From the Mockingbird to the Bich and the Eagle, since the 1970s, B.C. Rich guitars have been seducing players (and fans!) with their over-the-top looks and sexy body shapes.
Loaded with an unmistakable hard rock vibe, B.C. Rich axes have long induced a Pavlovian response in budding metalheads who salivate at the sight of one, then often give up a few of their one-time/former favorite guitars to get one. From pros like Kerry King (Slayer) and Joe Perry (Aerosmith) to your local garage band, B.C. Rich has always made an axe that could be appreciated by everybody.
One of the company’s newest twists/phases included opening its USA Custom Shop, the product of which are the company’s all-hand-crafted guitars. At the BCRUSACC, there are no fancy CNC machines, and there is no mass production. In 2004, they produced 242 pieces employing “just” good ol’ American craftsmanship. Bodies are cut, shaped, and painted in California, then sent to Cincinnati for final assembly, with a total of six to eight months building time for each guitar.
We recently got a firm grip on a couple of B.C. Rich Custom Shop units; an Eagle Supreme and a Bich 10 Supreme. Both are constructed with 1?2″ flame-maple top over laminated five-piece bodies (alternating between mahogany and walnut), with a mahogany neck that, in true B.C. Rich tradition, runs through the body.
Our Eagle tester was a natural-finish beauty, while the Bich 10 sported BCR’s Translucent Red. And both boasted a flawless high-gloss finish that really accented their maple tops. The mahogany necks were capped with bound ebony fretboards with neatly executed abalone cloud inlays and bound rosewood overlays on the headstocks. The necks also featured 24 jumbo frets with superb levelling work, nicely rounded ends, and a polished finish, as well as a nicely cut and finished bone nut. The neck-through construction and absence of a neck heel allowed for excellent access up to the 24th fret. The comfortable C-shape necks gave both a fast feel, while the flatter 12″-radius fretboard allowed for low, buzz-free action.
The guitars’ heavily rounded and contoured bodies make both very comfortable to play and lighter than you might expect (about 8.5 pounds). Both have chrome hardware, including B.C. Rich Quad Bridges with intonation adjustments, and ultra-smooth Grover Imperial tuners. The Bich 10’s four octave/high strings (E, B, G, D) were threaded through string ferrules in the headstock to four more tuners mounted in a body cut just past the bridge, which makes tuning easier than on a traditional 12-string, and it doesn’t clutter the headstock or make it look unbalanced. Electronics on the Bich 10 include a Seymour Duncan JB (bridge position) and Jazz (neck position) pickups, and a Dimarzio Super Distortion/bridge. The Eagle uses a Duncan PAF in the neck position, with coil splitters, phase switches, a varitone-like rotary switch (which uses capacitors) and an active WolfRose Bullet Preamp Circuit. Even with the 10-plus knobs and switches on each guitar, the layout looks good and well-conceived, following the body lines, not at all clunky or out of place.
Navigating the sea of switches and knobs on both guitars is at first a bit intimidating, and certainly isn’t everybody’s cup of tea. But these are custom guitars and can be set up with or without active electronics, coil splitters, phase switches, or the varitone.
I checked both guitars through a Carvin Belair 212 (VG Aug ’05) combo (for clean tones), and a 50-watt Randall MTS running through 4×12″ cab (for distorted tones). Through the clean channel of the Carvin, both proffered a huge variety of sounds, from clear and shimmering to fat and jazzy. The Bich 10’s hybrid 12-string sound was the most fun to manipulate with the onboard electronics, producing a whole lot of usable and interesting clean sounds, from a thin, glassy acoustic 12-string sound to a big, full rhythm tone. The varitone and phase switches colored the sound a little too much for my taste, but the coil splitters and boost preamp were very useful. Through the Modern module in the Randall, and with the guitars’ active preamp and varitone switchs bypassed, both guitars had a tight, focused sound. The pickups were well-balanced, with strong upper midrange. The absence of the octave strings on the low E and A means you can chug on power chords without cluttering up the tone, then switch to the Clean module for shimmering 12-string passages.
The active preamp on both guitars means all the drive and sustain you could want are right at your fingertips. The circuit is useful for soloing and doesn’t add much noise. It does lessen note definition, though, if you punch it in too much.
In the fair amount of time I spent playing the Bich 10 and Eagle, I came to appreciate their tones with the electronic preamps for the most part bypassed. Run “dry,” both offer nice, full humbucker sounds. But guitar players like their switches and knobs, and the ability to customize your tone can be very appealing, as well.
Both B.C. Rich guitars played as “seductively” as they looked; a true testament to American guitar craftsmanship and design where art meets technology.
B.C. Rich Eagle/Bich 10 Supreme
Features Handcrafted, flame-maple tops, neck-through construction, contoured bodies, active preamp circuitry with varitone, coil splitter, and phase switches, Grover Imperial tuners, pickups by Duncan and DiMarzio.
Price Eagle Supreme: $3,900 (retail); Bich 10 Supreme: $4,099 (retail).
Contact B.C. Rich Guitars, 4940 Delhi Pike, Cincinnati, CA 45238:(800) 999-5558; bcrich.com.com.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Oct. ’05 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.