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This article was originally published in issue #7
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The JTR series is the culmination of a collaboration between Samick, which is one of the worlds largest instrument manufacturers, with guitar maker J.T. Riboloff, who spent twenty years with Gibson, heading the custom, art and historic division. Together they have come up with the JTR range of guitars which, while it may not have had a lot of publicity, has generally received nods of approval. It's not a big range, comprising (at least in the UK) a 'violin with horns' shaped model for HM fans called (naturally!) the Elvira, a cut-off/asymmetrical V (the Veronica), a Superstrat (the Marie) and a series of single cutaway designs the general shape of which, you can't help reflecting, Mr Riboloff must have been pretty familiar with when he worked for Brand G!
That said, there is no way the Linda is a copy - it's just a new take on a familiar theme and none the worse for that! My first impression was that it is an extremely good looking guitar and certainly one that belies it's rather impressively low price tag. The model that we were provided with was the LN30 in the Trans Lamp Black finish which looks extremely classy and a touch cooler than the its faded burst counterpart.
The Linda is not the lightest of guitars, thanks to a hefty chunk of solid mahogany upon which you'll find a quilted maple laminate top. Again, the Trans Lamp Black finish sets it off perfectly, giving an uber cool modern look.
The carved top looks fantastic too especially when the light catches it. The set neck comes by way of another piece of mahogany upon which you'll find a rosewood fingerboard. The headstock is very nicely finished and is emblazoned with the Samick logo.
Moving on to the electronics, the guitar comes equipped with a standard tone and volume control with a three-way pickup toggle switch. The two Humbuckers are Samick's own 'JTR Hot' design and although they are high output types, they do retain a fair amount of clarity. In addition, this model also comes complete with a blend control and a further five way rotary control which gives you access to a variety of different tones at a turn of the dial. The options are as follows:
Position 1: Low Pass/High Cut Filter, Position 2: Compression & Choke Filter - Use tone control to modify effect.
Position 3: Compression with Nasal Effect - Use tone control to modify effect. Position 4: Single Humbucker Mode - Only master volume is effective in this mode and 3-way pickup selector becomes shunt switch (middle & amp; neck positions) and finally, Position 5: by-pass - all additional effects are off and controls function as normal.
The Blend control, meanwhile, attenuates th eneck pickup when the pickup selector is in the middle position. It has no effect when pickup selector is in neck or bridge position.
Although these options are of no doubt extremely useful, I personally found this whole system of controls to be very fiddly and a little awkward to dial-in. Not only that, the actual control on the fine-way rotary switch felt a little uncertain in my hands. Let's say that I wouldn't have bet money on its long term future. This may have been a one-off fault on our sample, of course.
Plugging the Linda in was a very enjoyable experience and it was clear that this guitar is capable of producing some very nice tones. From thick Jazz warmth, right through to saturated lead screaming, the Linda performed extremely well. Playability was also very good, although the ends of the fret wire were a little sharp and as such my hands did feel somewhat vulnerable especially when making quick position shifts. Again, this sounds like it may be an issue with the particular review sample that we had but you can only report on what you see. It wouldn't be hard to get something like this fixed, of course, which is why we always recommend getting a set-up included in the price you pay for a new guitar.
These few niggles aside, there's no denying that the JTR Linda represents extremely good value for money and is capable of producing some fantastic tones. It is well made from quality woods and has a wide range of voices - ideal for the player looking for maximum versatility at a very affordable price.