Electric baritones have increased in popularity for the last 20 years. Filling the gap between standard-tuned electric guitar and bass, these solidbodies are useful among those in the roots-rock set (surf and country, in particular), as well as anyone in the metal and post-grunge camps. With its single-coil pickups, Reverend’s Descent H90 is designed for the roots crowd (though Reverend also makes the Descent RA, a baritone with humbuckers for heavy rockers, jazzers, and anyone who likes a low-hum vibe).
The Descent H90 is a looker right out of the case, with a dramatic retro body shape and edgy tortoise pickguard. The overall design speaks to the past while maintaining a unique identity – no easy task these days. The tester came in Oceanside Green with white binding, but it is also available in Reverend’s trademark Rock Orange (see photo). The offset double-cutaway body is Korina (a.k.a., white Limba tonewood) fitted with a bolt-on maple neck and lightly figured maple fingerboard (rosewood is also available). Reverend calls the neck profile “Medium Oval,” which feels like a nice C shape with a distinctly vintage Fender vibe. Look for a 26.75″ scale with 22 medium frets and graphite nut (1.6875″) and a 12″ fingerboard radius.
Electronics include a Railhammer Gnarly 90 bridge pickup and a Tel 90 in the neck slot. Both have black surrounds. These pickups feature pole-piece magnets on the top three unwound strings and a single-rail magnet on the bottom wound ones, ostensibly to provide great clarity. Controls include Volume, Tone, and a Bass Contour for the sonic girth and voicing of the lower baritone strings, all controlled by a three-way switch.
For hardware, builder Joe Naylor provides an excellent Wilkinson WVS50 IIK tremolo bridge, chrome knobs, and Reverend pin-lock tuners.
To listen to the bari on the job, we took the Descent H90 to a band rehearsal and, using a Fender Hot Rod amp, cut through the mix with great punch and authority. Our tone was totally in the zone and everyone noted the bright pop of the low strings, especially effective when we doubled the bass lines on clackety-clack hillbilly grooves. The Bass Contour knob got a good workout, during the session, allowing us to voice the pickups on the fly. If a song called for more bass bottom, we dialed that in, or rolled it back the other way for more Nashville twang. The beauty of the baritone’s tuning – from B to B – is that the upper strings easily cut through for solos. Still, as a guitarist, it’s a thrill when you whack that low B string and feel the punch of an electric bass (the bottom two strings of a baritone are roughly equivalent to the G and D strings of a typical bass).
At the end of our session it became clear that the Descent H90 scored highly across the board. The neck setup was low and fast, and playability was a breeze. The bari’s tone is big and clean with nary a hint of mud – these pickups are well voiced for the body wood. And, again, the instrument is a beauty – at rehearsal, the other players immediately commented on its eye-catching design and colors. Certainly players will have to get used to playing in the B-to-B range, which isn’t that difficult to transpose.
The Reverend Descent H90 is a great build and value. Sure, there are cheaper baritones on the market, but you likely won’t get this level of quality construction, hardware, and features. The Descent H90 will give your playing a whole new range.
This article originally appeared in VG December 2015 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.