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The new Kurt Cobain signature is based around an alder-bodied Jaguar with a “Relic” sunburst finish, mimicking age and wear. The overall vibe is like a hot-rodded pawn shop guitar, just like the one Cobain used to play. It does seem to combine the look and feel of a broken-in axe, yet with clean, polished frets and an excellent factory setup.
A maple neck with a bound rosewood fingerboard sports a “C” shape, with 22 frets and a short 24″ scale (Cobain’s preferred scale length). The short scale may feel a bit odd to Strat players, but it contributes to the guitar’s slinky sound. The medium jumbo frets are smooth and easy. Our test model had great action, and no problems “fretting out” when bending.
The tremolo tailpiece is right off of Fender’s original Jaguar and Jazzmaster. It can take a bit of abuse, but it’s more suited to subtle touches if you want to stay in tune.
Pickups are by DiMarzio; the bridge is their Super Distortion and the neck is a PAF style humbucker. The controls are a bit more complicated than the usual Fender. A three-position switch on the lower bout selects the pickups, and the lower knobs control an individual volume knob for each pickup, as well as a master tone. The upper controls are the lead/rhythm circuit controls. Slide the switch up, and the two thumbwheels control the neck pickup volume and tone. It can be tricky to get used to it. But with practice, it’s very easy to go from mellow tones to full on rage, just with that little switch.
When paired with an overdriven amp, the sounds are FAT and fantastic. Big and beefy rhythms with no lack of sustain on leads. Clean tones are a bit tougher to illicit, as the pickups have a very hot output, but rolling off the volume helps contain any grit they throw at you, while still giving plenty of push. This is where using that additional rhythm circuit pays off – having the ability to dial in a clean rhythm sound, and switch back to a full-on Nirvana bombast, makes loud/soft dynamic shifts a breeze. It could even wean a player off of their amp’s channel switch.
Players that prefer “normal” Jaguars or Jazzmasters might want to give this a try; although some may be put off by a guitar with scratches, dings, and aged hardware. Included with the guitar is a wonderful book chronicling Cobain’s career with Nirvana, as well as an interview with his guitar tech, and more about the development of this instrument. And yes, it is also available in a left-handed version!
PROS: Great distorted and clean tones. Excellent fit, finish and playability.
CONS: Aged finish is a possible turn off. Non-standard circuitry can take some getting used to.
Neck: Maple, “C” Shape
Fretboard Radius: 9.5”
Frets: 22, Medium Jumbo
Scale Length: 24″ short scale
Pickups: DiMarzio DP100 Super Distortion Humbucking Pickup (Bridge)
DiMarzio PAF DP-103 36th Anniversary Humbucking Pickup
Bridge: Adjusto-Matic Bridge with Vintage “Floating” Tremolo