A reissue of the classic, small scale offset is finally out in the world, with vintage tremolo arm and all!
Overview & Final Score: 7.3 out of 10
I have had my eye on these Silvertone reissues for years now, even though most people only become aware of them during Summer NAMM this year. Silvertone has boasted these models for years on their website, that would alternative between being active and deleted, with zero contact points or marketing behind it. So their re-emergence this year isn’t without some context.
The Model 1478 is perhaps best known to some as the Harmony Bobkat guitar that St. Vincent played early in her career. It was actually first available in 1963, making part of the original offset craze that followed the Jazzmaster and Jaguar releases. This reissue features a Mahogany body and neck, with a Rosewood fingerboard and 20 frets on the 24.5″ scale length guitar. Two Silvertone single coil pickups each feature their own volume and tone control, a 3-way toggle, and a 5-layer tort pickguard. It’s a C-shaped neck, with a nickel silver frets, and gorgeous pearl block inlays. The bridge is a Tune-O-matic paired with a Bigsby tremolo arm. Other specs of note include chrome hardware, sealed tuners, and a unique Red Sunburst finish.
There is no denying the unique, vintage tone of these single coil pickups. They have a lot more body than your standard Fender-style single coil, as they almost sound P90-ish. Silvertone’s 1478 reissue really comes to life with various gain stages layered on top. It’s a bit cliche to just plug this into a fuzz and play The Black Keys, but honestly, that is what this is made for. Blues, garage rock, anything in that vein is within easy reach. Specifically, the single coils get a good bit of sustain which really lets lead lines, be it slide or finger-style guitar even as long as distortion is present.
Silvertone also surprised me with how quiet these single coils are. Even with my Ratsbane pedal or Element 119 on top, there isn’t too much hiss or squeal when I’m not hitting the strings. The clean sounds weren’t quite as impressive, though still above average and useable. There is a bit of chime and a very metallic, razor-like body that is inline with what you get from a vintage Silvertone. But it is fairly low output without any amp or pedal gain, which is a bit disappointing. You’re definitely limited in the scope of what you can accomplish, clean jazz is arguably going to be a tough sell, and the pickups aren’t defined enough for metal or precise playing. It’s definitely meant for a more imprecise, soulful performance, but that is what most people want from this type of guitar anyway!
I was a bit less enthused with the fret buzz on the Model 1478, but Silvertone is on to something with the neck here. It’s very small, and smooth, with a comfy C-shaped neck that feels very Jaguar or Mustang-like to me. It’s also a pretty fast player, though you’re probably not going to be shredding with only the 20 frets and tight fretboard. You can see why older blues players and fuzzed out alternative rockers favor this style of vintage guitar. The 1478 feels very friendly, almost toy-like, with the smooth polish on the neck and thin width. Thin frets, when executed well as they are here, actually feel very favorable even though we tend to drool over jumbo frets on spec sheets. But as I opened with, the fret buzz is a bit a problem for me. Tuning stability isn’t actually a problem, even after I worked the Bigsby a good bit, so I’m not sure it needs a full setup, probably just some frets filed.
Finish & Construction: 7
Overall, I’m very impressed with the look and feel of this $500 Silvertone reissue. It feels and look high end enough to convince you to invest in one. The fret buzz issues are a QA/QC failure for sure, and I’m not crazy about all the hardware, as some of it feels cheap. Another point is knocked off for the fact that you can’t use the Bigsby and access the control knobs at the same time. You have to move it pretty far out of the way if you want to adjust any of the knobs. While I love trem arms, and having a multitude of controls, you have to tell me know one noticed this in the design phase at all??? This poor choice does not tank the overall impressive finish & construction that Silvertone and their parent company, Samick, have achieved at this price.
The bulk of the value score comes from the fact that there isn’t a ton of vintage, “pawnshop” style reissues laying around for $500. Harmony makes really nice, modern versions of vintage guitars. Tiesco isn’t popping back on the radar, and Guyatone is existing in this semi-alive state. So if you want something that screams Jack White/Hound Dog Taylor/Dan Auerbach or early St. Vincent, this is the most affordable option you have, by a good margin. So high marks are deserved, though the fret buzz and odd design options are what keeps this from being a true budget killer.
Good for: The Black Keys, Garage Rock, Slide Guitar, Lo-Fi Blues, Alternative Rock, Vintage Offset Fans, Short-scale Fans, Distorted Guitar Tones