffs in this position.
The lower volume of the split- and parallel-coil settings can also be the catalyst for dramatic musical moments. I enjoyed starting solos in position 2 and flicking to the bridge pickup for a boost, which feels a lot more organic than stepping on a boost pedal to get that last climactic push.
In Schecter’s Sun Valley Super Shredder line, the Exotic Hardtail Black Limba model is an outlier of sorts. It eschews metal elements like Floyd Rose double-locking tremolos and EMG active pickups, which are fixtures elsewhere in the series. But these omissions actually make the SVSS EHBL more versatile in many respects, and between its inviting playability and the classy-to-raging tone range of its pickups, the Super Shredder is at home in just about any style of music.
Reverend Flatroc Bigsby Review
Fat tones from a sweet niche where Les Paul, Gretsch, and Telecaster share the limelight.
Copious, unexpected tones. Cool, useful bass contour control. Very nice build quality. Excellent value.
Reverend Flatroc Bigsby
If you only pay casual attention to Reverend guitars, it’s easy to overlook how different their instruments can be. Some of that may be due to the way Reverends look. There are longstanding styling themes and strong family likenesses among models that can make differentiation a challenge for uninitiated guitar spotters. For instance, the Flatroc reviewed here has more or less the same body as the Charger, Buckshot, and Double Agent OG (which has an entirely different body than the more Jazzmaster-like Double Agent W). If you don’t have an experienced Reverend enthusiast at your side, it can all be a bit mind bending.
Dig deeper though, and the Reverend world yields many surprises. And few Reverends typify the company’s we-go-our-own-way sound and aesthetic quite like the newly resurrected, Korea-built Flatroc with Retroblast humbuckers and a Bigsby. There are many reasons to assume that the Flatroc is an homage to Gretsch. The Bigsby and pickups (at least outwardly) hint at that styling direction. But the Flatroc sounds and feels, at many turns, more like a Les Paul. And the wealth of unique tones made possible by the clean-to-nasty Retroblast pickups and the powerful bass contour control mean the Flatroc covers the sonic range of several guitars. Indeed, this Flatroc is a compelling option if you have the same-old-solidbody blues.
Days of Future Blasts
Reverend’s Retroblast humbuckers, which look like a cross between a Gretsch Filter’Tron and a Rickenbacker Hi-Gain, are the heart of the new Flatroc. Reverend calls the Retroblasts mini humbuckers, and they are certainly that in the sense that they are smaller than PAF-style pickups. But where mini humbuckers of the Gibson variety are colored by an almost single-coil-like snap that could be a Stratocaster on steroids, Retroblasts sound and feel much more muscular, with a pleasantly compressed, big-cat-growl tonality and the capacity for volume-attenuated clean tones that align much more with a PAF.
While the PAF-ness of the Retroblasts is easy to hear, the Reverend bridge pickup is technically a bit hotter at 11k ohms than the average vintage-style PAF, which tends to be closer to the 7-9k ohm range. The Reverend pickup also uses alnico 5 magnets, which tend to be a touch livelier and punchier. The neck Retroblast’s 6.5k ohms is more in line with vintage PAF specs, but still uses the punchier alnico 5 magnet.
Burly Bass to Sweet and Smooth
If the Retroblasts were stuffed in some econo-punk version of the Flatroc without tone or volume controls, they would still be impressive and very colorful pickups. But they are made infinitely more flexible for the bass contour knob, which seems especially well suited for these units. The bass contour is a simple filter control, but it’s super effective. And it’s hard to imagine why more manufacturers don’t embrace some version of it—especially when situated in its easy-access location on the upper bout.
The control has expansive range, and in the bridge position alone you can move from beefy PAF-style tones and approximations of a Fender Wide Range’s big, bright colors, to thick, concise Rickenbacker Hi-Gain chime, Stratocaster zing, and even the charmingly thin tones of ’60s budget electrics.
In the bridge position alone you can move from beefy PAF-style tones and approximations of a Fender Wide Range’s big, bright colors, to thick, concise Rickenbacker Hi-Gain chime, Stratocaster zing, and even the charmingly thin output tones of ’60s budget electrics.
The bass contour isn’t just a powerful guitar tone shaping tool. It can also totally recast the personality of your overdrive, distortion, and fuzz boxes in ways simple volume and tone controls do not. Using just the neck pickup and the bass contour control, the output from a Supro amp-inspired overdrive readily moved between molasses-thick and mammoth-coat wooly to bright and hyper-articulate without any adjustment from the guitar volume or tone knobs.
Tone options are so copious in the Flatroc that it can be hard to find a perfectly balanced relationships between volume, tone, and bass contour knobs at first. But practice makes perfect, and ultimately the control setup is intuitive, fun, and almost painterly in its capacity to subtly shift tone shades over the course of an extended solo or in between song sections.
The Flatroc shares at least one other attribute with a Les Paul: Between the korina body and Bigsby hardware, it’s heavy—only a pound or so less than a Les Paul—so it’s worth investing the time in a few sessions with the guitar to make sure it isn’t a couple pounds too weighty. With mass, though, comes a sense that this an exceptionally solid and well-built guitar. It’s highly tuning-stable—especially for a Bigsby-quipped instrument—thanks to the top-notch setup and Reverend Pin-Lock locking tuners. The build quality verges on perfect, too. The transparent white-over-korina finish reveals just a hint of grain in the fashion of a late-’50s ash Telecaster—a classy and subtly luxurious look. And everything from the fretwork to the neck joint lend the feeling of an operation where cutting corners is an absolute no-no.
Even if you think you’ve got Reverend guitars figured out, you should not underestimate how unique the Flatroc Bigsby sounds and feels. The impressive pickups and controls fill unique tone niches that lurk between Gretsch, Les Paul, and Rickenbacker sounds—putting everything from low-octane indie jangle to corpulent, smoky sounds of doom at your fingertips. Creating and re-shaping tones feels effortless, inspiring, and exciting. It’s one of the most tuning-stable Bigsby-equipped guitars I’ve ever played. Factor in the extra-expressive potential of the vibrato, plus the guitar’s intrinsic, inviting balance, and it adds up to a reliable, stable, performance-centric instrument that can soar in live situations and reward meandering creative spirits in pursuit of new songs and sounds.