The custom-built creations of Saul Koll of Portland, Oregon, have long inspired lust in the hearts of guitarists for their superb build quality and diner-retro meets space-race-modern styling. In joining the Premier Builders Guild, Koll guitars are now more widely available, while retaining the U.S.-made kudos and small-shop quality that PBG’s team of California-based luthiers brings to the table. The Duo Glide is Koll’s flagship model, and blends elements of classic familiarity with artful originality. In its more frequent incarnations, with either TV Jones Classics or Lollar PAF-style Imperial humbuckers, it blends elements of Gretsch and Gibson in a boutique-grade package with Koll’s inimitable stamp upon it. With the more unusual pickups used here, and dressed in a surf-tastic finish option, this Duo Glide is something rather different—and certainly a sweet hunk of eye candy by any standards.
The Duo Glide sports a body of chambered mahogany with a glued-on maple top. The set neck is also made from mahogany, carved to a rounded C profile that measures .830" thick at first fret and .960" at the 12th. The ebony ’board carries 22 mediumjumbo frets, and upper-edge inlays of white pearl, Koll’s twist on the position markers of several late-’50s and early-’60s Gretsch guitars. The ebony facing on the asymmetrical headstock bears a matching white-pearl logo inlay and is trimmed with narrow off-white binding, also echoed in the bound body top, fretboard, and f-hole. What really makes the package pop, though, is the taffy-sweet surf green urethane finish splashed across the entire body and neck, and the heart-shaped white pearloid pickguard that dramatically offsets it. The inclusion of a Bigsby B-5 vibrato is practically required by law.
The beating heart of this Duo Glide lies in its pair of Regal humbuckers, acclaimed pickup maker Jason Lollar’s rendition of the Fender Wide Range Humbucker of the early ’70s, as designed by Seth Lover—better known as the father of Gibson’s legendary “PAF” humbucker. These pickups are wound pretty hot, like the originals, at around 10kΩ, but the use of magnetic polepieces— rather than steel poles with a bar magnet beneath, like traditional Gibson and Gretsch humbuckers—aims to retain clarity amidst the heat. It has to be noted that the pickups’ polepiece spacing falls wider than the outside E strings, but check photos of ’70s Fender Telecaster Thinline, Custom, or Deluxe models that carried the Regal’s predecessors and you’ll see the same disparity of widths, so it’s clearly a quirk of the original design. A single master Volume and Tone control and a 3-way switch govern the package.
The few Koll Duo Glides that I have laid hands on in the past have achieved that illusive trick of blending the indefinable magic of a great vintage guitar with the playability of a skillfully crafted modern instrument. This PBG-built Duo Glide goes a long way toward nailing the same Holy Grail mojo. Fit and finish are immaculate, the neck feels great in the hand, and the guitar rings loud and clear, even when played unplugged.
Fired up through a Matchless HC-30, a Bogner Goldfinger (both through a 2x12 cab with Scumback speakers), and a Fender EC Twinolux, the Duo Glide translates its candy-colored façade to a surprisingly sizzling tone beast that heaps on bite and bluster when needed, but also offers sultry sonic depths and nuances for more contemplative moments. The Lollar Regals really do pack a sting, but it’s a more vintage-edged snarl with plenty of clarity and cleaner tones when you turn down the guitar’s Volume control. The Duo Glide excels at anything from the meaner side of surf to alt-country with attitude to gutsy-blues and garage rock on those edge-of-breakup amp settings. Cranking some high gain with the Bogner or an OD pedal, it proved an easy match for just about any breed of straight-on rock, too. The polepiece spacing issue doesn’t seem to affect string output or balance in the least, and the Bigsby works smoothly without any major return-to-pitch issues. All in all, the Duo Glide is a blast to play, is surprisingly versatile, and damn if it doesn’t make you look good in the process!
CONTACT Premier Builders Guild, (714) 514-0647; premierbuildersguild.com
PRICE $3,695 street (with hardshell case); $3,595 with TV Jones Classic pickups
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16" GraphTech Tusq
NECK Mahogany, glued in, C profile (.830" thick at 1st fret, .960" at 12th)
FRETBOARD Ebony, 24 3/4" scale
FRETS 22 medium jumbo
TUNERS TonePros Kluson-style vintage tuners
BODY Chambered mahogany with maple top
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic with Bigsby B-5 vibrato
PICKUPS Two Lollar Regal humbucking pickups
CONTROLS Single Volume and Tone, 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046 set
WEIGHT 8 lbs
KUDOS Impeccable styling. Excellent build quality. Original tones that are extremely versatile
CONCERNS Pole spacings on these pickups don’t accurately match string spacing, but this doesn’t noticeably impact string output or balance.