A few months’ gigging, recording and everything that goes with it – welcome to Guitarist’s longterm test reports
Shergold’s Masquerader SM04-SD is an impressive slice of ‘boutique’ guitar at a far from boutique price. Designed, of course, by Patrick J Eggle, the new-design Shergold range was introduced at the start of 2017 by UK distributor Barnes & Mullins, and their own Alex Mew was very keen for us to continue our test-time and even “bash it up a bit” if we wanted. Meanwhile, B&M’s Rob Bennett had another thought: “It deserves some fuzz-and-octave-pedal treatment to really unleash the beast…”
I’m presuming Rob didn’t expect me to fit a fuzz-and-octave-pedal into the guitar. Plus, a look at the gig diary revealed there was little need for any fuzz/octave action, but rehearsals for a classic American rock-style band seemed a better fit. The trouble is the band leader is a bit of a guitar snob (and Les Paul player), and Mike Campbell or Steve Van Zandt, to my knowledge, never played a Shergold.Anyway…
While the new band songs were beginning to make sense, in terms of the guitar parts, it’s becoming clear that with both keyboards and a big ol’ Les Paul voice to compete with, I need to walk on the cleaner, chiming single-coil side of the tracks and so I used the simultaneous single-coil split of the Masquerader.
As I said in our review back in issue 426, the split on the bridge Seymour Duncan JB certainly works. On the 59, however, it’s a little thin, especially compared to my reference Strat, and lacks that percussion to the attack.
Recently, while doing research for another piece, I’d stumbled across a British enterprise, Catswhisker Pickups, run by Allan Price. Of interest is his S-Bucker design – a humbucker but with one row of standard screw poles and the other with a row of rod magnets.
“The S-Bucker has an additional section of coil on the slug bobbin that becomes active when the pickup is split, lifting the volume of the coil, and the Alnico slugs ensure that the split tone is about as close as can be got to a true single-coil pickup.” It’s not dissimilar (in terms of adding an extra portion of the coil to the split sound) to PRS’s 408 concept, which we’ve recently reported on in their new 24-08, although those pickups don’t use a row of Fender-style magnet slugs.
Another new-to-me pickup is the Seymour Duncan SH-16 59/Custom hybrid. It uses the screw coil from a 59 and the slug coil from the higher output Custom (with a measured DC resistance of 7k ohms) and it’s that one that’s voiced with a standard split, a little less pokey than the split JB coil.
Now, as good as the Masquerader is, it’s not the most mod-friendly guitar out there. Yes, electronic mods are easy thanks to the rear control cavity, but the bridge pickup is installed in the bridge plate which means removing the entire bridge if you want to swap the pickup. The neck humbucker, meanwhile, is suspended on the Bakelite scratchplate but to remove that you have to remove the neck. There’s not much I could do about the latter but the former dilemma was solved by Matt Oram at Fidelity Guitars (see review on p.14) who has a rather nice machined aluminium base bridge installed with Gotoh’s compensated In-Tune brass saddles.
So, there was a fair bit of work to do but not only is the bridge very good, that Catswhisker S-bucker is a revelation – a humbucker that really nails a convincing single-coil voice – and the split on that Duncan 59/Custom (now in its own mounting ring) is a slightly less pokey version of the JB. A twin humbucker guitar with strong single-coil voices and the power of the full ’buckers should I need. Time to head off to rehearsal.
“They were keen for us to continue our test-time and even ‘bash it up a bit’ if we wanted…”
The Catswhisker S-Bucker proved to be a revelation Gotoh’s compensated In-Tune brass saddles certainly look the part
The Shergold isn’t the most mod-friendly guitar, but we gave it a damn good go…