The Big Review: Seth Baccus Shoreline JM-H90
Offset-inspired guitars with foil pickups may be the plat du jour, but this UK-made electric offers tones with a difference and superlative build.
Guitar makers don’t come with much better pedigree than Seth Baccus. The stepson of master acoustic luthier Andy Manson, Seth managed Mansons Guitar Shop in Exeter for eight years, worked with Muse and was even part of the crew for Led Zeppelin’s famous reunion show at London’s O2 arena in 2007. Building his first guitar in 2004, Seth left Mansons in 2009 to become a full-time luthier. We first encountered his Nautilus Classic back in 2017 and were mightily impressed. But if that was a guitar for those who adore set-necks with curly tops and a mirror sheen, though it shares the same outline as the Nautilus, the Shoreline JM seems destined for a different customer entirely.
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As a teenager in the 1990s, Seth fell in love with all things grunge. First envisaged in 2019, the Shoreline JM is a companion model for his more Strat and Tele-influenced Shoreline S and T and was inspired by the widespread adoption of vintage offsets by guitarists during the grunge era.
“It’s become a very versatile base stylistically for a lot of different options,” says Seth. “I liked the idea of having those edgy tones and the kind of feel you get with the Jazzmaster-style tremolo and bridge set up but in a regular sized body shape rather than the larger offset that is traditional. It makes for a really comfortable guitar, and a nice balance and weight, I think.
“And the way the engineering of the parts has improved recently means the vibrato and bridge setups now are much better than they ever were in the past, both tonally and performance-wise. So I think the JM combines some of that old-world vibe but with a contemporary quality of performance.”
The compact body is one-piece obeche, a lightweight West African wood with a long history in UK guitar-making, having been used by Burns in the 1960s. In keeping with aforementioned old-world vibe, that body has a beautifully aged Ocean Jade Metallic nitro finish with very natural-looking checking and light wear on the forearm contour and bellycut.
The parchment-toned plastics are also very tastefully aged, likewise the nickel pickup covers, screws, strap buttons and pickup selector switch. The Mastery Bridge and Vibrato have a brushed finish, as do those very cool knobs from Anomaly Guitar Hardware which, like Seth’s guitars, are made in Cornwall. The styling cues all contribute to a classy and considered aesthetic that’s a cut above many of the other offset-inspired boutique guitars you’ll find on Instagram, and if factory distress doesn’t do it for you, fear not – Seth also offers a range of high-gloss and sparkle finish options.
We’ve marvelled at the quality of Seth’s neck carves before, and this soft-shouldered and beautifully rounded medium profile feels every bit as impressive as the outrageous flame that dances almost holographically across it as your viewing angle changes. The neck’s satin finish is flawless, while rolled fingerboard edges, domed fret-ends and the carved heel design ensure a smooth ride, wherever your fretting hand finds itself.
The combination of lightweight obeche and torrefied maple makes for a lively and rich acoustic response with plentiful resonance and sustain – it just begs for atmospheric shimmers from the immaculately set-up Mastery Vibrato. Plugged in, it’s quickly apparent that the presence of those foil covers is something of a Trojan horse; with Mojo PAF and P-90 pickups in the bridge and neck positions respectively, there’s plenty of muscle under this Shoreline JM’s hood.
Obeche’s sonic characteristics aren’t a million miles away from lightweight mahogany and, as a result, the Mojo PAF can cover some of the vintage-rock bite and raunch you’d usually turn to a Gibson for, especially if you are more of a Mike Campbell than a Michael Schenker. The middle setting is at its best in more restrained circumstances, with a beautiful light and phasey tonality that, when awash with hall reverb, reminds us of some of the clean Telecaster tones on Jeff Buckley’s Grace. Flip to the neck position and the sound predictably fills out somewhat but there’s still plenty of clarity. It’s actually quite Strat-like, and fans of SRV and Jimi may feel unexpectedly at home here.
If ambience is your thing then the Anomaly knobs work especially well for volume swells, with the knurled section sitting perfectly in the crook of the little finger. Meanwhile, if you love the aesthetic here but are looking for an instrument with more of a traditional offset tonality then Jazzmaster-style pickups are available among a plethora of custom options. There’s also another offset-inspired Seth Baccus model on the way – a larger bodied design, called the Argonaut. Something tells us that’s going to be pretty special, too.
- PRICE £3,899 (inc. hard case)
- DESCRIPTION Solidbody electric guitar, made in UK
- BUILD One-piece obeche body with Canadian roasted AAAA-grade flame maple bolt-on neck, Indian rosewood fingerboard with 12” radius and dot inlays, 22 Jescar medium-jumbo extra hard frets, bone nut
- HARDWARE Mastery Bridge and Vibrato, Gotoh 510 vintage-style tuners, Anomaly D19 stainless steel knobs
- ELECTRONICS Mojo P-90 (neck) and PAF (bridge) pickups with foil covers, CTS 500k volume and tone controls, Switchcraft 3-way toggle pickup selector switch
- SCALE LENGTH 25.5”/648mm
- NECK WIDTH 41.4mm at nut, 51.0mm at 12th fret
- NECK DEPTH 21.4mm at first fret, 23.3mm at 12th fret
- STRING SPACING 34.9mm at nut, 51.7mm at bridge
- WEIGHT 6.7lb/3.03kg
- LEFT-HANDERS Yes
- OPTIONS Available otherwise as reviewed with an AAA-grade neck for £2,699. Many other options available – see website
- FINISH Ocean Jade Metallic aged nitrocellulose
- CONTACT sethbaccus.com