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This article was originally published in issue #30
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Peerless Guitars has carved a niche in the market for manufacturing quality, retro-styled guitars, that owe a lot to the hollow bodied Gibsons and Gretsches of yesteryear, and because they are Korean in origin, prices are always very reasonable for what you get.
And what we get here is a very pretty looking Tonemaster Player that is a feast for eyes. It's one of those guitars that people who know nothing about guitars and don't have a musical bone in their body might see it and instantly comment on how much they like it. It does look resplendent in amber, with gold hardware, and owes a lot to something like an old Gretsch 6120 that you may have seen someone like Eddie Cochran or Cliff Gallup use back in the day. It even has a Bigsby trem for those old school Duane Eddie waggles. Although it is cool to have a Bigsby on this style of guitar, anybody who has lived with one knows they are fairly limited in function, but do just enough to justify the extra colour it would bring to your rockabilly table. What I don't understand is why Peerless have installed a nickel Bigsby on a guitar that is boasting gold hardware everywhere else. Also the height adjusters on the bridge seem to be nickel as well, and personally the mix of gold and nickel on a guitar like this would trouble me, but I might be the exception to the rule and it may not bother the majority. Bigsby does make gold finish trems so this does seem a little odd to me because it makes the guitar look like the Bigsby was a later add on. There's another thing tO consider about the choice of hardware colour and it applies to any guitar, not just Peerless. Gold plated hardware does tarnish with use, and depending how acidic your sweat is, there's no telling how long it might stay looking pretty and gold. Back to the Tonemaster, it's also available with nickel hardware, which also will tarnish, but does last a little longer and still looks cool when it loses its shine. That might make for a better combination, given the Bigsby conundrum.
The body is totally hollow so high gain, high volume stuff would not be work with this style of guitar and would probably lead to uncontrollable body vibration and feedback at stage volumes. It's definitely suited more to Rockabilly, Jazz or Country and gives that great Gretsch style tone that you just can't get from your average Fender or Gibson. The pick ups on this Tonemaster Player are 'in the style' of Gretsch Filter Tron humbuckers, so they are not actually the real thing, but with their alnico V magnets, they certainly sound like they are!
The whole guitar is finished in a poly high gloss amber colour with a laminate spruce top and laminate maple back and sides. There are other colours available but I really like this version and think it suits the overall look and vibe, complimented by the cream binding around the body and inside the very cool F holes.
The Tonemaster Player has a scale length of 25.5" and you have 22 medium size frets set in a nice looking rosewood board with the body joining the neck at the 14th fret. Some rosewood being used nowadays is quite pale looking, but on this guitar it's a nice brown, complimented by the acrylic block inlays in the style of mother of pearl. The neck is comfortable in the hand with a fairly normal C profile and the guitar has been set up with a medium action and I'm guessing 10-46 strings. The nut is something called urite and if I was to personally buy this guitar I would invest in a bone or nylon nut, especially if intended to use that Bigsby. Generally, tuning problems are often to do with the nut and this guitar needed the odd retune after trem use. A super hard, super slippery, nylon nut would make it much more dependable on stage if you were addicted to that Rockabilly Bigsby waggle.
I have played a few Peerless guitars and I am always impressed by their vibe and character. What you get for the price is fantastic and they have some great guitars in their range which are just as good to look at as they are play. Don't confuse this extremely well made guitar with cheaper, Chinese made lookalikes. This is a pro guitar and deserves comparison with guitars in that class.