Writer Dave Burrluck Guitarist, Gear Reviews Editor
Our typically skint Reviews Editor continues on his perpetual quest for a bargain-basement buy. But what blast from the past has he rediscovered this time?
Those who don’t believe an instrument’s component and build quality have any impact on the sounds will often say: ‘it’s all in yer fingers’. But, if that was the case, we wouldn’t need to spend vast sums of cash on our gear, would we?
Working on this issue of Guitarist I was impressed by the B&G guitars (see page 92), but I would need a serious overhaul in budget before I could shell out on even the £1,500 Little Sister Crossroads. So, maybe it’s time to put “it’s all in yer fingers” to the test?
B&G’s original 14-fret electric concept is pretty unique especially in the entry-level market area where lookalikes dominate. But, thanks to Gear4Music’s substantial online presence, I was reminded of Silvertone – yup, that ol’ name from the past that was resurrected a few years back. The brand offer affordable versions of some of their originals, and, lo and behold, there’s a 14-fret single-cut – the 1423, at just £249.
Made in Indonesia, the 1423 reminded me of the bolt-on Gibson copies I started on, although I don’t remember them being this good. At 3.32kg the weight is reassuring, made from solid wood (mahogany, apparently) with a SG-like-depth slab body, around 38.5mm thick, and a reasonable resonance. The neck is dead straight with an okay feel – 43.75mm at the nut with a depth of 21mm at the 1st fret and 23mm by the 10th – and wide and low frets with just about enough height for more serious application (though the lack of height, a shade over 1mm, isn’t going to give much leeway if they need to be even lightly levelled).
Powered by a pair of Gretsch-y looking FG-101 Duncan Design ’buckers, the 1423 looks the part. Interestingly, the neck pickup is placed as it would be on a Les Paul. But, at around 71.4mm by 31.6mm, these pickups are non-standard, which will make upgrading tricky. That might be a deal-breaker for some, but the 1423’s charms are already intriguing us.
While it’s hardly a precise repro of the original 60s model, the control set-up looks similar. Along with the row of small-knobbed controls for individual pickup volume and tone, there’s an additional rotary control marked Blender. The three-way rotary switch pickup selector offers neck (Bass), bridge (Treble) and Blender in the middle. Hmm…
A little research here tells us that with the Blender position selected on the switch, the same-named rotary control allows you to mix the bridge and neck pickups – like a pan-pot, if you like. But it’s a little more interesting than that. First, when you select the Blender position on the switch, all the rotary volume and tones are bypassed and only the Blender rotary control works. Along with that, the bridge pickup passes through a 222J (.0022microfarad) capacitor, which acts as a bass cut, while the neck pickup passes through a larger 104k (.01microfarad) cap, which removes the high-end like fully rolling off a tone control. So, the treble pickup’s high-end is maximised, likewise the neck pickups’ bass, giving a very wide sweep – and there’s what sounds like an out-of-phase honkier voice. As you turn that Blender control anti-clockwise, it actually attenuates the bridge pickup leaving you with a fully tonerolled-off neck pickup. So, you can sweep through it almost like a wah pedal or preset a mix position you like, or can actually use.
The standard neck and bridge positions will suit if you’re into low output cleaner humbucking sounds that veer – in this case – towards the realm of single coils. They capture a more-than-usable 60s vibe, the neck pickup particularly having a woody, slightly percussive attack contrasted by some (slightly sharp unless you knock back the tone control) edgy bite at bridge. Through a small Fender or Vox amp it’s 60s Keef all over. Now, that might be in my fingers, but this is still an intriguing find. £249? Are you sure?