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This article was originally published in issue #21
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Launched at NAMM this year, the Peerless Retromatic is possibly the coolest guitar yet from the uber-cool Peerless Guitar Co. Tom Quayle digs out his blue suede shoes.
Peerless certainly knows what it's doing when it comes to hollow and semi-hollow guitars, with a vast array of instruments on offer in the catalogue, ranging from fully hollow 17” archtops to smaller bodied thinline semis. That's no surprise as the Korean company has been making really high quality guitars in this style for 40 years - and in the past, for a list of top US brands that might surprise you! The Retromatic is the latest model in the company's thinline series and features vintage good looks and versatile hardware options for those looking to get their retro-rock or jazz/blues fix in a smaller, more comfortable package.
Whilst dependent on your taste, the Retromatic is certainly a good-looking and distinctive guitar, especially our review model with its gold top and piano black neck, back and sides! The retro design with its unique staggered headstock and compact body is made from traditional tone woods as a laminated maple top, back and sides, a maple neck and rosewood fretboard and a mahogany sustain block adding tone and reducing feedback.
As far as hardware goes, the Retromatic has various options available - our review model, a P3, came with a bridge humbucker, neck P90, single volume and tone controls, plus a 3-way pickup selector switch complete with the 6-way varitone dial for extended tone shaping. The pickups are designed by Matt Gleeson of Monty’s pickups London, and were created to match the acoustic characteristics of the Retromatic’s body styling. A high quality roller bridge and stop tailpiece aid sustain. Models are also available with a single humbucker in the bridge, no varitone switch and with a Stetsbar Pro II Trem if you need a bar for those vintage vibrato wobbles and dives. Peerless includes a quality hardcase in the price too, which is always something we like to see.
While I'm talking about options, I should add that the Retromatic comes in a wide range of colours, too, including green, gold, black, red - a ton of options and with a choice of binding styles, too.
The Retromatic is very well made with good attention to detail particularly noticeable in the logo embossed truss rod cover and die cast Peerless emblem. General construction is of a high level with no obvious flaws and the quality workmanship on everything from the fretwork to the binding around the body and neck. The F-hole is tidy and well finished and all hardware is solid and feels responsive in use. Design touches such as the broken up inlays, unique scratch plate design, contoured back and sloped neck joint where the fretboard meets the pickup all add character and make this feel like a quality instrument that has been well though out. Thanks to the smaller body size and semi-hollow design the guitar is nicely balanced too with a sensible weight that shouldn’t cause too many back or neck issues during a lengthy set.
Played acoustically the Peerless has a lovely ringing quality with plenty of sustain but without the nasal quality sometimes associated with semi-hollow guitars. The neck is very comfortable but with a slightly higher action out of the factory than would be my personal preference, although the guitar is certainly easy to play thanks to the friendly scale length and the string tension seems to give just the right balance of sustain and easy lead work.
Our Retromatic featured both a humbucker and P90 and plugged into our studio amp it provided a vast array of tones thanks to the varitone switch that works in all three pickup positions. The bridge humbucker is an Alnico II with a vintage 8k output, allowing you to get retro-voiced Rock and crunch tones with ease and cleaning-up beautifully with the volume rolled down. The P90 is an Alnico V wound to 7.3k giving great single coil-esque neck tones with clarity but girth and grunt at the same time. The varitone switch provides various EQ adjustments with more bottom or top end and mid-scooped tones at the twist of a dial. The Retromatic would even make a great, small bodied Jazz guitar as I managed to coax very convincing, darker hollow bodied tones from that P90 that had plenty of clarity even with the tone control rolled back.
There’s a lot to recommend with the Peerless Retromatic - this is a very good guitar and, although its visual appeal will be limited to certain genres, it would be comfortable in a wide variety of playing scenarios thanks to the huge number of tones on offer. Retro-rockers should check it out immediately but other players seeking a versatile, well made, mid-priced guitar could do well to check out its retro charms too.