Houston is the closest major U.S. port to the tropical hardwoods of South and Central America, so it makes sense that Ellis Guitars makes good use of them.
Grabbing the Houston builder’s TX3, the eyes are drawn to the rich colors of the cocobolo top, with padauk center section over a basswood body single-bound on the top and back; the TX’s downsized Tele-like lines are sure to be appreciated by players’ backs and shoulders. An open-pore finish lends an organic, natural feel.
But, good-looking lumber isn’t the only outstanding feature of the TX3 – a patented wiring design lets it speak in many voices.
Profiled with a shouldered D shape, the four-bolt neck and headstock shape show early Leo influence, appointed with thoroughly modern details like Sperzel locking tuners, a responsibly sourced 12″-radius ebony fretboard, Kaish roller bridge with stop tailpiece, and carbon-fiber-reinforced cocobolo neck that matches the top while lending to the guitar’s tight acoustic voice. Three Third Rail humbuckers are topped with attractive white abalone. Master Tone and Volume hold sway over individual Volume and three-position mini switches. While doing the math on pickup combinations would require a calculator, it’s simpler than it seems, with fat, hum-canceling tone in the middle positions and single-coil tones from the pickups’ north and south magnets on either end of the mini switches.
Through a tube amp based on a Fender Deluxe, selecting two- or three-pickup single-coil combinations brought subtle changes in tone, providing transparent, glassy sounds that worked well with pedals and flourished behind spiky rhythms and poppin’ chicken pickin’ licks. Dialing in the Third Rails’ double magnets expanded tone into smooth overdrive and hard crunch. Selecting all three humbuckers (think “Les Paul Custom”) offered expansive sonic range with minute adjustments to the Volume controls.
The TX3 delivers a library of sounds with pedals and a favorite amplifier – a recipe for hours of fun in the home studio. If you’re a gigging pro, it’s simple to locate a half-dozen desirable tones, allowing you to focus on its purpose – creating music.
This article originally appeared in VG’s March 2022 issue. All copyrights are by the author and Vintage Guitar magazine. Unauthorized replication or use is strictly prohibited.