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This article was originally published in issue #44
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Recent years have seen master guitar builder Patrick James Eggle employing his considerable skills on acoustics. Now he's switched his focus back to solid electrics. Tom Quayle test drives the Aston Martin of superstrats.
The 96 Drop Top is Patrick James Eggle’s stunning take on the classic superstrat guitar design that has been popular for over three decades now. Hand built and boutique in every sense, the 96 Drop Top is part of Patrick’s small and exclusive range of guitars that are produced in low numbers each year from his workshop in Oswestry in the UK. Producing in such small quantities allows Patrick to produce the highest attention to detail and offer supreme quality throughout his range and this is immediately obvious when looking at our 96 Drop Top review model, complete with its luxurious white and black hard case, featuring a stitched Patrick James Eggle logo inside.
All Drop Top 96’s are constructed from a lightweight and highly resonant piece of swamp ash, our review model being topped with a gorgeous piece of highly figured myrtlewood and a micro thin finish to maximise that resonance. The neck is constructed from roasted maple with a santos rosewood fretboard. By roasting the maple, excess moisture is effectively removed from the wood, producing a more stable neck that will be more resistant to climate changes and gives the wood a lovely dark brown colour that matches beautifully with the dark stained swamp ash. The roasted maple itself has lovely elements of flame running throughout, that complements the figured myrtlewood top nicely with quilt/flame maple, walnut and curly koa also available as options if desired.
Patrick has successfully come up with a design that features no corners or points at all with rounded curves that look distinctly modern whilst still harking back to classic guitars of yesteryears. All in all, this is a lovely looking instrument that will certainly instigate the dreaded G.A.S. (Gear Acquisition Syndrome) within many a guitarist!
The stunning wood combinations are matched with high end hardware thanks to locking Gotoh SG 381 Magnum Lock tuners, a Gotoh floating bridge with KTS Titanium saddles and a hand milled brass block, plus three hand-wired Mojo pickups in a humbucker, single coil, single coil configuration. This is all paired to a five-way switch with a volume and tone control that doubles as a push/pull coil tap for the humbucker, resulting in a very versatile tonal palette indeed.
Everything about the 96 Drop Top exudes quality and comfort with superb attention to detail throughout. From the contoured cutaways on the back to the slick, Soft ‘V’ profile neck and the 22 large frets, contoured top and beautifully balanced body to neck ratio, this Patrick James Eggle guitar is made to impress. A 12” radius and 25.5” scale length ensures fast and even playability across the neck that is great for chordal and lead work and incredibly quick too, thanks to the micro thin, satin finish. Fretwork and detail finishing are of the highest order with small, mother of pearl dot inlays and a Patrick James Eggle signature on the headstock plus reassuring features such as incredibly straight string travel across the headstock and an excellent factory set-up out of the case.
Played unplugged, the 96 Drop top has a very lively and resonant sound with impressive sustain thanks to the brass block in the bridge and those KTS Titanium saddles. The tone is bright but not overly so, rather exhibiting as high end detail that really rewards different pick attacks and especially playing with the fingers. The handwired Mojo pickups translate this tone beautifully with all of that high end detail intact and just enough output to satisfy players looking for more gain without ever getting sterile or muddy.
A wide range of clean tones are on offer from sparkly, Strat-like sounds to surprisingly thick Jazz tones from the Mojo single coils. The bridge humbucker pushes things a little further and gives lovely, edge-of-crunch tones from a good tube amp’s clean channel, or full crunch territory when hit hard. Drive tones are full of authority and bite and can go right into saturated gain for singing lead tones that retain the clarity required for modern soloing. Splitting the bridge humbucker results in some very convincing single coil tones for a great array of modern and vintage tonal combinations from the five-way switch.
Having Patrick James Eggle producing this level of electric guitar again is a glorious thing and the ‘96 Drop Top is a wonderful example of his current work. As with all boutique instruments this is a guitar only for those that can afford it, but for that select few the 96 Drop Top represents the upper echelons of guitar construction for the modern guitar player, without ever feeling like an overblown show piece.
This is definitely an example of function and form coming together to produce a stunning, professional instrument that is every bit as good as any of the boutique competition out there. Small production means that these guitars are very consistent, so if you can afford it they come very highly recommended indeed. And for any reader who is wondering how we can give four and a half stars to a guitar in this price range, all we can say is try one – then you'll know why.