We covered the original trio of incumbents of the Shergold Masquerader range last year in The Guitar Magazine and found ourselves smitten by their dulcet charms.
Designed by Patrick James Eggle, a UK builder whose reputation is as good as the varied guitars he designs, the one omission from the original production run was a guitar sporting a neck-loaded humbucker: lo and behold, this new SM04 offers a Seymour Duncan SH-1 ’59 to complement the bridge-loaded TB-4 JB Trembucker. They’re controlled by master volume and tone pots, and beneath the latter lurks a push/pull split that solos the inner coils of both pickups.
That’s not all to change, as the SM04 is also the first of the new Masqueraders to offer not only a mahogany neck but also an ebony fretboard and while we were at first somewhat saddened to see that the hand-burnished rosewood had been replaced, the slight change of spec does make sense.
Fear not, as the sumptuous feel of the neck that we were so taken by in the first group of Shergolds we took a look at hasn’t been compromised in any way, and the finishing is as good as we remember. The colour of the mahogany employed here is more brown than red, while the ebony demonstrates some subtle yet attractive graining. The hand-inlaid aluminium line fret markers are also still present, and while we still have our original misgivings, they do, as Patrick told us last year, look “cool and different”.
We won’t waste time here going over the story of the original Shergold guitars and the story of their rebirth thanks to Patrick and distributor Barnes & Mullins – if you want to remind yourself, check out the July 2017 issue of The Guitar Magazine, or look up the review on theguitarmagazine.com.
The combination of a mahogany neck and body produces a dark and sumptuous tone, and although the ebony will temper the low end to a degree, this guitar is built to rock, and rock it most certainly does. With a DC resistance of 17.4k, the TB-4 is up there with the hottest of Seymour’s passive alnico V pickups, and the edge this provides to the colossal hard rock tone is certainly required to alleviate any threat of tonal mush.
Dialling in a warmly overdriving blues sound and flicking to the neck pickup gives a tone that’s more Joe Perry than Clapton while being tighter than either, and it’s only when winding up the wick in this scenario that we feel we need to adjust the treble to help counteract the effects of the mahogany. Engaging the coil- split also helps no end, giving a tone reminiscent of some of the more recent Manic Street Preachers songs.
However, the SM04 finds its true voice when you really open the taps and cut loose. Even with maximum gain wrung from our selection of Blackstar, Marshall and Hughes & Kettner test amps, the tone remains full, rich and, most vitally, distinct and full of character. Job done, it would seem.
As with its siblings, the SM04 certainly offers something new. The classic 70s vibe is nicely counterbalanced by its enormous tone and, needless to say, its neck feels very special indeed. If you’re inclined to rock yet hanker after something slightly removed from the norm in both vibe and performance, this could well be it.
Shergold Masquerader SM04-SD
• Price £799
• Description Solidbody electric guitar. Manufactured in Indonesia, set-up in the UK
• Build Mahogany body with high-gloss polyurethane finish and Bakelite scratchplate; bolt-on solid mahogany neck with hand burnished satin finish; ebony fingerboard with a 305mm/12-inch radius; 22 medium- jumbo nickel frets and hand-inlaid aluminium fret and side position markers; Shergold Custom T bridge with compensated brass saddles; GraphTech Tusq nut; locking tuners
• Electrics Seymour Duncan TB-4 JB Trembucker (bridge), and SH-1 ’59 (neck)
• Controls Volume and tone A500k pots; master push/pull coil split; three-way blade selector
• Left-handers No
• Scale Length 648mm/25.5”
• Neck Width Nut 42.5mm; 12th fret 52mm
• Neck Depth First fret 24mm; 12th fret 25mm
• String Spacing Nut 36mm; bridge 53.5mm
• Weight 3.18kgs/7lbs
• Finish Thru-Black only
• Contact Barnes & Mullins 01691 652449, www.shergoldguitars.com