longterm test

A few months’ gig­ging, record­ing and ev­ery­thing that goes with it – wel­come to Guitarist’s longterm test re­ports

Guitarist - - Contents - Dave Bur­rluck Gear re­views edi­tor, Guitarist The Sher­gold cre­ators ask our re­views edi­tor to road-test their lat­est baby…

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…

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