Fight Club (Citron AEG-12 and Veillette Gryphon)

May 2010
Art Thompson
AEG12Download File

The vast majority of 12-string guitars are either flat-top acoustics or solidbody instruments, but Harvey Citron and Joe Veillette who, from 1976 to 1983, made basses and guitars under the Veillette-Citron name have some different ideas about 12-string design. The Citron AEG-12 and Veillette Gryphon are also very different from each other—the AEG- 12 being a full-sized acoustic-electric with a fairly thin hollow body, while the Gryphon is a short-scale 12, tuned D to D with unison courses. Both instruments can be amplified—though the AEG-12’s onboard active piezo and passive magnetic pickups are individually adjustable, and can be run in stereo, while the Gryphon has just an under-saddle transducer. We tested these guitars with a Genz-Benz Shenandoah acoustic amp and—for the AEG-12 only—a Kendrick Bad Ass Man combo.

The AEG-12 is fairly traditional in the sense that it has a 25.5″-scale neck with 22 frets and octave strings for the lower four courses. The mahogany body—which is almost entirely hollow except for where the bridge sits—has 1/2″- thick sides and a 1/4″-thick back. Positioned in the center of the oval soundhole is a P-90-style pickup made by Harvey Citron, who reports that it uses a standard coil form, but features a different magnet, polepieces, and winding than those of a standard P-90. The AEG-12’s EMG piezo under-saddle pickup runs through an active preamp, and it has dedicated Treble and Bass boost/cut controls on a stacked pot. Other controls include a Master Volume, a stacked magnetic/piezo Volume control, a Tone knob for the magnetic pickup, and a Stereo/ Mono switch near the TRS-style output jack. The 18-volt power supply for the piezo system requires two 9-volt batteries, which are housed in convenient pop-out holders on the back.

Beautifully made and finished, the AEG-12 features a fairly thin, “C”-shaped bolt-on neck with 22 polished frets on an ebony ’board ($100 extra). If you’re used to skinnier, Rickenbacker-style necks, you’ll like the neck’s slim, easy feel. Once the strings were pulled to pitch with the black Hipshot tuners ($120 extra), the intonation was solid and tuneful.

Played acoustically, the AEG-12’s sound is warm with a little less high-end jangle than you typically expect from a 12-string. The term “jazz 12” comes to mind, as the AEG-12 veers sonically toward the roundness and woody coloration of an archtop. Plugged into a Genz-Benz Shenandoah acoustic amp with the piezo pickup dominating, the sounds were deep and full-bodied, and it took a healthy upward twist of the piezo’s Treble knob to bring on the sparkle. No plasticy artifacts jumped out when boosting those frequencies, however, which is great.

With the AEG-12’s P-90 driving a Kendrick Bad Ass Man combo, the tones ranged from clear and detailed at lower settings to ballsy and edgy when the AEG’s volume was cranked up. With the magnetic and piezo pickups feeding different amps, the wide-screen sound is quite impressive. And here’s where the capability of dialing in some distortion on the magnetic side while keeping a pristine piezo sound can produce a clean/grungy blend that is something unto itself. Splitting the pickups in this manner sounds cool enough for a 6-string guitar, but with all 12 strings ringing, it’s downright angelic!