Exotica (Citron AEG-3)

October 2001
Matt Blackett
AEG3Download File

Harvey Citron is no stranger to Guitar Player readers. In addition to co-founding Veillette-Citron in the mid ’70s, he was a regular contributor to the magazine, and he has run his own instrument company for many years. One of Citron’s endeavors has been to bridge the gap between electric and acoustic guitars without homogenizing either tone. That’s where the stereo AEG-3 ($3,800) comes in. It’s a unique blend of vintage craftsmanship and modern features.

The AEG-3 has a striking look with a thick body, large horns, and an orange-burst finish. The three pickups lend a symmetrical quality to the guitar’s flowing curves, and Citron hand-winds the alnico VP-90–style units with a different wire gauge and a different number of turns for each pickup. According to Citron, this method improves the instrument’s overall sonic balance by allowing him to optimize each pickup for its position on the guitar. The wooden bridge — a string-through-body design — incorporates an EMG piezo pickup under its large, compensated bone saddle.

The AEG-3’s woods look sexy, rich, and inviting. The chambered, 2–1/4”-deep body is made of beautiful mahogany, and the 1/8”-thick spruce top is nicely grained.The mahogany neck sports a light oil finish, and a comfortable, medium-beefy shape that makes it feel as good as it looks.

For all of its attributes, the AEG-3 can certainly be used like a standard — albeit full-featured — guitar. You can plug in a mono cable and use the blend control to move between magnetic-pickup and piezo tones. However, the real power of the AEG-3 is best appreciated by plugging in a stereo cable and running the magnetic pickups to a guitar amp, and the piezo to an acoustic amp, PA, or bass amp. But even if you send the piezo to another electric-guitar amp, it’s still worth your while to run in stereo, because you can keep the acoustic tone squeaky clean and distort the electric sound.

To test the AEG-3, I used a Marshall JCM 2000 for the magnetic pickups, and ran the piezo into the acoustic channel of a Hughes & Kettner zen-Tera. Using the AEG-3’s blend control, I could morph between a sparkly piezo tone with a hint of grit, a crunchy rhythm sound with a slight high-end shimmer, a full-blown dirty sound, and anything in between. Citron has done a great job of delivering lots of on-the-fly options without cluttering the AEG-3’s top with a zillion knobs and switches.

The AEG-3’s pickups have a very detailed quality, and offer good punch and clarity while still sounding organic. The bridge position sounds like a big Tele, and combining the neck and middle pickups conjures a cool, Knopfler-approved bell tone. Because the middle pickup isn’t reverse wound/reverse polarity, there are no hum-canceling positions on the AEG-3; despite that fact, and the presence of two other potential noisemakers — the piezo and the chambered body — the AEG-3 is very quiet.

Speaking of the piezo, the EMG system sounds exceptionally good, with tons of headroom and very low handling noise. The EMG BT active EQ circuit offers four user-selectable center frequencies for the treble control, but the way Citron set the circuit at the factory was very musical and flexible. Part of the secret to the great acoustic tone is the Pau Ferro bridge. According to Citron, a wooden bridge can do electric tones better than a metal bridge can do acoustic tones, and the AEG-3 certainly bears that out.

No two ways about it, this is a unique instrument that offers a huge amount of tonal choices. The minor setup issues on the AEG-3 are easily dealt with, and the slight irregularities in con- struction will be viewed by many as a certificate of one-of-a-kind authenticity. For players who want great electric tones and convincing amplified acoustic sounds in a handcrafted guitar, the AEG-3 does the trick.