As with so many makers, Swing’s bread and butter comes from a line of competently built, slightly modified S- and T-style instruments, but the company has been expanding on the theme with some deluxe options. For example, the BST carries a bookmatched, spalted maple top stained in the orangey hue of a gently sucked lozenge and finished in polyurethane. It’s a beautifully rich and multi-dimensional piece of wood—so much so that, to my eyes, the satin-finished maple neck and fretboard look a little anemic against it. Rear-installed controls and a clear pickguard showcase most of this unusual top—which is great, although translucent plastic always looks a little cheap to me. I think the BST could live without the protection, as do many exotic-topped guitars.
Once you get past the woods, the instrument cuts a familiar image—from shape to hardware to electronics. The gold-plated, string-through bridge carries individually adjustable die-cast saddles, and is screwed to the body at both the back and the front edges. The fretboard has been sliced from the neck timber and reaffixed, and the trussrod has been installed without need for a back rout or skunk stripe. The carve of the neck follows a rounded “C” at the lower frets, flattening out a little as it rises toward the body. It’s a decent feeling neck, and most of the frets are finished nicely. However, the nut rides a little narrow in its rout at the bass end, leaving a sharp
corner in the fretboard edge. The G string also catches and pings in its slot during bends at the lower positions. The abalone dots are a classy touch, and, on the whole, this guitar feels like a confident piece of workmanship.
Played through a variety of amps, the BST sounded quite good. The bridge pickup is wound fairly hot, and it achieves lots of midrange grunt amid plenty of bite, but with enough highs to deliver the requisite twang. The maple/alder/maple recipe lends plenty of snap and immediacy to the voice—which sounds tailored to suit rock and rollers or roots players a little more than purist country pickers. There’s good ring and sustain here, although the high E string suffered from a slightly sizzly touch of sitar-itis. (I’m trusting this nut job less and less.) The neck pickup offers a less distinctive voice—although it can turn its hand to jazz, mellower ballads, or low-gain blues sufficiently well—and the middle position offers enough rounded, hollow funk to provide a useful alternative to the bridge pickup’s sting and grind.
Has Swing achieved its goal of putting the Korean guitar foremost in the minds of professionals as well as amateurs? In truth, many impressive Korean-made instruments from Malden, Michael Kelly, Reverend, PRS, Squier, Epiphone, and others have already proven just how impressive guitars in the $500 street range can be these days. Swing joins a crowded field with a competent alternative, and if your purchasing decision hinges on smart-looking woods, the BST is well equipped to win the day.