October 1, 2003

by Terry Buddingh

At first glance, the Reverend Avenger TL ($679; $729 as tested, direct only) reveals obvious Stratocaster influences with its three single-coils, 5-way selector, and hardtail bridge. But look closer and you’ll also see Telecaster and Danelectro moves, art-deco flourishes, and even some ’50s automobile aesthetics. To this blend of classic ingredients, the Avenger TL adds its own unique seasoning. The result? An intuitively familiar guitar with a personality all its own.

The Avenger TL’s body may appear to be a simple slab-sided plank, but it’s actually an updated version of Danelectro’s semi- hollow design. However, while Dano stapled Masonite to a poplar frame, Reverend glues a thin phenolic laminate skin onto an injection-molded, high- impact polymer outer rim. A
6"-wide, white-mahogany center block runs from the bridge to the endpin, and a sustain-enhancing steel bar lays adjacent to the bass side of the block. Reverend’s quick-to-build body design cuts costs and results in a lightweight, resonant structure that offers bell-like sustain. Also, as the scuff- resistant phenolic-skinned body requires no finish, the labor- intensive painting process is eliminated. Our test instrument sports a photo-simulated flame-maple finish (a $50 option) on the top and back, and Reverend’s phenolic laminate is also available in a variety of colors.

While the Avenger TL’s body construction is unique, its satin-finished neck has the familiar, “C” shape and worn-in feel of a ’60s Strat. To improve string bending, Reverend uses jumbo frets and a flatter, 12" fingerboard radius. The fret ends are also slightly rounded to further enhance the broken-in vibe.

Securely attached with a generous quantity of stainless-steel screws, the 3-ply pickguard highlights the Avenger TL’s art deco-influenced body shape. If you look closely, you’ll notice the bridge pickup’s three-bolt mounting and wide coil.

More tricks lie hidden beneath the pickguard. While the pickups appear to be typical single-coils, they’ve been fitted with additional ceramic bar magnets to increase their output. Though single-coil pickups are traditionally paired with 250kž pots, Reverend uses 500kž pots to extend top-end clarity and detail. There’s also a 220pF capacitor across the volume pot to preserve high-end sweetness when the volume knob is turned down.

The 5-way pickup selector provides the usual configurations, and an additional mini-toggle adds some welcome options. For example, with the 5-way set to the bridge or neck positions, engaging the mini-toggle adds the opposite pickup for some hip, two-pickup tones. And if you flick the mini toggle when the 5-way is set to positions 2, 3, or 4, all three pickups are activated. These bonus tones are so cool it makes you wonder why this feature isn’t more common.

Scintillating Sounds
Unplugged, the Avenger TL sounds remarkably lively and resonant, and this champagne-like effervescence is faithfully conveyed by the sparkly sounding pickups. Paired with an EL84-powered Bad Cat Hot Cat 15, the Avenger TL produced chimey top-end that was well suited for ringing, George Harrison-style chordal textures or articulate fingerstyle playing. The Avenger TL possesses a very wide frequency response—the lows are surprisingly bold and the mids are nearly as complex and finely detailed as its extended highs.

The bridge pickup delivers convincing twang and punch, and, combined with the neck pickup, the tone is big, sweet, and dynamic with lots of dimension. Surprisingly, though, with all three pickups activated, the sound is thinner and more reminiscent of a Strat’s “in-between” settings.

Vintage Vibe
Combining a hip neo-vintage look, excellent playing feel, and an impressive variety of cool tones, the Avenger TL is the answer for anyone looking for a lightweight instrument that sounds and plays like a fine vintage classic.


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