Reviewed! Reverend Kingbolt RA

February 7, 2014

It’s no coincidence the Reverend Kingbolt RA hails from Detroit—a.k.a. Motor City, birthplace of the muscle car. From its smooth yet hulkingly aggressive body contours to its supercharged pickups, beefed up neck joint, and tricked-out hardware, the Kingbolt clearly takes a cue from classic street rods. This guitar is stocky, a little funky, and tweaked for performance.

The Kingbolt’s solid korina body looks a bit like the offspring of a May- December fling between a ’60s Fender Jazzmaster and an ’80s angular shred machine like the Carvin V220. It’s an odd recipe—and the Satin Army Green finish adds to the unconventionality—but the whole design hangs together surprisingly well without looking weird or cheesy. Belly and arm contours round out the thoughtful ergonomics, making for a comfortable instrument that balances well, seated or standing.

Reverend guitars are manufactured in Korea, with a superb final setup performed at the company’s Michigan headquarters. I noticed some rough spots in the finish around the neck joint, binding, and fret slots, but as a player the Kingbolt earns top marks. The medium-jumbo frets are well polished,with neatly rounded ends, and while I tend to prefer medium-to-slim profiles, I immediately took to the slightly chunky oval shape of the Kingbolt’s maple neck, enjoying its smooth and slick satin finish and low, buzz-free action. A Wilkinson tremolo, graphite nut, pin-lock tuners, and a 6-bolt neck joint round out the high-performance hardware choices and keep the Kingbolt in tune short of extreme dive-bombing.

Plucked acoustically, the Kingbolt has a strong, full voice with stringy sounding lows. Plugged in, it delivers on its promise of horsepower; this is one huge-sounding guitar. Straight into a Fender Super Reverb, the Kingbolt pumped out a gargantuan clean tone with a pillowy lower midrange and rounded top end, yielding nice pop and twang for hillbilly pickin’, and plenty of girth for single-note blues. Side by side with a ’59 reissue Gibson Les Paul and PRS Custom 22, the Kingbolt couldn’t match those expensive classics for sparkle and midrange detail, but the humble Reverend actually generated more sheer sonic tonnage than either of them, and it particularly shined through overdrive and distortion. I found great classic rock and ’80s metal tones using a Marshall JMP and Suhr Badger 30, and the Kingbolt was positively magical through an overdriven Two Rock Jet, singing with Santana-approved sustain and harmonics.

The two humbucking pickups are Railhammers, a Joe Naylor design that pairs magnetic rails on the low strings for clarity, with over-sized polepieces on the high strings for warmth. The effect is subtle, with no tonal disconnect between lows and highs, just a noticeably crisp attack and heightened sense of urgency on the wound strings, great for down-tuned riffing. The Railhammers also push out especially deep low frequencies, which can sound majestic in, say, a rock trio. But, in contexts where size isn’t a virtue, the Kingbolt offers a clever tonal twist: in addition to a standard master Tone control (which rolls off treble), there’s a Bass Contour control that selectively cuts lows. Together, these knobs create one of the most powerful passive tone networks I’ve seen on a production guitar. Dialing back the Bass Contour tightens overdriven tones and adds clarity and twang, while turning down the Tone knob smoothes and focuses the midrange. Between the two, the Kingbolt can approximate a wide range of humbucker and faux single-coil flavors, with no drastic shifts in volume or need to tweak amp settings.

The Reverend Kingbolt RA is a versatile guitar that doesn’t look like all the others on the block, and it deserves big props for honoring the true spirit of “high performance.” It sounds great, with innovative pickups and tone circuitry, and it plays great, with hot-rodded hardware and a superior setup. Sure, the matte finish, binding, and bare trussrod cutout look more assembly line than custom shop—but by keeping the cosmetics Spartan and outsourcing much of the labor, Reverend delivers boutique tone and playability at a price most working players can afford. Hand-rubbed lacquer and wire wheels don’t belong on a street racer, anyway. The Kingbolt is a hotrod where it counts: under the hood.

MODEL

Reverend Kingbolt RA

CONTACT reverendguitars.com
PRICE $949 street

Specifications

NUT WIDTH 1 21/32" (42mm), graphite
NECK Maple, medium oval
FRETBOARD Maple, 25 ½" scale, 12" radius
FRETS 22 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Reverend pin-lock
BODY Solid korina
BRIDGE Wilkinson WVS50 IIK tremolo
PICKUPS Railhammer dual-coil: Anvil bridge, Hyper Vintage neck
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, Bass Contour, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7.3 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Boutique tone and playability on a workingman’s budget.
CONCERNS None.

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