Saint Guitar Company Faded Blue Jean Benchmark Guitar
|Saint Guitar Company Benchmark
Summary: Introducing a pure tone machine, with sultry, sexy lines to boot!
Pros: Dense walnut body and maple top give this guitar a natural brightness without sounding “tinny.” Coil tapped humbuckers enable you to serve up a huge tonal palette.
Cons: Nit: Volume and tone knobs are a bit too easy to turn. High-gloss finish on the neck was a little sticky until I got some body oils on it – my personal preference is a satin finish on the neck – this is just a nit as well.
- Reserve Stock Curly Maple Top (“Faded Blue Jean” stain)
- Walnut Neck and Back (Medium natural stain)
- High-gloss Finish
- Koa Headstock Plate
- High, Wide Frets
- Handmade Rosewood Nut
- Rosewood Fretboard
- Gotoh 510 Tuners
- Gotoh 510 Bridge
- Neck Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-2 Jazz (coil tapped via Volume)
- Bridge Pickup: Seymour Duncan SH-12 Alnico II Pro (coil tapped via Tone)
- Master Volume/Tone knobs.
- 25 1/4″ Scale
Now I know how a guitar made to my specifications plays and sounds! If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you’ve known about my relationship with Saint Guitar Company, a little manufacturer in Fresno, California. A couple of months back, Adam Hernandez (luthier) contacted me and asked me to spec out a guitar he was making for inventory. The body and neck woods were already picked out, but he said I could spec the rest. I finally got the guitar this past Sunday, and have had a hard time pulling myself away from it!
This is simply a pure tone machine. Unplugged, the resonance and sustain are simply incredible. All the pieces are pressure fit together (Adam claims the fit is so tight, he doesn’t even need glue – though, of course he uses it). The net effect is that the sound waves just resonate through the tone woods, and produce a wonderfully rich tone that you can get lost in for days. Then you plug the guitar into an amp, and you have to catch yourself for fear of fainting – the sound is so incredible. But enough flowery phraseology. Let’s get into some particulars!
Adam likes to make his fretboards wide, but he compensates for this by not making the neck cut too deep. The end result is an extremely fast neck. In fact, when I gigged with it, I was able to move around the neck so easily that I was messing up! Mind you, this was not a bad thing because I was able to relax my left hand a lot, and play with ease. Add to that the tactile feel and feedback of a rosewood fretboard, and you’ve got one playable guitar.
The fretboard also features wider and higher fretwire, with nice, wide frets. Talk about being able to dig in and create ballsy vibrato! OMG! It’s simply insane!
From the standpoint of the right hand, controls are super easy to reach, and I just love the position of the pick selector! Switching pickups was literally as simple as reaching out with my pinkie – the same with the volume knob; though I did mention in the summary the volume knob is a bit too easy to turn. In the middle of a fast riff, volume adjustments are not easy when they’re that easy to turn. You almost always adjust too much!
An interesting thing I discovered with the guitar is that pinch harmonics were extremely easy to generate on any string – even the first and second strings. While I don’t use them much, I was amazed at how easy I was able to generate them.
Finally with respect to playability, I was afraid that with the walnut body and neck that the guitar would weigh a ton. To my overwhelming surprise, this was not the case. It wasn’t as light as my Korina Explorer, but it was way lighter than my Strat. Just a real comfort hanging from my shoulder strap!
As I mentioned above, this guitar is a pure tone machine. The tone was a bit brighter than I originally expected, but it was bright without being too trebly. The SH-2 Jazz in the neck position produces rich, deep cleans, and amazingly gritty, growly grind, while the APTL-1 Alnico II Pro in the bridge position can produce ringing cleans to gnarly drive. My favorite position is the middle position, which produces a gorgeous, complex, chimey clean tone, and serves up a nice, smooth drive when you have the master volume dimed. Speaking of the volume knob, this guitar is extremely responsive to volume knob changes, cleaning up nicely around 3 or 4, then adding progressively more grit as you turn up.
Interestingly enough, played through my Fender Hot Rod Deluxe, this is the first guitar I’ve played with that amp that really sounded great in my drive channel. Normally, I just keep the amp in its clean section and add grind via my Tube Screamer and OCD. But for some reason, the guitar played through my clean channel sounded kind of hollow. Once I switched over to my drive channel, my power tubes just sang!
As far as pedals are concerned, the guitar produces enough grit so I only had to use my Tube Screamer set to about the 12 o’clock position for the drive once I reached unity gain (around 9 to 10 o’clock). If I chained my OCD, the tone became way too dirty, so I just used my OCD as a booster for when a song went into a lead break.
I mentioned above the copious amounts of sustain the guitar produces. With the Tube Screamer, I was able to achieve practically over-the-top sustain; especially in the upper registers where it really counts. In one lead break, I did a bend/vibrato at the 18th fret, and leaned back with pure joy from how the guitar just sang as I bent and wiggled the string. It really was an ecstatic moment.
October 22, 2008 Follow-up: As Chris pointed out, the bridge pickup is an Alnico II, not a Screamin’ Demon as I originally worte, so I wanted to refine the sound section above. This guitar is definitely NOT a guitar made for heavy metal. When I spec’d the guitar, I had a blues/classic rock guitar in mind, as that is the style of music I write and play. I was a bit surprised when he told me it was Screamin’ Demon, because that is a fairly high-gain pickup, but hey, it’s all about tone, and to my ears, it really didn’t matter what pickup was in there: It sounded GREAT! But I do want to be accurate… In any case, my original description still stands.
As a pickup for doing the style of solos I play, the Alnico II Pro is simply amazing. I have to admit that I’ve never been one to use the bridge pickup by itself for leads because almost all the guitars I’ve had just sounded way too thin for my preferences. And while in the bridge position the Alnico II Pro does register a more trebly sound, it’s not thin sounding; it’s VERY complex, and it sustains for days! I just loved digging in and letting a note wail away!
As for the SH-2 Jazz, it’s hard to describe the sound it produces. The clean tone is simply magnificent; rich and thick and well-balanced between all the frequencies; almost like a cup of pure Kona coffee: Not light, not dark, and not even right in the middle. It’s really a conglomeration of different flavors all served up at the same time. Nice.
Wrapping It Up
Granted, a guitar like this isn’t for everyone – even for me. I just can’t afford the money to pay for something like this. But to have the honor to test it, along with having a guitar that was made to my specifications, what can I say? It looks like I’ve got to mortgage my house to get this friggin’ axe! Seriously though, there’s nothing like playing a custom-made guitar, and if you’re in the market for one, Adam Hernandez and the Saint Guitar Company will make your guitar dreams come true.
Read Full Post »