IF TONY GUARRIELLO, PRESIDENT OF TREGAN Guitars, wanted to do something different to grab some attention in a crowded field, he certainly made the right moves at the NAMM Show a while back. His booth of brightly colored and angular Tregans resembled either paint samples hanging in a Ferrari showroom, or a bowl of chewed up Jelly Belly beans. In addition, the late Flash Bathory was riffing away in all her youthful, flame-haired, and goth-dressed glory. Well, the presentation sure stopped me.
Since that debut, Tregan has settled on three basic models—Firewick, Shaman, and Syren— and a mission to deliver “custom looks and feel” to working musicians with acquisition budgets a few figures under Slash’s. The Syren Series reviewed here offers flashy finishes, set necks, custom Syren-wing inlays, excellent access to all 24 frets, and, in the case of the Signature II and XT, Floyd Rose-licensed tremolos and active/passive switches for the Alnico V humbuckers.
For the most part, construction is impressive on these Korean-made solidbodies. The fret ends are smooth and polished, the hardware is battened-down, the contoured bodies are flawless, and the liquid blueburst finish is a wonder to behold. Even the painted accents on the XT and Standard are pretty clean and precise. There’s just a touch of fuzziness on the top edge of the black swipe on the XT’s upper bout, and some blue over-paint on its chevron headstock accent. There was one minor electrical glitch: the 3-way selectors on all three models were intermittent. Guarriello reported that a bit of polishing compound had been pulled into the switch cavity on some models, but that cleaning the cavity and switch assembly typically cures the problem.
Of course, Guarriello has chosen to make a bold statement with the Syren’s body shape, and you have to give him props for not emulating the established designs of yesteryear. On the other hand, the design seems to fall into the “love it or hate it” category, so the sweeping lines—which indeed evoke the mythical, bird-like Greek sirens who sang sailors to their deaths upon the jagged rocks near their island homes—may be a bit of risky business. My casual, less-than-scientific opinion poll was about even. Some players laughed and said they’d never take a Syren to a gig, and others thought the Syrens were the coolest guitars they’d seen lately.
Looks aside, I found all the Syrens to be extremely seductive players that were tons of fun to swing across your shoulder and start riffing away with. The Floyd Roselicensed tremolos work as you’d expect. You can perform subtle, vocal-esque warbles, or smack the bar like a drunken elephant on a trampoline without pulling strings drastically out of tune. None of the necks exhibited any areas where you’d fret out on bends, and the nut is positioned so that you can do pull-offs on the high-E string without falling off the fretboard—although there is some slippage and a slight buzz if you have meaty and aggro fingers. The ergonomics are just a tad weird when you sit down to play, owing mostly to the short upper “fin” where I usually rest my forearm. One thing to keep in mind is that the Syrens won’t fit snugly into conventional guitar stands. This isn’t a problem if you have a secure surface to rest the top of the headstock against—the Syren simply makes like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. Onstage, I just propped the Syrens against the side of my 4x12 cabinet and all was well.
For the sound evaluations, I plugged each Syren into an Orange Tiny Terror and Mesa/ Boogie 1x12 cabinet, an Egnater Rebel-20 and 1x12 cab, and a Mesa/Boogie Stiletto and Marshall 4x12 cabinet. GP’s new intern, Stephen Ordonez, also did a few tests, plugging them into a Mesa/Boogie Dual Rectifier Three Channel that was hanging out for our upcoming metal-amp roundup in the October issue. As all the Syrens are armed with the same pickups, the tones were fairly consistent throughout the trio. The bridge pickups produce a taut midrange with a nice bit of sparkle on the upper mids. I found that arpeggios and open chords sounded clear and articulate, even with the saturation cranked up. The middle position brings on the low mids without muting any of the guitar’s shimmering highs, and, as a result, it’s a good choice for classic-rock explorations. Click to the neck pickup, and the enhanced bass serves up some passable jazz-like timbres when you notch back the Tone control a tad. The XT and Signature II also offer a passive/active switch for the pickups, which is kind of ingenious, because if your battery goes belly up, you can simply switch from active to passive operation and keep playing. The sound doesn’t die if the battery does, but you lose the added punch and edge you get when running the pickups in active mode. I found the active position to be quite musical—you get more bite without bringing on ear-shredding searing mids.
Overall, the Syrens are fab guitars for the money. They sound good and play well, and if you really want to turn heads while you’re doing your rock-star moves on the bandstand, these babies will do their part to pull a few eyes your way.