Tonally, Shergold's SM01-SD is a very assured performer, covering a wide range of sounds from its relatively limited number of pickup combinations.
A solid rosewood neck at this price!
Excellent build quality
Versatile tonal palette
Variety of finishes available
Amazing value for money
The neck finish is slightly strange
Shergold? Older GI readers will recall the much-loved British guitar brand from the 1970s and '80s. Now it’s back again, brought right up to date by no lesser luthier than Patrick James Eggle. Tom Quayle reviews one of the first models of a stunning new range.
There is a good chance you may never have heard of Shergold guitars, but the brand is not a new one. As our editor, Gary Cooper, explains in the accompanying article, Shergold guitars were produced in the '70s and '80s and had a unique tonal palette and visual style. The guitars had a definite '70s British look to them, but disappeared from most people’s attention once the company stopped production in the early 1980s. Recently, the brand was bought by Barnes and Mullins in the UK and they have worked with renowned luthier, Patrick James Eggle, to re-design and re-imagine Shergold guitars, thoroughly modernising the range for the contemporary player, whilst staying somewhat true to original aesthetic feel from the '70s models. Shergold sent us a Masquerader SM01-SD to check out, featuring some pretty unique appointments at its particular price point.
The Shergold Masquerader SM01-SD is a reimagining of the original Masquerader and features an all mahogany body that looks highly reminiscent of the 1970’s version, but with less bulbous upper and lower curves. The lower cutaway has been deepened slightly for more modern upper fret access and while the genuine Bakelite pick guard has been reshaped, the general design is very similar indeed to the original.
The neck is where things get very interesting indeed, since Patrick James Eggle has opted for a solid rosewood construction with a rosewood fretboard, featuring hand inlaid, aluminium line inlays for a thoroughly modern look and feel. Having a solid rosewood neck at this price point is pretty much unheard of. This is usually a feature reserved for all but the most expensive custom made guitars and it gives the Masquerader SM01-SD a unique position in the market.
The only downside of this amazing neck is the hand burnished finish that is a weird combination of the look of a satin finish and the feel of gloss. People generally go for satin finishes because they like the fast, smooth, non-sticky feel it gives. Gloss looks superb, but can often be sticky and harder to play, especially with sweaty hands. To have a satin look but a glossy type feel does no favours for this otherwise incredible neck that has a gorgeous, comfy profile with enough girth to satisfy traditionalists but a flat enough radius to please the shredders. The rosewood also looks amazing, with a matching headstock featuring black machine heads that really accentuate the more modern appeal of this guitar.
The hardware on offer is of equal interest and quality. Staggered height, locking chrome tuners give excellent tuning stability and are matched with compensated brass saddles on the Patrick James Eggle designed custom bridge. A US-made Seymour Duncan P90 and TB-4 Humbucker occupy the neck and bridge positions respectively and you even get a Graphtec Tusq nut thrown into the equation for superb intonation and smooth tuning. Pickup selection is operated by a three way switch, with Volume and a Push/Pull Tone control offering a coil tap on the bridge humbucker. The pickup selector switch is placed a little further back than is comfortable and it might have been better in an angled position, as opposed to being parallel to the strings, potentially making pickup selection faster and easier.
The guitars are built in Indonesia and are inspected and set up by Patrick and his team before leaving the warehouse in the UK. Build quality is superb, easily as good as anything else at this price and quite a bit higher on the market. Our model features a beautifully executed Thru-Cherry stain with a High Gloss lacquered finish, but the guitar is also available in Black, Dirty Blonde and Solid Battleship Grey too. The bolt-on neck joint features an excellent carve on the back for extra upper fret access and comfort and little details such as the flush string ferrules and aluminium strap buttons add greatly to the sense of quality on offer here. The body and neck are very comfortable to play, with a reassuring but not over-bearing combined weight that is nicely balanced considering the amount of rosewood in use here.
Tonally, the SM01-SD is a very assured performer, covering a wide range of sounds from its relatively limited number of pickup combinations. The P90 sounds incredibly lush and detailed for a neck pickup with plenty of grit or smoothness as required using the tone and volume controls to shape your sound. The TB-4 can be as huge sounding as you need, working well for a range of sounds from all out metal to more subtle lead tones, with plenty of dynamic response and clarity. Bringing in the coil split allows for further versatility with convincing enough single coil sounds from a mahogany bodied guitar. This is a guitar that is suitable for a very wide range of styles and far more tonally versatile than you might expect.
There is very little to dislike about the Shergold Masquerader SM01-SD and a lot to love. The body shape may put some off, since it shares so much in common with its '70s cousin, and the neck finish is certainly not the taste of this reviewer, but everything else is astonishingly good value at this price point and presents something of a unique proposition in the current market place. The guitars don't come with a case, but at this price you shouldn’t expect that and you probably have some gig bags kicking around at home anyway, thus saving you money!
If you were a fan of the original Shergold guitars then checking out the SM01-SD is a no-brainer, but for those less familiar with the brand, we suggest that you take the time to check out these excellent new versions. You may be very surprised and glad that you did - we certainly were!