Hip versatility is the name of this game: a semi-hollow body, a practical pickup layout with two completely new single-coils, clever controls, and Duesenberg’s back-to-the-future styling. Review by Huw Price
The body is routed from alder, and it has been heavily chambered either side of the solid centre block. A plywood cap forms the top and a wafer-thin band of cream binding runs around the top edge.
The raked-back headstock has Duesenberg’s art deco stepped motif and a cast metal trussrod cover. The diecast tuners are Duesenberg Z’s with threaded shafts and locking clamps for securing string ends neatly and quickly.
They’re classy tuners, but they weigh a ton and create imbalance with the lightweight body. Considering that the owners of Duesenberg also own the rights to Kluson tuners in Europe, it’s a shame they didn’t fit them on this guitar.
Duesenberg call them Single Twins and the name and physical layout lead us to surmise that each P90-sized unit contains two separate three-slug single coils in a hum-cancelling configuration.
The upshot from a player’s perspective is that you get low-action playability with the fat and buzz-free tone that you might associate with a high action setup.
It’s wired in parallel with the neck and bridge pickups when the switch is in the front and back positions. With the switch in the centre position all three pickups are combined in parallel. Below the centre detent this pot acts as a regular tone control, which means there can be no treble roll-off when the middle pickup is engaged.
These Single Twins have a mellow glassiness, capturing the Caribou’s woody goodness with a degree of hi-fi sheen that closely resembles Gretsch-spec DeArmonds.
Paradoxically the sound is thinner with all three pickups engaged, and the Caribou delivers a range of tones that veers from Stratty quack and bite to Filter’Tron-style Gretschiness that makes fingerpicking a blast.
The humbucker also rises to the occasion with a darker ZZ Top-like snarl and a propensity to bloom into harmonic overtones. While the Caribou will drift into feedback more easily than a conventional solidbody, it’s ever so controllable and there’s no harmonic squeal from the pickups.
It’s going to be hard to say goodbye to the Duesenberg Caribou… we like the way it sounds every bit as much as the way it looks. Having said that, the control configuration isn’t quite as convincing; it’s almost as if the designers have tried that bit too hard for individuality and have sacrificed some practicality in the process. The Caribou may have six settings, but it’s questionable whether having three pickups activated simultaneously provides enough sonic contrast to justify the compromises. Of course, if you buy one then you could always easily retrofit a five-way pickup selector and a maybe a push/push pot for extras; that would allow the middle pickup to be used on its own, and the tone control would always be available regardless of pickup settings. Even so, the Caribou is an undeniably fabulous guitar and a true object of desire