TONEQUEST REPORT, NOVEMBER 2005
Once you step beyond the classic forms and designs created by Gibson, Gretsch and Fender, it’s gut check time in the guitar market. Are you comfortable enough in your own skin to strut your stuff with a non-traditional guitar? Are there Jacksons, Mosrites and Parkers in your closet? Are you a PRS fanatic, or do you own any of the custom built PRS-inspired axes that seem to have become the default look for small builders of solidbody electrics? Respected builders such as Tom Anderson and John Suhr offer unique visuals that remain within the boundaries of classic solidbody design, but it has become increasingly difficult for custom builders to develop their own visual style without losing the traditionalists among us. As a small, custom builder, Harvey Citron is not concerned in the least with market share or traditional convention – he simply prefers to challenge the status quo with his own vision and build the guitars and basses that he wants to build.
We asked Harvey to send us our personal favorite among his solidbody 6-strings – the CF-1. We have played a number of Citrons over the past several years and they are all beautifully built with exceptional skill and uncommon design details, but the Firebird-inspired CF-1 has always beckoned us from across the aisle at the annual winter NAMM show.
The CF-1 takes the challenging geometry of the original Firebird and transforms it into a much more approachable and pleasing guitar to play. The gorgeously figured 1-piece Korina string-through body with flamed maple top and 1-piece bolt-on mahogany neck are light in weight and unlike the dangerously top-heavy Firebird, perfectly balanced at a total weight of just 6.7 pounds. The neck carve is a uniform 5/8 inch deep with a full, rounded shape, and we love the way the thin finish of the CF-1 allows the mahogany grain to be felt in hand. Jumbo fret wire also gives the CF-1 a very solid, precise feel for chords, soloing and string bending, if that’s your bent… The 25.5″ scale creates a light, easy string tension and feel along the entire length of the rosewood fingerboard that allows you to really relax and enjoy playing this guitar with no fight whatsoever.
The Citron “custom-blended humbuckers” are very cool – less woofy and muffled in the neck than traditional hummers, clear, bright and transparent in the bridge, with an enhanced overall clarity in both pickups that can’t be had from normal humbuckers. The Citrons are almost closer to a P90, but noiseless, of course, and lacking the last 10% of the gritty drive that pummels the front end of an amp with traditional P90’s. The CF-1 is exceptionally versatile with it’s excellent range of clean tones and the spartan, single Volume/Tone switch and 3-way toggle.
Our review model included gold-plated Tele-style bridge plate, saddles and tuners. If you don’t care for gold, just tell Harvey you want nickel or chrome. Variations on finish color, neck carve, fret wire, figured or plain maple top (or solid Korina) are also available. With its Strat-style belly cut and perfect weight and balance, the CF-1 is one of the most comfortable guitars we have ever played, its unique sound is rich with character and utterly void of the sterile tones that can plague other custom guitars and pickups, and it is a real head turner. If you (or your bass player) are ready to step up and outside of the traditional vintage school of design, we urge you to call Harvey Citron to design your next custom guitar, baritone or bass. In addition to being a genuinely warm and solid human being, he builds exceptional, one-of-a-kind instruments.
Interview with Harvey Citron