Review of: Fender Pawn Shop ’72, Martin Aluminum Grand Autditorium, DiPinto Belevedere and Schecter Riot 4 string bass.
Well, I am a big fan olf diversity and so this review is of two electric guitars, one acoustic-electric and a bass and the testing was done at three different shops. I love my job.
The first test was at Music Central, in Egg Harbor Township, NJ where John and I played a DiPinto Belvedere DeLuxe. If you’re looking for a guitar that doesn’t look like everybody else’s, this is a good candidate for you to check out. This single cutaway guitar has a striking appearance, with a semi-hollow body, plastic top and mahogany back and sides and two screaming humbuckers, the guitar clearly stands out in a crowd: both visually and sound.
DiPinto is a family owned, small manufacturer in Philadelphia. They started as a highly regarded repair shop and began building their own guitars in the mid 90’s. Now they have a full scale operation creating a limited line of well made, distinctly different, guitars.
The look is out there, a bit too much for my taste but it is a matter of taste. It is bold and I prefer the less ornate look of the Belvedere Standard, but that’s only having seen a picture, not the actual instrument. The controls are very simple, in contrast to the look, one volume control, one tone and a three way switch produce a very nice, vintage rock sound. It comes with a tune-o-matic and a classic Bigsby Tailpiece that really help the strings sing and add a distinctiveappearance. Nice playing, very well shaped neck and tuners were precise – the guitar is clearly a quality piece. For about $875 retail, it stands up very well against similarly priced Fenders, Gibsons and other quality brands. The Belvedere Standard, which wasn’t available for testing sells for about $625 and I think it’d be worth checking out.
As for the look, you’ll love it or you won’t. It will attract its audience and if you like it, try it; it may just be the odd ball guitar you’ve been looking for. For the price, it has my recommendation as a “GO.”
Moving up to northern New Jersey to the venerable Ritchie’s Music Center in Rockaway, I went drifting through a very large selection of new and used guitars with my buddy Fred and we had some fun with a Martin with an aluminum soundboard and a Fender Pawn Shop ’72 Electric.
If you’re familiar with Fender guitars, but not this series, you’ll likely be a bit confused when you see it. The guitar has a Strat like semi-hollow body with a Tele neck. It’s undeniably Fender and unfamiliar at the same time. It comes with two Humbucker pickups, a Fender Enforcer at the bridge and a Wide Range at the neck. One volume control and one tone with a three way switch and you’re off to a good start. The guitar has a straightforward, classic look and a glaring polyester finish on the body and the bolt on neck. I’d rather have a satin finish on the neck but they didn’t ask me when they made it.
The playability of this guitar is excellent. I’m sure that has something to do with the setup and the shops where I do most of my tests are fanatics about making sure their display items play correctly. Clean, neat style that’s both distinctive and classic, fun to play and sounds more like a Gbson Les Paul than a Fender, but it’s a great sound anyway.
This Fender sells for around $875 retail and my recommendation is to try it before you buy it. Or, if you buy it online, remember that all legitimate vendors of new online instruments have an unconditional return policy so if you buy that way, don’t think you’re stuck with it if you don’t love it. I think you just might love it though. “Go” on this one too.
The next guitar I played at Ritchie’s was a Martin Acoustic Eelctric Grand Auditorium with a solid aluminum top and solid cherry back, sides and neck. It has similar specs to Martin’s 000CE Al Cherry Acoustic –Electric that sells new for around $1,850. This used item was in great shape and selling for $875, but is it worth the price? The playability was excellent, the cherry neck was well shaped and the small body was very comfortable. I was surprised with the sound – pretty good and in spite of the metal top, the sound was full and warm.
This guitar is part of Martin’s line of environmentally responsible instruments made from wood and other resources that are renewable and available. It’s a nice guitar, well built as you would expect from Martin and the look would stand out in a crowd. Top isn’t painted, it’s aluminum. If I were buying this new, I’d probably spend an extra $150 and go with the Martin Performing Artists CP3 series, and I’d also check out Martin’s new line of solid wood guitars that use cherry. Cherry is a fine tone wood and worth looking into. In this case, the used item was a good value but from a player’s point of view, I’d look at other used Martin’s or Taylor’s in the same price range. It was fun to play and very, very novel.
Heading west, Fred and I stopped at Robbie’s in Hackettstown, NJ and in a brief visit I tested a Schetcter Riot 4 bass that I had been hoping to find on my journey. Where I commented how unconventional the other guitars I tested were, this one, made with beautiful burled maple has a classic, understated appearance with the wood catching your eye stealing the show.
This bass sells for around $675 (clearance price ) – $750 online (when you can find it) at Musician’s Friend and Musiciansbuy.com (who will special order a product for you if they don’t have it in stock). The look is sleek, and the sound is wonderful, full bass, a lot of punch in the two pickups and the playability is as good as any bass out there. The neck is slim and wll countoured and for the money, it’ll stand up to any competitor in its price range. There are so many quality choices out there today, it’s really hard to say that one is the best, but this one is among the best. For the money – this is a “Go.”
Want a great bass at a low price? Try looking for a Fender Jazz (J) or Precision (P) bass made in Mexico (MIM) and you can get a used item for around $300, in very good shape. The MIM Fender is made very well in Mexico. Add a Full Contact Hardware Bridge (about $80 for a 4 string bass) and a bone, tusq, brass or ceramic nut ($12 – $20) and you’ll have a great guitar for about $400.
This blog is Prof Dave’s Guitar and Bass Buying Advice. If you have a guitar or bass and you’d like to post an opinion, please write to me at email@example.com – if you disagree with my opinion or have an opinion or review on an instrument I haven’t reviewed, as long as it isn’t too foul (language that is) I’ll post it. I’d love to hear from all you guitar & bass heads. Prof. Dav