The Special Custom sports a deliciously big neck that feels meaty and substantial. It arrived with fairly high action, but, because of its powerful acoustic voice, it’s only natural to just dig in and hit it hard. The cosmetics are nicely done, with ebony on the headstock veneer and tuner buttons to class things up. The set-neck joint is unique, functional, and pretty. Viewers were split on the gold hardware, but I like the way it complements the creamy white finish. The natural binding is another nice touch. The Special Custom’s only high-tech elements are the knurled locking posts on the Schaller tuning pegs.
Plugging the Special Custom into an Egnater Rebel 20 really brought it to life. This guitar simply kicks a lot of sonic ass. The pickups do precisely what great P-90s should do: They embody the best qualities of single-coils and humbuckers while somehow sounding better than both. Anyone who thinks the terms “chime,” “clang,” and “snarl” are meaningless when it comes to pickups should try the Special Custom, because it does all of those things big time. The ability to tap the bridge pickup is an added bonus. The slightly high action didn’t bug me at all once I plugged in—it just made me butch up and bend and pick with conviction. You need to play this guitar like you mean it. I noticed a couple of minor rattles on the roller bridge when playing acoustically, but through an amp those noises were non-existent and certainly didn’t hamper the guitar’s awesome sustain. The Bigsby takes some getting used to for those of us weaned on Fender and Floyd whammies. You have to do a lot of work to get a little vibrato. It also took a while to settle into stable tuning. I did eventually get the Bigsby to an equilibrium point so that a quick jiggle to the bar brought everything back in tune. Here’s the great news about the system: There is almost no whammy sag, where you bend one string and the other five go flat, which makes double- and triplestop bends a joy.
Huber has done an outstanding job on the Special Custom. Anyone looking to break out of the same-old same-old while still maintaining a somewhat familiar look, feel, and sound will have a friend in Nik Huber.
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