Reverend Musical Instruments’ luthier/boss Joe Naylor singlehandedly designs every Reverend guitar, and chooses their components and materials.
And in some cases, Naylor provides specs for “external” builders who produce instruments for his company.
One example is the company’s new Bolt-On series of guitars, which is built in Korea and consists of nine models. Naylor recently invited us to test his Charger 290.
The Charger is fitted with a bolt-on maple neck with 251/2″ scale and medium-C profile with a 12″ radius rosewood fingerboard and 22 medium jumbo frets. A dual-action truss rod allows for two-way adjustment, which means backbow can be actively corrected instead of simply relieving the tension (every guitar should have this feature!).
An amber-tinted satin finish on the back of the neck feels velvety smooth, while the neck was very comfortable – not too thin and not too thick. The action was set up nicely. The body is chambered mahogany, which makes for a lighter feel and, Reverend says, fatter tone. A 5.5-mm solid spruce top is laid over the body, giving it more response.
The Charger’s electronics include two Reverend P-90-style pickups wired to be hum-cancelling when both are engaged, with the bridge pickup being wound slightly hotter. Tones are controlled by a single volume, single tone, and Bass Contour controls, along with a three-position pickup selector switch. Our test model was equipped with an optional ABM Les Trem vibrato with a roller bridge. The stock setup uses a stop tailpiece and tune-o-matic-style bridge. Tuners are Wilkinson EZ-lock with staggered heights.
Overall, workmanship on the Charger is exceptional. The neck pocket and pickup routs are every tight, and everything about the guitar is rock-solid.
We plugged the Charger into an Alessandro Working Dog Boxer 1×12″ combo with an Xotic BB preamp. We set the Boxer to clean with the Charger’s volume and tone full up, and got a meaty, darkish tone. Manipulating the Bass Contour revealed more sparkle – the tone was reminiscent of a Fender Stratocaster, but notably fatter. The Charger’s pickup volumes are balanced very well in terms of output, and the Volume and Tone controls have a very smooth taper. To our ears, the Bass Contour was more drastic as we came from full-on, and became more subtle as we backed it all the way down. This is a great feature, as it gives a player access to many voicings using just one knob; with the bass rolled off, we dialed in a very fat tone with the bridge pickup, then added distortion via the Xotic BB. With the bass control dimed, you get a fat rock tone – the bridge pickup is tremendous for this. Rolling bass control back brightens the tone, but it’s always slightly darker than your average P-90 (which is good because P-90s can get a little harsh). Perhaps the combination of the solid spruce top and chambered mahogany body smooths the edges? Whatever the reason, the result is pleasin’! Switching to the neck pickup revealed a great bluesy tone with a nice edge when the bass is rolled off, sort of like an overwound Strat pickup, but fatter. With the Bass Contour pushed up, the bridge pickup sports near-humbucker qualities.
The ABM Les Trem vibrato proved usable and stable. It’s not a locking unit, so you dive-bombers would probably be better served with a different axe.
While many a gear snob will look down their nose at an “outsourced” guitar, they’d miss out by dismissing the Charger 290; it’s a well-constructed rock/blues machine that will “out-tone,” “out-feel,” and “out-price” many a contender.
Reverend Charger 290 Guitar
Price $469 (add $100 for vibrato).
Contact Reverend Musical Instruments, 27300 Gloede, Unit D, Warren MI 48088; phone (586) 775-1025; reverendguitars.com.
Reverend Charger 290 Guitar