I’ve wanted access to these reissues for years now, will they live up to my garage rock expectations?
Overview & Final Score: 7.8 out of 10
The Silvertone 1449 may be best known as the guitar that came with the amp-in-case purchased from old Sears catalogs back in the day. It really come on my radar thanks to Beck and Cage The Elephant’s Brad Shultz who both heavily used these guitars in the Alt-rock scene I grew up in. Featuring dual lipstick pickups, you might recognize the stacked tone and control knobs, which are a Danelectro calling card. And this is a very Danelectro-adjacent guitar, even though I actually have no idea if this Silvertone predated the Danelectro company at all. The lipstick pickups are controlled via a 3-way pickup selector plus the aforementioned stacked control knobs.
Like the 1478, the Model 1449 features a Mahogany body with a bolt-on Mahogany neck and Rosewood fretboard. This C-shaped neck features 21 frets, pearl dot inlays, and a very interesting through-body bridge. Your eyes are always drawn to the unique paddle headstock that features all the sealed, die-cast tuners on the top side that creates a very painful looking break angle out of the nut.
Lipstick pickups on a non-Danelectro guitar? Silvertone makes a mean lipstick pickup that sounds glassy, bright, and surprisingly rich. Even clean, the fingerpicked tones filled out nicely and had a real twang to them. It surprisingly even approaching Telecaster-like performance when plugged into a Vox-voiced amp simulator. It actually feels a fair bit more versatile than I anticipated, and that was an impressive discovery for me. My criticism of the last Silvertone was that it felt very narrow in the scope of sounds it could cover, and I don’t really feel that applies to this reissue at all. Country, Indie, even Jazz music are all within the realm of possibility here. But there is no denying this 1449 rocks.
Overdriven tones retain such a nice sparkle, giving them a bit more dimension than you might expect for a guitar associated with alternative and garage rock. In fact, I can see why this fits so nicely in Cage The Elephants musical style, it fills a ton of space and brings a punchy body despite no apparent mid-heavy quality. It cuts through the mix nicely, and is very sensitive to how you dial in the amp or pedal EQ. I appreciate this because with such a nice sounding clean guitar, I want to be able to preserve that tone without pedals, but then use it as sort of a clean platform to build off of. If the guitar’s tone overpowers all else, you’re sort of locked into that sound.
Fret buzz strikes again, and this time it is made a bit worse by the wider neck shape of the Model 1449. Silvertone guitars should definitely get a once over and professional set up upon purchase, though that is not unfair considering this is only a $400 guitar. I do find this neck to be very comfortable, but the fret edges were not as keenly taken care of. Again, you’re going to expect some sort of quality issues at this price point, but I can’t ignore them all the same. Tuning stability was pretty solid however, and the guitar took a bit of a beating during downstrokes and heavy punk abuse. If you can get it setup, the rest of the playability will be up to snuff to take on stage or in the studio.
Finish & Construction: 8
The finish is stunning, and spotless, shining almost as bright as my old Schecter Ultra III’s bright blue. The construction also felt really solid, with a great bridge, good tuning stability, and significantly more premium feeling hardware than I expected. The one hugely annoying design choice here is the location of the strap button on the top of the guitar. It’s where the neck meets the body, on this little ledge, that is near impossible to get a strap on. Huge issue? Nope. Once again though, you think someone who plays guitar would have picked this up and said “nah”. Otherwise though, I was really impressed from top to bottom with the Model 1449, and would be tempted to keep this and use it regularly going forward to a variety of applications.
It’s hard for me to not give this a high value rating, as it feels like the better of the two Silvertones I tried. It also costs $100 less, while feeling that much better. The Model 1449 is also a good bit more versatile, and feels like it could settle in as someone’s go-to instrument. It’s part Danelectro, part Telecaster, and will turn heads on a stage for sure. It’s also a unique option on the sub-$500 market, that isn’t just another Strat, Tele, Les Paul copy that has been retread. Lipstick pickups, a design you’re not going to get anywhere else, there’s a lot to like about Silvertone’s stab at the old 1449.
Good for: Garage Rock, Surf, Indie/Alternative Rock, Retro Pawnshop Guitar Fans, Budget Minded Players, Danelectro Fans/Players, Telecaster Fans/Players