Review: Lust For Tone Envy and Lustcaster

The guitars crafted by the relatively new Florida-based maker Lust for Tone, headed by brothers Greg and Mark Simpson and their pal Blake Burns, might follow familiar templates, but they offer startling originality at every turn.
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The guitars crafted by the relatively new Florida-based maker Lust for Tone, headed by brothers Greg and Mark Simpson and their pal Blake Burns, might follow familiar templates, but they offer startling originality at every turn. The guitars’ foundations are formed of premium reclaimed old-growth and air-dried woods, often including exotic timbers. Proponents of eco-friendly practices in general, they eschew plastic trim, crafting knobs and pickguards from wood or metal, and use old-world finishing techniques that exclude any toxic solvents, while loading the results with top-shelf, third-party hardware, and hand-wound, in-house pickups. Both guitars were tested through a tweed Deluxe and a custom JTM-45 style head and cab with an assortment of overdrive pedals, as well as a Fractal AX8 through studio monitors.

ENVY

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This T-shaped Envy in Lust for Tone’s upmarket Luxe Edition might ring out as pricey for a guitar you likely haven’t heard of yet, but its spec sheet reads like a shopping list from a boutique parts convention. The body is made from a single piece of fine-grained ribbon mahogany with a beautifully figured bookmatched koa cap complemented by a koa control-cavity cover on the back. The bolt-on, one-piece neck is carved from Jatoba, a dense, medium-brown hardwood from Central America. The pickup rings are oiled and polished walnut, knobs are knurled Bolivian rosewood with inlaid copper indicator dots, and the nut is unbleached vintage bone. Babicz’s excellent six-saddle through-body bridge system anchors the tail end, while Hipshot locking open-gear tuners with custom flamed-koa buttons take the strings at the other end. Lust for Tone has loaded in a pair of their own Custard Pie Tribute Series humbuckers, which measure around 7.6kΩ in the neck position and 9.1kΩ in the bridge (with Luxe paper-in-oil “bumblebee” tone caps).

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The Envy’s neck feels great in the hand, with a full depth, a rounded-C profile, and nicely rolled fretboard edges to enhance playing comfort. There’s just hair of fret sprout in places, but that’s likely due to its trip from balmy Palm Beach up here to the cold, dry Northeast. Plugged in, it’s fat and gnarly, a rock-and-roll machine that loves a little hair on the amp and knows what to do with it. There’s a slightly snarky edge to the highs and upper mids that makes it more akin to a korina-bodied Flying V than a Les Paul. No surprise, the dual-humbucker classic-rock tricks are all here in abundance, but there’s some sweetness and nuance to the tone (the wood choices and Custard Pie humbuckers clearly partner up well in this regard), with a lively harmonic shimmer within every note. Although it does blues, jazz, and mellower pop, this wolf in sheep’s clothing really likes to snarl, and that’s fine by me. All in all, it’s a hip build with enticingly exotic features and the chops to back it up.

LUSTCASTER

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From LFT’s Standard series, the Lustcaster is finished in what the maker calls Morning Star Red, but you might as well call it lust incarnate. This is hot red for sure, and not a look for those shy of the spotlight. In addition to the body’s translucent finish—achieved with organic, hand-mixed dies, no less—trim includes a pickguard, knobs, pickup covers and switch tip all made from red T6 aircraft-grade anodized aluminum, so it’s an all-in look, for sure. The S-style body is made from a single slab of swamp ash, and it leans toward the heavy side for this style of guitar at around 8.6 lbs. The bolton neck incorporates a lovely piece of flat-sawn flame maple, topped by a dark Indian rosewood fretboard, with locking open-gear Hipshot tuners up north and Callaham’s acclaimed S-style trem with cold-rolled steel plate and stainless-steel block down south. These in-house ’57 Lustcaster Spirit Series pickups seek to reproduce classic late-’50s Strat tones, but do so by interpretation rather than emulation, using thinner 43 AWG wire (as opposed to the usual 42 AWG) like that used in early Broadcaster bridge pickups and Tele neck pickups, as a means of getting more wire onto a narrow coil.

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The Lustcaster feels great in the hand, and plays well, although there are some slightly sharp fret ends here too—allowances made on that score for atmospheric changes during shipping—but also sharp corners on the nut, which I’d like to have seen rounded off more since they can gouge the left hand a little when you’re playing in lower positions. Plugged in, the Lustcaster is immediately Stratty, with a snappy, bright, percussive disposition, but plenty of meat behind the twang, too, and no hint of spikiness from its solid voice. There’s a good bit of snarl to the bridge pickup, which rocks well via the JTM-45 with an Xotic BB Preamp engaged for overdrive. The neck pickup elicits rich, bluesy warmth, yet with excellent articulation, and the in-between settings are appealingly scooped and funky. Overall, it’s a righteous S-style that should appeal to players seeing a lusty Fender alternative.

SPECIFICATIONS

CONTACT lustfortone.com

Envy, Luxe Edition

PRICE $4,248 direct as equipped, including Ameritage Silver hardshell case and GigMate tool kit
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK One-piece Jatoba, medium-C profile
FRETBOARD Integral Jatoba fretboard, 9.5" radius, 25.5” scale length
FRETS 21 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Hipshot locking open-gear
BODY One-piece ribbon mahogany with book-matched koa top
BRIDGE Babicz Fixed 6 Hardtail with throughbody stringing
PICKUPS Two Lust for Tone Custard Pie Tribute Series humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume and Tone for each pickup, 3-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Stringjoy .010-.048
WEIGHT 7.9 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS A well-crafted guitar boasting exotic looks, great playability, and a lively, detailed, and muscular tone
CONCERNS Slightly sharp ends on some frets (possibly climate-affected)

Lustcaster, Standard Edition

PRICE $3,299 direct as equipped, including Mono Vertigo gig bag and GigMate tool kit
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Flame maple, medium-C profile
FRETBOARD Indian rosewood, 10" radius, 25.5” scale length
FRETS 21 medium-jumbo
TUNERS Hipshot locking open-gear
BODY One-piece swamp ash
BRIDGE Callaham cold-rolled steel S-style trem with stainless-steel block
PICKUPS Three Lust for Tone ’57 Lustcaster Spirit Series single-coils
CONTROLS Master Volume and two Tone controls, 5-way switch
FACTORY STRINGS Stringjoy .010-.048
WEIGHT 8.6 lbs
BUILT USA
KUDOS Impressive build and features. Appealing “alternative S-style” tones
CONCERNS Nut corners are a tad sharp, and some players might find the guitar on the heavy side for its type

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