Red and dangerous – the devil’s own glam rock guitar.
We’ve got to admit that this wasn’t quite what we expected when Gibson said they were sending a pair of SGs for review. Both these guitars are a bit special, mind, because they’re limited editions, and only 350 Eye Guitars will be available worldwide.
Technically, the Eye Guitar isn’t actually an SG. Obviously it shares many constructional similarities with an SG, including the neck joint and the thin mahogany body, but the shape is altered somewhat, with extended horns. The proportions work quite well because that unmarked ebony fingerboard accommodates 24 medium-gauge frets. The pointy theme continues on the three-ply pickguard, which appears equal parts kitsch country and glam rock camp.
Gibson players might find the simplified control layout takes some getting used to. You only get a master volume and a tone, but the volume control is conveniently located beneath the bridge pickup for volume swells and hand-controlled tremolo effects.
The pickup complement includes a 490R at the neck and a 498T at the bridge. These are derived from Gibson‘s ’57 Classic PAF, with the upper mids and overall output cranked up for modern players. The 490R is loaded with an Alnico II magnet and the 498T gets Alnico V for extra punch. There are no polepiece holes in the covers, which are powder-coated in a Hammerite-textured red to match the vivid fire engine red nitrocellulose lacquer that covers neck and body. The lacquer is slightly translucent so you can make out the grain of the mahogany underneath, and it might remind you of the cardinal red that Gibson used on Firebirds back in the day. Even the three-way switch tip is red, so it’s a relief that Gibson chose black control knobs and a chrome tailpiece and Nashville bridge.
Two small complaints: the low E slot of the Corian nut was cut so deep that it rattled badly against the first fret, and we’re slightly bemused by the choice of heavyweight kidney Grover tuners on a guitar with such a light body and a protruding neck. Some top-heaviness is inevitable, and typical of SGs, but it’s less noticeable on the strap than the lap.
Unplugged, the Eye Guitar resonates as willingly as any lightweight all-mahogany guitar you’ll find. Plugged in there are no big surprises, but you get the whole array of SG tones with a slightly more aggressive contemporary midrange edge… and six extra notes. The bridge setting completely nails the sound Angus Young gets on AC/DC‘s latest album, Black Ice. We love the squeaky bite of the bridge pickup, and pinched harmonics are a breeze. Although the volumes are well balanced, the neck provides real contrast. It’s cleaner and less confrontational, but the bluesy sweetness is a perfect foil for the back pickup’s rocky aggression.
The Eye Guitar is hardly radical - in fact it's essentially a 24-fret SG with pointier horns and a peculiar pickguard. Its looks will divide opinions, but it sounds and plays like a very decent SG - and that's high praise indeed.