Precious Axes (Citron CT1)

October 1996
Pete Prown
CT1Download File


Take a good look at these two eye-popping instruments, the Citron CTI and MJ Mirage. Beautiful, eh? Now, what if I told you that underneath their respective exteriors lurk both a Les Paul and a Telecaster. “C’mon,” you’d say, grimacing. “Are you guys sniffing tube-amp fumes again?” Perhaps. But it’s true: these high-end solid-bodies are really futuristic versions of a Paul and a Tele. Still in disbelief? Then we’ll have to take each one apart and see what they’re really made of. You’ll be surprised.


The CT1 ($3,800) is a new, handmade creation from luthier Harvey Citron, who has a reputation for building meticulous custom electrics, basses and baritones (he was also a founder of the chic 70’s guitar company Veillette-Citron). His new CT1 doesn’t pretend to be anything it’s not: It is one guitar maker’s artistic version and expansion upon a classic guitar design; in this case, the Fender Telecaster. Citron has altered the body shape a bit, narrowing it down, to give the guitar a look similar to the Ernie Ball/Music Man Van Halen guitar (which tells you about where that design came from — remember guitar fans, many roads lead to the Telecaster). There’s also a slender, beguiling headstock that’s slanted back and capped in purple heart wood, which is also found in the body and control plate cover on the back. The two-piece body is a laminate of swamp ash, the thin layer of purple heart, and a figured maple top. The 25–1/2”-scale neck, meanwhile, is of three-piece maple construction with a separate 22-fret maple fingerboard and Citron’s own loop-style truss rod within. On looks alone, this guitar clearly should be nicknamed “The Blonde Beauty.”

In terms of hardware, however, the CT1 is pure Telecaster. There’s Lindy Fralin single-coil pickups, a three-way toggle, master tone and volume, and three brass double-notched saddles (these are Citron’s own special creations and each is custom intonated to provide both correct intonation and great tone). The mini tuners are six-on-a-side Gotohs, but one nice touch is the four-bolt neck/body connection. Citron has smoothed down the heel to allow for upper-fret access, something which is harder to accomplish on bulky, square-heeled Fenders. Certainly, this is not the same old thing. My only design quibble is that the silvery Tahitian Black Pearl fret markers on the side of the fingerboard are a little hard to see. But while black dots might be more practical, they would probably detract from the innate grandeur of this guitar. Since it’s a custom guitar, you can order a CT1 with whatever markers you want.

So how does it play and sound? Plugging into a ‘56 Gibson tube amp, as well as Roland’s new GX700 multi-effects/preamp, the CT1 yielded some classic Tele tones. The bridge pickup exuded that metallic, edgy tone is legend among country, blues, and vintage rock players. And the neck pickup here actually sounds superior to may Tele front units — this one has a fat, discernible tone that wouldn’t be out of place for some jazz or meaty lead textures. In the middle toggle position both pickups are in parallel, great for some funky, midrangey chicken picking. I also tried out some metal tones via the GX700’s numerous crunch presets, and this Citron screamed amazingly well for what is supposedly a “country” guitar. Go figure. All in all, the CT1 is an exquisite piece of guitar craftsmanship.

Reprinted with permission from Pete Prown