THE VAST MAJORITY OF 12-STRING guitars are either flat-top acoustics or solidbody instruments, but Harvey Citron
and Joe Veillette who, from 1976 to 1983, made basses and guitars under the Veillette-Citron name have some different
ideas about 12-string design. The Citron AEG-12 and Veillette Gryphon are also very different from each other—the AEG-
12 being a full-sized acoustic-electric with a fairly thin hollow body, while the Gryphon is a short-scale 12, tuned D to
D with unison courses. Both instruments can be amplified—though the AEG-12’s onboard active piezo and passive magnetic
pickups are individually adjustable, and can be run in stereo, while the Gryphon has just an under-saddle transducer. We
tested these guitars with a Genz-Benz Shenandoah acoustic amp and—for the AEG-12 only—a Kendrick Bad Ass Man combo.
The AEG-12 is fairly traditional in the sense that it has a 25.5"-scale neck with 22 frets and
octave strings for the lower four courses. The mahogany body—which is almost entirely hollow except for where the bridge sits—has 1/2"-
thick sides and a 1/4"-thick back. Positioned in the center of the oval soundhole is a P-90-style pickup made by Harvey Citron,
who reports that it uses a standard coil form, but features a different magnet, polepieces, and winding than those of a standard
P-90. The AEG-12’s EMG piezo under-saddle pickup runs through an active preamp, and it has dedicated Treble and Bass boost/cut
controls on a stacked pot. Other controls include a Master Volume, a stacked magnetic/piezo Volume control, a Tone knob for
the magnetic pickup, and a Stereo/ Mono switch near the TRS-style output jack. The 18-volt power supply for the piezo system
requires two 9-volt batteries, which are housed in convenient pop-out holders on the back.
Beautifully made and finished, the AEG-12 features a fairly thin, “C”-shaped bolt-on neck with 22 polished frets on an ebony ’board
($100 extra). If you’re used to skinnier, Rickenbacker-style necks, you’ll like the neck’s slim, easy feel. Once the strings were pulled
to pitch with the black Hipshot tuners ($120 extra), the intonation was solid and tuneful.
Played acoustically, the AEG-12’s sound is warm with a little less high-end jangle than you typically expect from a 12-string. The
term “jazz 12” comes to mind, as the AEG-12 veers sonically toward the roundness and woody coloration of an archtop. Plugged into
a Genz-Benz Shenandoah acoustic amp with the piezo pickup dominating, the sounds were deep and full-bodied, and it took a
healthy upward twist of the piezo’s Treble knob to bring on the sparkle. No plasticy artifacts jumped out when boosting those
frequencies, however, which is great.
With the AEG-12’s P-90 driving a Kendrick Bad Ass Man combo, the tones ranged from clear and detailed at lower settings to ballsy
and edgy when the AEG’s volume was cranked up. With the magnetic and piezo pickups feeding different amps, the wide-screen sound is
quite impressive. And here’s where the capability of dialing in some distortion on the magnetic side while keeping a pristine piezo
sound can produce a clean/grungy blend that is something unto itself. Splitting the pickups in this manner sounds cool enough for a
6-string guitar, but with all 12 strings ringing, it’s downright angelic!
Guitarists seeking something really different in 12-string land will appreciate where the Gryphon is perched. Its shortscale
neck and D tuning give it a high-pitch ring that is closer to a mandolin in timbre, while the all-unison courses imbue the tones
with a flavor that harkens to lutes and balalaikas.This compact instrument (which measures 30" long by 12.5" wide by 3.5"
deep) has a sweet look, is well constructed in all areas, and has a perfectly applied gloss finish on its mahogany body, neck, and black
fiber composite peghead overlay.
Playing the Gryphon takes a little getting used to because of a 18.5"-scale fretboard that necessitates closer-than-standard spacing
of the 21 frets. The wide-ish neck feels excellent, however, so it’s just a matter of getting your fingers used to the smaller distance
between the frets.
The Gryphon’s acoustic sound is bright and tinkling, with a high-pitched voice that might seem better suited to a Renaissance
faire than a folk festival. But while you could definitely cut Balkan- or Peruvian-music with this guitar, it also blends beautifully with
standard instruments, adding textures that can really embellish and widen the sound.The Gryphon’s D-Tar electronics delivered
a balanced, natural tone though our Genz-Benz Shenandoah without taking anything away from the instrument’s personality. The
simple control scheme only lets you adjust volume and tone (you can, however, adjust the bass and treble response via internal
trim-pots), but I found it very easy to dial in cool sounds with minimal tweaking at the amplifier’s panel. Hard picking didn’t reveal
any harsh piezo colors, either, which may have something to do with the extra headroom that the 18-volt electronics provide. A pair of
9-volt batteries is required to power the system, but the pop-out holders on the lower part of the body make replacing them a breeze.
The Gryphon is one of the most interesting 12-strings I’ve encountered. It sounds very exotic, yet it has a familiar 12-string feel,
and it’s lots of fun to play. The Gryphon doesn’t replace a standard 12-string, of course, but it definitely brings some enticing new flavors
to the genre, and that’s reason enough for it to receive an Editors’ Pick Award.
CONTACT Citron Guitars, (845) 679-7138;
PRICE $5,400, $5,620 as tested
NECK Mahogany w/ 25.5"-scale ebony fretboard
NUT WIDTH 13/4"
TUNERS Hipshot open-gear
BODY Mahogany w/spruce top
BRIDGE Macassar ebony w/compensated saddle
PICKUPS Citron P-90 style single-coil, EMG under-saddle piezo
CONTROLS Master Volume, stacked Volumes (upperpiezo,
lower-magnetic), passive Tone for magnetic, stacked active Bass/Treble for
piezo, Mono/Stereo switch
WEIGHT 7.4 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS DR Nickel, .011-.050
KUDOS Huge tonal spectrum. Sophisticated
CONTACT Veillette Guitars, (845) 679-6154;
PRICE $3,800 retail
NECK Mahogany w/18.5"-scale rosewood fretboard
NUT WIDTH 1 15/16"
BODY Mahogany w/spruce top
BRIDGE Rosewood w/compensated saddle
PICKUPS D-Tar under-saddle piezo
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, internal bass and treble
WEIGHT 4.2 lbs
FACTORY STRINGS LaBella GR-12 Phosphor Bronze, .009-.042
KUDOS Unique sounding. Light and compact.