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Posts Tagged ‘Saint Guitar Company’

It’s hard to imagine that I’m actually having a guitar custom made for me from Saint Guitar Company, but it’s happening. This post will be a “sticky” post so you can follow the progress of the guitar with me. By the way, with this guitar, I’ve picked a fairly unconventional combination of woods: Walnut back, maple top, rock maple neck and ebony fretboard. Adam Hernandez and I are hoping the result will be a brightly voiced guitar that will have the incredible sustain Saint Guitars are known for.

Progress Report

May 4, 2009 – With the first set of pictures, the billets have been selected and cut, and the neck is being shaped. Forgot to mention that the headstock plate is koa. I know that I chose a bunch of woods, but I chose each wood to achieve a specific tone profile that I’m hoping the woods will produce, and this was done with literally a couple of hours of discussion with Adam. Working with Adam is just so easy. The cool thing is that he’s so open to exploring different things at this point in his luthier career, so it has been really fun discussing the building of the guitar with him.

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When I first discovered Saint Guitar Company through a faithful reader of GG, “Crash,” I found their site, and kind of snickered at its design. But all I had to do was look at the pictures of the guitars, and I thought to myself, “Who cares about the site? Look at those beautiful guitars!” Well, that curiosity led me to contact Adam Hernandez, owner and luthier of Saint Guitar Company, and thus, we began a friendship that is evolving into a trusting partnership in our passion for his guitars.

In any case, I am proud to announce that Saint Guitars has just released its new web site! It’s not fully complete just yet, but the one thing that I want to point out that is the most special thing about the site that will be complete in the next couple of days is the “Your Dream Guitar” link. On this page, you’ll be able to spec your own guitar by filling out an online form! Once you fill out the form and submit it, Adam will contact you to discuss the guitar in greater depth. What a cool concept!

By the way, I wrote “The Back Story” mini article in the About Us area. I gotta tell ya, what this kid is doing is special!

Check out the new site at: http://www.stguitars.com!

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I just dig it when I find a great guitar and amp combo! Featured in this Jam Track are the Saint Guitar Company Messenger Baritone and the Aracom Amps Custom 45R, both of which I’ve reviewed previously. (Messenger Review | Custom 45R Review). The Custom 45 has a really beefy low-end and a slight scooped tone, and the Messenger, while a baritone, has this incredibly bright-sounding voice. The two complement each other particularly well! Here’s the Jam Track:

You have just over 6 minutes to play around with this one. For the rhythm part, I used a fairly basic rock beat, but I also added some Latin drums underneath to take the edge off the heavy downbeat. And by the way, there’s no bass in this track at all. All of that is provided by the Messenger!

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4.5 Tone Bones - Very solid performer, and has almost everything but just missing a couple of things

Saint Guitar Company Baritone Messenger

Saint Guitar Company Baritone Messenger

Saint Guitars Baritone Messenger

Summary: An aggressive guitar that wants to growl! This baritone is well-suited to de-tuned, low-freq, hard-driving metal, yet can be tamed to produce sweet, ringing cleans.

Pros: Very playable guitar, with a fast neck despite the wider frets. The hot, high-gain, active pickups practically eliminate the need for distortion pedals. Will hit the front-end of amp with tons of oomph! Bright tone will cut right through any mix.

Cons: Not really suited for a cleaner style of playing.

Price: $2300

Specs:

  • Solid walnut body and neck
  • Rosewood fretboard
  • Seymour Duncan Blackouts in Neck and Bridge
  • Master Volume and Tone
  • Gorgeous, dark-brown open-pore finish

Tone Bone Rating: 4.5 – Metalheads will love this guitar! I dug its playability, but would probably swap out the active pickups for a pair of ’59’s or Alnico Pro II’s to give the tone a fuller sound. But as with any Saint Guitars instrument, it’s really playable!

I’m very blessed. I have great friends who share my passion for guitar, and several of them make equipment. And I feel extremely grateful that I get to play the stuff they create. Such is the case with Adam Hernandez, whiz-kid owner and luthier of Saint Guitar Company. Adam and I struck up a friendship in the middle of last year, and I get to test (and sometimes spec) guitars he’s adding to his inventory. He doesn’t carry many in inventory as his business is fairly dedicated to creating custom works of functional art. But it’s cool that he lets me play with them. On the flip side, I’m more than willing to do writeups of his excellent guitars.

And while the guitars Adam creates are nothing short of amazing, what really turns me on about the guitars is Adam’s fearless approach to guitar making. For instance, Adam’s tone wood of choice is walnut. Walnut is usually considered bright and dead. But Adam has somehow found a way to shape and construct guitars made from walnut that are incredibly resonant and rich in tone. A guitar player himself, his designs reflect a sensitivity to the working guitarist, with easy-to-reach controls, and beautifully shaped bodies and necks that are more than just pleasing to the eye, they’re meant to be played!

When Adam contacted me and told me he wanted to swap the Faded Blue Jean Benchmark that I had been testing, I have to admit that I experienced a bit of trepidation in making the trade. For one thing, I kind of got attached to the “Baby Blue” as I came to call it, and more importantly, I had never played a baritone guitar, and didn’t know what to expect. But far be it from me to let those things get in the way. It’s not every day that you get to play custom, hand-made guitars. So a couple of weeks after he called me, we met at my local coffee hangout. That was before Christmas, so I’ve had quite a bit of time to play with the guitar.

Fit and Finish

What can I say that I haven’t said before? Saint Guitars are flawless in look and build. With this Baritone, I really dig the open-pore finish! It really brings out the natural grain of the walnut. As usual, the frets are perfectly shaped, and you’ll never find any rough edges or production burrs on the fret wire. And being that it is a solid stain, it’s just beautiful in its simplicity.

Playability

As I mentioned briefly in the summary, this is a very playable guitar. The action is PERFECT, and the jumbo frets make it easy to achieve vibrato just by wiggling your finger ever so slightly. In fact, since I like to really dig in with my left hand, it took me awhile to adjust to the light touch that’s required to voice a note or chord. But that’s a good thing. I’ve said it before: A good instrument will force you to be a better player because it won’t hide your mistakes or the idiosyncracies in your playing.

Adam is partial to wide, but shallow “D” shape necks. The “D” shape on the baritone is less pronounced on the Messenger than it was on the previous guitar I tested. I myself am partial to narrow “C” shape necks, but irrespective, the neck shape certain didn’t preclude me from playing. It did take a little while to get used to, but once I found a good height and angle, the guitar became a dream to play!

How It Sounds

I’ll let you decide for yourself. Here’s a clip:

And here’s the same clip with my Strat layered on top. I did this to see how well it played tonally with a standard scale guitar.

Okay, I did add a touch of reverb to the guitar in the tracks above, but the natural resonance and sustain even without reverb is astonishing! You can dig into a note, wiggle your finger, and the guitar will happily carry that note into the ethers forever. It’s very pleasant.

Now here’s the rub… and the reason I gave it 4.5 Tone Bones. For my style of playing, which leans towards the blues and classic rock, the Seymour Duncan Blackouts were way too aggressive for my tastes. I could clean them up just fine, but the guitar in this configuration was simply way too aggressive for the styles of music I play. For instance, when I recorded the rhythm track above, the guitar’s volume was set at around 3, the amp’s volume was at 2, and I used the Master to get clean headroom. Any higher on the guitar, and the gain the Blackouts produce would just slam the amp’s front end (BTW, I used an Aracom RoxBox 18 Watt head and a 1 X 12 cabinet with an Eminence Red Coat “The Governer” speaker). It sounds great clean, and if I were to purhase this guitar, I’d have Adam swap out the Blackouts and go with a pair of ’59 humbuckers or Alnico Pro II’s. They’re very vintage sounding, and a lot more full-bodied.

With respect to the natural aggressiveness from the pickups, while I played with the guitar a lot in the past month, I just couldn’t get inspired to write anything that took advantage of the high gain of the pickups. It just wasn’t in me this round, which is a shame because it is such a fine instrument in every other way. What I’d like to do is play the guitar with different pickups.

So what about with high gain? Damn! This guitar simply screams! With the volume knob dimed, it slams the front-end of an amp and causes immediate saturation! I usually have to bolster my Strat with a clean boost or an overdrive pedal to achieve the kind of high-gain this little monster can produce by itself! It’s very cool to hear!

Overall Impression

I think this guitar would be metalhead’s wet dream come true in stock form. In fact, Adam constructed and equipped the guitar with thrash metal in mind, and tried to see if he could get James Hetfield of Metallica to play it. Alas, he couldn’t find a way last time they were in town. But I can attest to what this guitar can do to an amp! But with different pickups, I’m sure I’d give it a perfect score.

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