Test Drive: Lentz JR Reserve S

Long known as one of the most skilled finish artists in the business, Scott Lentz has also been building highly acclaimed electric guitars for some 40 years—the last 20 alongside his son, Scott Jr.—many of which have landed in the hands of discerning players such as Buddy Whittington and Phil X.
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Long known as one of the most skilled finish artists in the business, Scott Lentz has also been building highly acclaimed electric guitars for some 40 years—the last 20 alongside his son, Scott Jr.—many of which have landed in the hands of discerning players such as Buddy Whittington and Phil X. While Lentz has presented many original designs over the years, and continues to build its own shapes in the DL-90, HSL, and Croydon models, this small shop based in San Marcos, California, is arguably best represented by its finely-wrought homages to classic bolt-neck S-and T-style electrics. This venture was recently taken to new heights with the Lentz’s Reserve and JR Reserve Series. To wit, the JR Reserve S on review here brings together master-built attention to detail, custom hardware and electronics, and private-reserve woods that have been cabinet aged a minimum of 25 years into a guitar that, Lentz hopes, will equal or surpass anything you can lay your hands on in the bolt-neck arena.

The JR Reserve S’s basic topology needs no explaining, but it’s worth noting that myriad details reveal themselves with the guitar in hand, instantly declaring this to be far more than just an expensive but well-built S-type. Lentz’s extradeep ribcage contour makes the guitar superbly comfortable to snuggle up to; its neck shape, while fairly deep (.880” at the 1st fret), is a sublime-feeling, soft-V ’56 type, one of the more playable carves I’ve fondled in quite some time. The light, one-piece swamp-ash body, über-flamed maple neck, and exquisitely textured reclaimed Brazilian rosewood fingerboard are impressive in and of themselves. Beyond the raw integrity of these woods, though, you only hear the true lengths that the Lentzes have gone to once you strum or plug in. “Grain orientation is one of the most important factors in building our Reserve guitars,” Scott Jr. told me. “The grain of the body and neck wood must be aligned just right to achieve the optimal resonance transfer from neck to body, and then from body to amp.”

I love the fact that, while the entire guitar bespeaks a soul grounded in vintage tradition, Lentz isn’t slavish about the details. The mother-of-pearl fingerboard and side dots, for example, are a welcome touch of elegance, while a hotter bridge pickup with dedicated Tone control (plus matched pots and paper-in-oil tone caps throughout) is an update that many players will greatly appreciate. Father and son generally wind their own pickups, but this guitar carries a set of Aero Instruments S-Types, which Scott Jr. says were just right for this guitar. The rich Dakota Red nitrocellulose finish was flawlessly applied by Scott Sr., who still finishes all Lentz guitars himself.

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I tested the JR Reserve S through a Komet 60, a custom modified-JTM45-style head, and a tweed Deluxe-style combo, and enjoyed the experience more than any S-style guitar I have played in a good long while. Tones leaned heavily toward the vintage (apply your favorite Strat-sonics adjectives here), but the JR Reserve S was more even and balanced than almost any pre-CBS Stratocaster I’ve spent time with, and certainly a more effortless player, too. I was most impressed, I suppose, with the way it couched classic snappy, bright single-coil tones in a buoyant thickness—with bodacious harmonic content and inspiring touch sensitivity—that never let the guitar sound thin or weak.

Cards on the table? I’m not a Strat fanatic at heart, but I was slain by this guitar. I liked it right out of the case, but the more I played it, the more it revealed its hidden depths and an ability to sound great and play flawlessly throughout anything I could sling at it. I came into this test kinda’ thinking, “Yeah, just another high-end bolt-neck,” but that perception quickly turned into the kind of guitar that keeps you up at night, gets you searching around the studio thinking, “Hmmm, now what can I sell?” The Lentz JR Reserve S is a substantial investment, no doubt, but it’s a “lifetime” kind of guitar, and an Editors’ Pick Award winner for sure.

See and hear the JR Reserve S in action:

SPECIFICATIONS

JR RESERVE S
Contact lentzguitar.us
Price $6,800

Nut Width 1.655", bone
Neck Highly flamed cabinet-aged maple, 25.5" scale length, ’56 soft-V profile
Fretboard Reclaimed Brazilian rosewood dating to 1915, 9.5" radius
Frets 21 6105 (medium)
Tuners Gotoh Kluson-style
Body Single-piece, cabinet-aged swamp ash
Bridge Callaham Vintage S vibrato
Pickups Three custom Aero Instrument S-style pickups: neck 5.59kΩ, middle 5.61kΩ, bridge 10.00kΩ (43 AWG wire)
Controls Volume, Tone for neck and middle, Tone for bridge, 5-way switch (matched potentiometers, paper-in-oil tone caps)
Factory Strings La Bella HRS Series, .010-.046
Weight 7 lbs
Built USA
Kudos Exquisitely built. Outstanding playing feel. Rich and lively traditional-leaning tones.
Concerns None.

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