Harvey Citron has been building instruments since the 1970s, and was co-founder of Vielette-Citron in 1975. His own line of instruments, whose users range from James Taylor to Skunk Baxter, shoot for perfection in design and execution, striving for continual improvement and instruments that are truly “player friendly.”
The line includes acoustic and solidbody basses (4 and 5-string) and electric guitars, including the new chambered electric and an acoustic/electric being unveiled at the Nashville NAMM. We were pleased to get our hands on Harvey’s CS1 electric six-string, a three-pickup solidbody instrument loosely based on the Stratocaster, but with it’s own personality. The body is mahogany with bookmatched quilted maple top and a gorgeous sunburst finish, and the bolt-on neck is mahogany with a flawless ebony fretboard. The poly finish is superb, and a tung oil treatment to the neck makes it one of the more comfortable out-of-the-box instruments I’ve played. The headstock is unusual and pleasing, continuing the visual arc of the body and neck – very original in this day of Strat and Tele copies. Hardware is somewhat innovative, but in a good way, with locking, gearless, Steinberger tuners for quick changes on stage, a very cool Wilkinson tremolo system with low-friction nut, and sensible placement of the passive controls. Without plugging it in, this guitar feels great in the hands, plays effortlessly, and fits the body in a neat way.
Plugging in the Citron CS1 unveiled a host of challenges, all of them fun. How many sounds can I tweak out of these pickups? Harvey winds each of the three pickups using different techniques and wire, using Alnico V magnets, and the result is single coil mania, ranging from a full and lush neck pickup reminiscent of a 1950s Strat, to the middle position’s bell-like Knopfler tones, and the bridge position’s stinging chime. Very cool.
Guest reviewer Andy York, guitarist with John Mellencamp, ripped through a series of notes on the treble pickup – his favorite.
“This is very Tele-esque, especially in the bridge position,” Andy enthused. “It runs the gamut of tones through all positions, and it’s a precision instrument I could take into the studio and get a big range of sounds. I don’t think it covers the Les Paul area well, but everything else is copacetic.
“It’s a nice atmospheric instrument; the volume knob is ultra-smooth and placed right for volume swells and pedal steel effects (Andy demonstrates with a barrage of country faux-steel licks) and that’s a plus for me. Back when I couldn’t afford a volume pedal, I got in the habit of tweaking the knob with my pinky. This guitar’s definitely got those bell-like sounds I associate with Mark Knopfler.”
Through a blackface Vibrolux Reverb, the Citron sounded not only glassy and smooth, but well-articulated – every note chimed and was heard distinctly. A nice match of guitar, player, and amp. York finally stopped playing long enough to summarize: “This is not hi-tech in the sense of a mid-’80s wanker guitar, when some companies decided that traditional shapes and looks weren’t cool any more. The Citron plays like a well-made instrument, and has a real vintage-type feel to it. The neck contour is right where I like it – not too fat, and not too skinny. Definitely a user-friendly instrument. I’m quite impressed with the tone of the pickups.”
The CS1 represents a level of workmanship and design not found in many other guitars. The full line is available direct from dealers, or from Harvey Citron Enterprises, 282 Chestnut Hill Road, Woodstock, NY 12498, or call (914) 679-7138.
CS1 electric 6-string courtesy of Citron.
This article originally appeared in VG‘s Aug. ’96 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.