Rahbek Guitars hail from Copenhagen, Denmark, hotbed of electric guitar production.
Okay, so that ain’t the case. But those who would rush to judgment over the thought of buying a custom-made electric guitar from someone other than any of the multitude of U.S. builders may just be missing out on something special.
Because Rahbek guitars are handmade from materials hand-picked for their exacting specs. The company’s basic models include two classic electric guitar-inspired designs, the Standard and the Cos-T.
We reviewed a Standard, which features a comfortably contoured, medium-weight, two-piece alder body with a gorgeous 1/4″ laminate flamed-maple top finished in transparent gloss plum that was nearly flawless.
The neck on our Standard featured an outrageously birdseyed neck in a silky smooth satin finish with Brazilian rosewood fingerboard. The bolt-on neck was attached to the body with four bolts tastefully recessed into the body. The neck fit into its pocket very tightly, making for a strong bond. The 251/2″-scale, C-shaped neck is very comfortable, with a 12″ radius that let us apply smooth, clean note bends despite the very low (and very fast) action. The neck’s 22 frets are medium height, well-polished, and installed flawlessly.
A Wilkenson satin-finished tremolo bridge is flush-mounted, which while it may allow for more sustain, also eliminates the option of pulling up on the whammy bar.
And speaking of the trem, it raised our one nit about this guitar – the lack of a coverplate for the trem spring cavity. Some may theorize that this makes a difference in tone. Well… maybe. But if a builder is going to leave the cavity and springs exposed, that cavity should be finished as neatly as possible…
Anyway, the guitar also boasts Schaller locking tuners mounted four on the bass side, two on the treble side, high-quality tone and volume pots, and a five-way pickup selector mounted through the back in a shielded cavity, all nicely wired. Two Kinman HX single-coils and one Dimarzio humbucker are installed directly into the face of the body, in cleanly routed, paint-shielded cavities.
The true test came as we plugged the Standard into the first of our test amps, a Fender 4×10 Blues Deville. The first thing we noticed is how well-balanced the volume was from pickup to pickup. Also noteworthy was how quiet the Kinman single-coils were, along with the Dimarzio humbucker.
On a clean setting, the Kinmans are slightly meatier and not quite as high-end sparkly as standard single-coils. We also dialed in an extremely pleasant out-of-phase tone with the neck and middle pickups on together. Sweeeeet! The bridge pickup, of course, offered the typical dark, fat, clean sound of a humbucker. In the bridge/middle position we obtained a powerful, slightly out-of-phase sound, as the bridge pickup is not split in this position.
Next, we plugged the Standard into a Randall Cyclone head with a 4×12 Celestion-loaded cab set to high-gain overdrive. And again we experienced an extremely well-balanced pickup selection. In fact, in terms of volume we could hardly tell you we were switching. The single-coils had a surprising amount of gain , rivaling the humbucker, with lots of smooth overdrive – without sacrificing clarity. The Standard had plenty of sustain with very good note separation in all positions. We were able to fly over the fingerboard with the greatest of ease. Though there was a bit of that “new guitar stiffness,” it was obvious to us that this guitar, once broken in, will be a monster.
At $2,799, this is not an inexpensive guitar. But any instrument of this quality can’t be. Rahbek offers lots of options, so you can have a custom guitar built to your specs.
There are loads of one humbucker/two single-coil guitars available, but the Rahbek Standard may very well be one of the best.
Type of guitar Electric solidbody.
Features Contoured alder body with flame maple top, transparent gloss plum finish, birdseye maple neck, Brazilian rosewood fingerboard, Kinman single-coil pickups, DiMarzio humbucking pickup, Wilkenson tremolo bridge, Schaller locking tuners, graphite nut, many options.
Price $2,799 (retail as tested).
Contact Rahbek Guitars, Enghavevej 10, DK – 1674 Copenhagen V, Denmark, phone 45 33 242 242, www.rahbekguitars.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct ’03 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.