mobile ad
mobile ad

Roundup! 5 Eastwood Airline Guitars

June 20, 2012
share

 
AIRLINE ’59 CUSTOM 3P
Sadly, I never get “win the California MEGA Millions lottery” lucky, but occasionally a droplet of luck does splash across my plane of existence. For example, one of my bands—The Trouble With Monkeys—“punks up” the classic hits of the Monkees, and when these five Airlines dropped into Guitar Player Central, they were the perfect instruments to take onstage with the act. True, the actual Monkees did not rock their TV show with Airlines— guitarist Mike Nesmith usually wielded a Gretsch—but the wacky visual appeal of these retro beauties in bold white, red, black, and cream definitely struts the zany vibe the foursome brought to the airwaves back in 1966. Unfortunately, the Airlines were a bit too perfect for the gig. Whenever I walked off stage, all anyone wanted to talk about were the guitars! Lady Luck can be so fickle…

 
AIRLINE ’59 CUSTOM 2P
While the Airlines evoke cheapo ’60s European and Japanese designs, none of the five models revamped by Eastwood Guitars suffer from mercurial construction, tone, or playability. All the models tested are well-built, goodplaying instruments with fairly unique tonal characteristics. Build quality is excellent and was consistent throughout the group, although the ’59 Custom 2P has very minor over-paint splotches on the headstock, and a less-than-tight neck socket that allows a business card to be inserted between the top edge of the neck and the body. The Airlines are setup at the factory with pretty low actions, so some fret buzz here and there was noted, but nothing that a slight adjustment couldn’t fix.

 
AIRLINE ’59 1P
For live shows and rehearsals, I plugged various Airlines into either an Orange Tiny Terror and Mesa/Boogie 1x12 cabinet, or a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto and two Mesa/Boogie 1x12 cabs. In the studio, I routed the guitars direct through a Manley VOXBOX, or into a collection of amps, including a new Marshall 50th Anniversary JTM1 head, a Quilter MicroPro 200, and an Acoustic G100FX. I’d be totally untrue to the ’60s vibe if I didn’t also toss a few fuzz pedals into the mix, so I sometimes added an E.W.S. Fuzzy Drive, an Orion Effekte Deluxe Motor Fuzz, or a JMI Mick Ronson Tone Bender to the signal chain.

Airline ’59 1P

 
AIRLINE ’59 CORONADO
The 1P is the bratty punk of the Airline family. But while it’s a simple and straightforward mean machine with one pickup and one Master Volume control, it’s not fair to label it sonically monochromatic. The basic tone is sharp and edgy, with a snotty midrange punch and a nice zing to the highs. Admittedly, you can’t get very far from there, but the lone Airline Vintage- voiced single-coil is very responsive to picking dynamics and guitar-volume manipulations. As a result, you can tame some of the snarl by picking lighter, using your fingers and/or thumb, and/or lowering the Master Volume. It’s certainly not a bad thing to have to really work the guitar to create timbral variations—after all, dynamics should be a major part of every guitarist’s trick bag—but if you simply want to plug in and bash away, the 1P’s unaltered tone is powerful enough to explode out of a band mix and turn heads.

 
AIRLINE ’59 TOWN & COUNTRY DLX
Airline ’59 Custom 2P

The 2P adds another Vintage-voiced singlecoil, a Volume control, and two Tone knobs to the Airline ’59 tonal recipe, and the result is a major expansion of sonic possibilities. Thankfully, you don’t lose any of the snarl of the 1P—you just get a lot more dimension. Let’s take the bridge-position pickup that’s on both the 1P and 2P, for example. As the 2P offers a Tone knob, you can go from full-on, aggro high midrange bark to a rounder, yet still edgy tone, with a nice snap and pop. Lower the Volume, as well, and the mids calm down further, providing a good sonic base for subtle fingerpicking or soft arpeggios. The neck pickup offers a warmer tone, of course, but it’s still pretty edgy when left at full throttle. The midrange snark is still evident amidst rounder low-midrange frequencies, so you get the benefit of a nice chunk and boom without sacrificing articulation. This is great news for punk, rock, and blues styles, but you don’t get anywhere near a jazz vibe until you turn down the Tone all the way, and, even then, there might be too much edginess for some jazz players. But, hey, this baby is hardly a polite, dinner jazz ax. Let it roar.

Airline ’59 Custom 3P

When I first pulled out the 3P onstage, audience members audibly gasped and/or giggled at all the knobs. It’s a lot to take in visually, and it’s a fair amount of work to manage as a player, but I’m so glad all those controls are there. Given the overriding formula of that wonderfully edgy snarl provided by the Vintage-voice single-coils, the 3P is a super-duper, Bat Cave-like tonal gadget station. You get Volume and Tone controls for each pickup, a Master Volume, and a 5-position pickup selector. It’s madness! Negotiating all the timbral options onstage while trying to put on a show was admittedly beyond my reach, but I had a blast in the studio messing around with all the controls and pickup configurations to craft myriad sounds. I could go on and on until your eyes roll back into your head detailing all the subtle and aggressive tweaks that are possible, but I think it’s easier on your brain, and a lot more fun, to keep my mouth shut and let you experiment on your own. I will say that the 3P never failed to deliver what I needed for a track—midrange skank, woman-tone-like warmth, psychedelic ’60s treble (perfect for driving cool fuzz sounds), classic rock roar, articulate or wooly clean tones, and tons more options. (Onstage, I cheated and kept all the controls full up, changing sounds with just the pickup selector—which was all I could manage in the heat of battle, so to speak.) The 3P is a thrilling guitar to play, and it’s a tremendous sonic palette for tone scientists.

Airline ’59 Coronado

It’s kind of strange to say that the very groovy Coronado is the most conventional member of the Airline family, because it certainly catches the eye when viewed amongst guitardom’s usual suspects. But it’s a tribute to the madcap visuals and timbral options of the line that the Coronado’s sophisticated curves, two humbuckers, and four knobs stand out as, well, not being eccentric. Having said that, the Coronado delivers all the ballsy impact you’d expect from a dual humbucker configuration, it plays very smoothly, and it still offers massively cool visual appeal. (Just don’t stand next to a bandmate who is playing the 3P if you want the audience to notice your guitar!) The chambered mahogany body does impart a sense of air and dimension to the classic Les Paul sound, which puts the Coronado in a kind of tonal mash-up between a Paul and a Rickenbacker (or Gretsch Duo Jet). It’s a compelling tone combo plate of a fat, ballsy roar and a jangly shimmer—meaning taut low mids, articulate high mids, and very clear highs. The Coronado is Eastwood’s tribute to the Supro Coronado wielded by Dan Auerbach of the Black Keys, and it can definitely emulate the Key’s ultra-hyped, retro blues howls, hollers, and cries.

Airline ’59 Town & Country DLX

Like the 1P, 2P, and 3P, the Town & Country is modeled off the Valco guitars sold by Montgomery Ward in decades past. While not tremendously different from the tonal armament of the 3P, the T&C does change things up by replacing one of the three single- coils with an alnico Hot-10 humbucker, and going with a 3-way pickup selector, instead of the 3P’s 5-way option. The Town & Country is a little less tonally versatile than the 3P, but it’s just as hard to manage all the controls if you dare to manipulate tones in mid performance onstage. I have to admit, I missed the added sonic options provided by the 3P’s 5-way switch, although I was also relieved the T&C’s 3-way switch limited my ability to fall into obsessive tone tweaking. The humbucker in the recipe is the middle pickup, so selecting that option provides some nice round and stout tones with just a tad more output to drive your amp’s front end. You can’t blend the humbucker sound with either of the single-coils, but it’s still a nice place to go if you want to dial back some snarl. The Town & Country offers its own bounty of sounds, so if you dig spinning tons of knobs and switches on your tone quests, a purchase decision between this beauty and the 3P might simply come down to which model looks better to you. As far as cool factor, playability, and sound, you can’t really lose with either choice.

Specifications

AIRLINE ’59 1P

PRICE $899 direct, includes deluxe case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 20 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Vintage Kluson-style
BODY Mahogany, chambered
BRIDGE TonePros Locking
PICKUPS Airline Vintage-Voiced single-coil
CONTROLS Master Volume
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010 set
WEIGHT 6.78 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Bratty, aggressive tone. Light. Retrorific looks.
CONCERNS No Tone control.

AIRLINE ’59 CUSTOM 2P

PRICE $999 direct, includes deluxe case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 20 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Vintage Kluson-style
BODY Mahogany, chambered
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Two Airline Vintage-Voiced singlecoils
CONTROLS Two Volume, Two Tone, Master Volume, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010 set
WEIGHT 7.24 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Bold and articulate tones. Retrorific looks.
CONCERNS Some minor cosmetic issues.

AIRLINE ’59 CUSTOM 3P

PRICE $1,149 direct, includes deluxe case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 20 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Vintage Kluson-style
BODY Mahogany, chambered
BRIDGE Roller-style with Bigsby
PICKUPS Three Airline Vintage-Voiced single- coils
CONTROLS Three Volume, Three Tone, Master Volume, 5-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010 set
WEIGHT 8 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Massively versatile tone machine. Retro-rific looks.
CONCERNS None.

AIRLINE ’59 CORONADO

PRICE $1,079 direct, includes deluxe case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 21 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Nickel/chrome
BODY Mahogany, chambered
BRIDGE TonePros Roller with Bigsby
PICKUPS Two alnico Hot-10 humbuckers
CONTROLS Two Volume, Two Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010 set
WEIGHT 8.68 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Good tones. Retro-rific looks.
CONCERNS None.

AIRLINE ’59 TOWN & COUNTRY DLX

PRICE $1,149 direct, includes deluxe case
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 20 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Vintage Kluson-style
BODY Mahogany, chambered
BRIDGE Five-way adjustable roller with Bigsby
PICKUPS Two Airline Vintage single-coils, one alnico Hot-10
CONTROLS Three Volume, Three Tone, Master Volume, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010 set
WEIGHT 7.5 lbs
BUILT Korea
KUDOS Excellent tonal versatility. Retrorific looks.
CONCERNS None.

Alert to All Users of the Disqus commenting system:
Because of a recent global security issue, the Disqus website recommends that all users change their Disqus passwords. Here's a URL about the issue: http://engineering.disqus.com/2014/04/10/heartbleed.html

COMMENTS

comments powered by Disqus

Reader Poll

What's the gauge of your 1st string?







See results without voting »