Lengardo Milano JBE Series

Beyond Kalamazoo

Lengardo Milano JBE SeriesLengardo Milano JBE Series
Price: $4,254
Contact: www.JBEPickups.com

Though a name unfamiliar to most, Lengardo is a brand of Phaselus, a manufacturer/distributor of guitars and music accessories in the European Union. Recently, the company partnered with JBE Pickups to produce a new line of guitars offered for the U.S. market. The Milano is its take on a time-honored design and materials.

A single-cut guitar, the Milano has a chambered mahogany body with a flamed maple top. The slightly wider than average neck (1.75″ at the nut) is also mahogany and has a beautifully dark ebony fretboard, large inlays, and well-dressed Dunlop jumbo frets. The scale length is 24.75″. The instrument is finished head to toe in silky smooth satin poly, but is also available in gloss finish and a variety of custom colors.

Hardware consists of gold-plated Schertler open-gear tuners along with a matching gold Schaller-made bridge and stop tailpiece. If you can’t live without vibrato, a Bigsby or Floyd Rose system can be custom-ordered at an additional cost.

Electronics comprise two JBE mini-humbuckers and a JBE S-Deluxe in the middle position. A three-way pickup toggle and two Volume and two push/pull Tone controls round things out (a Ghost piezo pickup system is available as an upgrade). All Lengardo guitars are jointly produced in the Czech Republic and Switzerland, and are shipped in either a hard-shell case or a high-quality, impact-resistant gig bag.

We tested the Milano using a reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb and reissue Marshall plexi 50-watt half-stack.

Our test guitar had an eyecatching transparent-blue finish on its flame maple top. Neck inlays, headstock shape, and detail work further set it apart from most “inspired by” guitars. Plugged into the Deluxe, it offered thick, yet vibrant tones via the bladed JBE pickups. Neck pickup tones were round and non-muddy, bass notes were clear-toned, and trebles were thick. The bridge had all the power of a full-sized humbucker, yet yielded greater twang and definition than most.

Pulling the first push/pull pot coil tapped the mini humbuckers, giving a glassier, single-coil tone, but unlike most coil taps it was actually usable due to the non-drastic change in output between dual- and single-coil modes. Pulling the second push/pull pot activated the middle pickup, coaxing some nice quacky/notched tones out of the Milano that made for a whole new palette not usually available from this type of instrument. Also, we found we could turn down the ’buckers and just get the middle pickup by itself for a fantastic, fat single-coil tone that was very Strat-ish in nature.

The high-output JBEs had no trouble pushing the front end of either our Deluxe or Marshall, and they could easily be smoothed out via the great tapered Tone controls. One minor gripe is that the middle pickup must be set quite high to match the output of the outer coils. Although this is likely a nonissue for most, if you use a thumb-pick or are a pick-and-fingers player, you may find yourself hitting the middle pickup at times.

Nonetheless, the Lengardo Milano is a great-playing and versatile instrument with an incredible level of attention to detail. While its looks owe a lot to vintage Kalamazoo, its updated electronics and buttery-smooth feel remind you that this is not a simple copycat. Besides standard mini-humbucker tones, the JBE configuration gives the guitar a clear, fat tone capable of covering ground that would normally necessitate a slab-bodied single-coil guitar. If you like a 24.75″ scale and a stop-tail setup, and prefer a wider variety of tones, check out the Milano.

This article originally appeared in VG July 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.