+44 (0) 1787 370192 martyn@martynboothguitars.co.uk

Guitarist Magazine 2009

Guitarist – Martyn Booth Deluxe

Best of British

Electric guitars come from all over the world, but what about our own British makers?

by Dave Burrluck

The US electric guitar industry has its ‘big’ brands: Fender, Gibson, PRS and others. The Far East has its Chinese and Korean super -factories, not to mention the sizeable Japanese factories. But the UK’s largest electric guitar maker is Gordon-Smith, based in Manchester in a small factory next to a launderette. John Smith, his partner Linda and employee Chris Smith turned out around 300 electrics in the last year – less than Fender USA makes in a day. It’s only a guess, but we’d be surprised if, in the past year, ‘Made in the UK’ can have been applied to more than 2,000 electric guitars. It may be less. John admits that the market isn’t what it was , but Gordon Smith has always done things its own way. “In the seventies and eighties players were catered for by the USA and Far Eastern brands. Then people like me came along- I love making instruments, but I’ve shied away from business.” Perhaps Smith got it right. The UK brands that thought they could take on the big boys, the likes of Burns, Vox and Patrick Eggle, all failed to do it. In fact, the only successful UK large-scale maker is perhaps Trevor Wilkinson’s current UK-made Fret-King range. But what the UK does do well is nourish a small band of build to-order or small-scale makers. Martyn Booth is typical of that modern breed. The late Tony Zemaitis was one of the UK’s most famous makers and perhaps holds a key to UK success. In the seventies his metal- and pearl-fronted guitars were distinctive ‘stage’ guitars used by many rock stars. Chris Eccleshall was another maker who’d spruce up an instrument , or make one from scratch , before a band’s Top Of The Pops appearance. Today, while Zemaitis’s original instruments sell for thousands , the brand is being made in Japan and Eccleshall is now mainly an acoustic maker. Hugh Manson is the latest to take up their torch with the guitars he makes for Matt Bellamy and John Paul Jones: we don’t do numbers but we do offer something different. We’ve selected four guitars that embody the current British industry. High quality and substantially priced, our modern makers are n’t the place to go for younger , less experienced players. Instead they offer something different for those of you who know what you want (or at least know what you want this week!) and are invariably much more cost effective than a bespoke order from a USA or Japanese custom shop. Let’s take a closer look …

Martyn Booth Deluxe

PRICE: £1,995 (inc case and strap)
ORIGIN:UK BODY: One-piece Brazilian mahogany
NECK: One-piece Brazilian mahogany
SCALEL ENGTH6:3 5mm (25-inch) NUT/W IDTH: Tusq4/ 3.4mm
FINGERBOARD: Rosewoowd with pearl dot markers 3, 56mm (14-inch) radius
FRETS: 22, jumbo (Dunlop 6100)
HARDWARE: Chromed Hipshot vibrato bridge: Sperzel locking tuners
ELECTRICS: Seymou Duncan Jazz (neck) and JB (bridge): three-way toggle pickup selector master volume and tone (with push/pushpot to control coil-split) WEIGHT(k g/lb): 3.97/8.75
OPTIONS: Ebony fingerboard. Alternative tuners and pickups plus dimensions and fretwire – all £POA.
RANGE OPTIONS: Thea all-mahogany flat-front Special (from£ 1,595) kicks off the MB range. The Standard (from £1.950)i s the all mahoganv yersion of the maple-topped Classic (from £2,895) – both guitars feature a wrapove bridge: the Signature (from £2,995) is the maple-topped version of the Deluxe
LEFT-HANDERS: To order( no extra charge) FINISHES: Satin faded cherry (as reviewed) Satin Black but custom colours are available on request

Martyn Booth Guitars 01787 370192

Test results

Build quality 5
Playability 5
Sound 4.5
Value for money 4

Case J1 Gold Top

PRICE: £2.050 (inc case)
ORIGIN:UK BODY: Semi-hollow Brazilian mahogany with carved maple cap NECK: Brazilian mahogany
SCALE LENGTH 6:2 9mm (24.75-inch) NUT/WIDTH: Graph Tech/43.8mm
FINGERBOARD: Rosewood with 12th fret mother-of-pearl wave inlay, 305mm (12-inch) radius
FRETS: 22, jumbo (Dunlop 6100) HARDWARE: Pigtail adjustable wrap-over bridge. Sperzel tuners – all nickel-plated
ELECTRICS: Wo Case/Bare Knuckle humbuckers three-way toggle pickup selector volume and tone for each pickup (with pull/push pot to control coil split) WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.29/7.25
OPTIONS: The base price of the J1 Gold Tops £1,950. Numerous on cost options include mahogany or USA black walnut body and neck. Neck dimensions fretwire.2 5-inch scale length, 2 4 frets pickups plastic Mounting rings. Chrome or nickel hardware. AAA maple top (£POA). Hipshot vibrato (£250), Sperzel locking tuners (£50) and dual volume/ tone (as reviewed adds £100) area also available More on application
RANGE OPTIONS: The J l Flame (from £2.450) comes in a range of colour finishes with A AAA-grade figured maple top and subtly upgraded specs. See website for more models
FINISHES: Metallic antique gold (as reviewed)

Case Guitars 01843 847229

Test results

Build quality 4
Playability 4
Sound 4.5
Value for money 3.5

Organic Artist

PRICE: £2.400 (inc. case)
BODY: Centre-blocked African padauk with carved Olive ash cap
NECK: African padauk
SCALEL ENGT:H 635mm( 25-inch)
NUT/WIDTH: Friction reducing/42.5mm
FINGERBOARD: Macassar ebony with small pearl dot inlay.3 05-508mm(12-20-inch) compound radius
FRETS: 22. medium
HARDWARE: Tone Pros locking tune-o-matic-style bridge through-body stringing, Sperzel tuners with ebony buttons – all black-plated STRINGS PACING, BRIDGE: 52mm
ELECTRICS: Two Organic/Bare Knuckle humbuckers three-way toggle pickups elector volume and tone both with pull/push switches for individual coil-splits WEIGHT(kg/lb): 3.1/6.75
OPTIONS: Numerous custom options within price: woods neck width/shape, fretwire pickups etc. £POA
RANGE OPTIONS: Organic starts with the Standard (from£ 1,800) then the maple-topped Classic (£2,200). The single-cut mono starts at £2.000. The four, five and six-string basses start at £1.800
FINISHES: Oil/wax stain (as reviewed) Organic Guitars 01733 270193 www.organicguitasr.co.uk

Test results

Build quality 4
Playability 4
Sound 3.5
Value for money 3

PRS Guitars SCR

PRICE: £1.200 (inc case)
ORIGIN:UK BODY: African padauk
NECK: African padauk glued-in
SCALEL ENGTH: 635mm (25-inch)
NUT/ WIDTH: Tusq/42.4mm
FINGERBOARD: Macassar ebony with pearloid crown’ inlays2. 54mm (10-inch) compound radius
FRETS: 22. Medium jumbo.stainless steel
HARDWARE: Tune-o-matic·style bridge and stud tailpiece, Grover tuners – all chrome-plated
ELECTRICS: Two DiMarzio humbuckers (Tone Zone at bridge. Air Norton at neck). three-way toggle pickups elector. Volume and tone for each (with push/push coil-split on treble tone) WEIGHT(k g/lb): 3.86/8.5
OPTIONS: Include hardware plating. pickups/electronics scratchplate. Price on application
RANGE OPTIONS: Also in the current PR range are the OCR double-cutaway bolt-on and the SGR double-cut set neck. Prices are the same as the reviewed SCR The PBR and JBR basses are also available
LEFT-HANDERS : £POA FINISHES: Oil (as reviewed)

PR Guitars 07532 227453

Test results

Build quality 5
Playability 5
Sound 4
Value for money 4.5

Final Thoughts

We’ve rocked our quartet of British high-end electrics, but the question is, which one do you want?

Our four review guitars prove that we have some world-class talent building very fine electric guitars here in the UK. Few of our British makers advertise or PR their wares; many still work for local stores as repair men, both to keep learning about guitars and also to provide an oft-needed additional income. Most of them enjoy a local rather than national (let alone international ) reputation . You’ll rarely find a UK-made electric in your local store (of our four instruments, only Martyn Booth’s guitars are currently available and then only via two retailers), which doesn ‘t make it easy to try before you buy. In most cases, aside from visiting the maker ‘s workshop, the only way to try an example is at one of the numerous UK guitar shows, though that’s rarely the best place to audition an instrument. Some customers will be drawn by the ‘hand-made’ aspect, but our advice is to look at the finished article. Is a guitar better because it’s made with old-school techniques and tools such as chisels and pinrouters (the meaningof ‘handmade’) as opposed to the parts being cut on computer-assisted routers or milling machines? In our opinion the tool is irrelevant- it’s the design, the wood choice, the fit and finish, the hardware, playability and sound that’s important. But the choice is yours … Currently Martyn Booth, Organic and PR Guitars build specific models with various options; Case does too but he’ll happily discuss a custom guitar, from scratch. The former method at least means you’ll have a pretty good idea of what you’ll get. The latter, of course, might seem a great idea on paper, but it will be more expensive, and even if undertaken by an experienced luthier may not turn out to be the guitar of your dreams. Yet any of us who’ve ever commissioned a custom build will admit it’s quite an experience, like being measured for a bespoke suit. You choose your cloth, your cut and your detail. Your unique guitar could well serve you for a lifetime of playing. But be warned: if you need to sell it, someone else might not see the virtue in that green polka dot seven-string-with-Floyd Rose you commissioned. For most of us then, the ‘standard model with options’ – as our four review guitars illustrate – provides the most sensible approach. Even so, it’s doubtful the resale value will be as good as a better-known brand, irrelevant of the quality or rarity. In truth, you’ ll rarely see UK-made electric guitars rise in value unless, of course, your maker builds for the stars (in which case they ‘ll charge quite a lot in the first place), they have a long waiting list or, without beating about the bush, your maker stops making guitars or dies. After all, look at Tony Zemaitis and the rise in value of his instruments – a subject we’ll be investigating in next month’s Guitarist. And when you factor in the competition from smaller US ’boutique’ makers , often with high profile users, a British guitar can seem rather far down on your wish list. But find a great maker and choose your instrument well and you might find the guitar of your dreams, made specifically for you, often at a far more cost-effective price than you’d imagine. You’d also be contributing to our homegrown guitar industry and directly to the livelihood of a small band of very talented individuals, of which Martyn Booth, Jon Case, Duncan Wales and Paul Richardson are all excellent examples.


“Any of us who have ever commissioned a custom build will admit it’s quite an experience, like being measured for a bespoke suit”