GP has reviewed numerous Teye guitars over the past years, and it’s fair to say that all of them have impressed us, starting with their ornate designs. It’s impossible to not respect Teye’s bold approach, with all the engraved metal and highly figured woods. But far from being six-string showboats, the Teye guitars we’ve tested have all been totally pro instruments that deliver outstanding sounds and playability.
And just to get micro for a second about their unique Mood or Mojo controls - highly effective passive tone-shapers that these guitars are typically equipped with - you have to respect the effort that Teye himself has put into giving players ways to express themselves that go far beyond the visual aesthetics of what they’re slinging on the bandstand.
And so it is that everything you expect from him coalesces in the new El Toro Baritone, a long-scale guitar tuned B to B. It looks fantastic, of course, with a top covered by an explosive-looking black acid-etched plate that features a stained flame-maple mosaic inlayed within a metal frame, with white binding surrounding it all. The theme carries over to the headstock with an etched-metal overlay flanked by Grover Imperial tuners. A starburst-style inlay rendered in pearl on the bound fretboard is the crowning touch.
On the flipside, the woods on the body and neck are nothing short of stunning, and let’s not overlook the curvaceous brushed aluminum plate across the back. There are some human artistic flourishes in the wood grain, too, particularly the hand-rendered black tiger-stripes on the neck, but it’s all in keeping with the mission of creating an instrument that is the embodiment of performance art, although it’s worth noting that this model from Teye’s Player series is conservative compared to what’s available from Teye’s Artisan and Master lines.
Playability-wise, the El Toro Baritone is pure fun, as the wide-ish but not overly thick neck feels natural and inviting. It’s finished in hand-rubbed luthier’s oil in a process that Teye calls Shipwreck, and it has the sultry feel of fine antique furniture. The jumbo nickel-silver frets are expertly dressed and polished for smooth bending, and their tips are rounded off so that nothing inhibits the movement of your hand.
The action is quite low, yet there’s an uncanny absence of fret buzz even in the highest positions, and the intonation is musically sound. Everything, including woods, hardware (especially the aluminum SuperSustain adjustable bridge and stop tailpiece) and setup combine here to create a lively and resonant-sounding guitar with great sustain. You can really feel it vibrating against your body, and I love how the notes just linger on and on when strummed acoustically.
For the electric perspective, I tested the Baritone though my reissue Fender Deluxe Reverb with Alessandro hand-wired circuitry, and it sounded deliciously deep and vibey when played semi-cleanly at three to four on the amp volume. The five-way switching offers different combinations of full humbucker and split-coil sounds, and I found that the tone control is very useable throughout its range.
However, it’s the Mojo knob that makes things really interesting, as you can sweep between lavish humbucker tones and slimmer single-coil tonalities, and all points between. Undeniably cool. It’s literally like hearing different pickups on this guitar, and while there’s a detent position to bypass the circuit, I preferred to leave the control active and just use it to augment whatever pickup setting I was on. Honestly, with the Mojo control there’s probably no need for the five-way switching, but whatever. It’s all there, and believe me, it’s all good.
No doubt the El Toro Baritone is an expensive proposition, but wow, what a guitar. If you can swing it, you’ll be rewarded with a fine-sounding instrument that’s a delight to play, stunning to look at and as original as it gets. How do you top that?
El Toro Baritone
PRICE $4,850 street
NUT WIDTH 1.75”, bone
NECK Walnut, set
FRETBOARD Ebony, 28” scale with Teye inlay
FRETS 25 jumbo
TUNERS Grover Super Rotomatic Imperial
BODY Select mahogany with maple cap and etched-metal top
BRIDGE Teye SuperSustain bridge and tailpiece
PICKUPS Lollar custom wound humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, volume, tone, mojo, 5-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario 157 .014–.068
WEIGHT 8.7 lbs
KUDOS Awesome look, sound and playability. Clever passive electronics