A reissue that is brimming with retro cool, the Crestwood Custom is a playable slice of electric guitar history, with the more treble-forward response of the mini-humbuckers making for a quite unique voice.
Snapping high-E string can pull it out of saddle.
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The original Epiphone double-cutaway solid-body line of guitars – the Wilshire, Coronet, and Crestwood – pre-dated the Gibson SG by a couple of years.
The line never achieved the popularity or collectability of their Gibson cousins, but the Coronet at least will go down in history as the guitar wielded by Steve Marriott in Humble Pie. The Wilshire’s glory resides in being held by Jimi Hendrix in a famous publicity photo taken when playing in Nashville with Billy Cox.
The Crestwood achieved notoriety more recently when Prince borrowed one owned by Captain Kirk Douglas of the Roots, tossed it up in the air, and let it smash on the stage. Gibson has re-released all three, choosing to go with the classic three-on-a-side headstock of the original ’50s models rather than the six-on-a-side “batwing” style of the later versions.
We picked the Crestwood Custom for review. Unlike the Coronet and Wilshire – which have one and two P-90s, respectively – the Crestwood sports a pair of mini-humbuckers. The review model came in classy Polaris White (Cherry is also available) that covered the neck and the back of the headstock as well as the body, displayed through a see-through pickguard.
The reissue replaces the original rosewood fretboard and vibrato system insert with more sustainable (and still attractive) Indian laurel. The white buttons on the Kluson-style tuners help slot the look somewhere between budget and elegant, but more importantly they are tight and accurate.
The C-shaped neck, 12.01-inch radius, and medium jumbo frets, combined with an excellent setup, made for an affordable instrument that was a pleasure to play. The intonation was excellent and, thanks to a well-cut nut, the guitar stayed in tune through vibrato arm action just short of dive-bombing.
Some minor caveats: The break over the bridge is somewhat shallow, so snapping the high-E string can pull it out of saddle, but aggressive fingerstyle playing elsewhere wasn’t an issue, and the sustain was surprisingly good. The body was so light that, even with the vibrato hardware, the guitar was a tad neck heavy. Still, the Crestwood was comfortable to play, either sitting or standing.
The three-way switch occasionally lost contact with the neck pickup, and produced electronic clicks when changing pickups, so you might want to consider an upgrade there, though not necessarily anywhere else.
The controls worked well, with the tone pots especially well-voiced, providing easy access to “woman” tone. You will have to get used to their tight configuration and close proximity to the input jack. An angled guitar cable will help.
The mini-humbuckers had all the attributes of their ilk: a cross between a single-coil and a humbucker, with less low end than a full-size humbucker, less midrange hump than a P-90 and plenty of top end to cut through a mix.
With a slap-back delay, I was able to get Gretsch-like twang, and some vibrato, while longer delay and compression yielded a lovely, ambient, dream-pop chime. Through a Danelectro Roebuck overdrive and into a Supro Comet, the Crestwood created its own brand of distinctive distortion.
The Epiphone Crestwood Custom maintains the brand’s tradition of offering gig-worthy guitars at affordable prices. Its distinctive sound and styling, excellent vibrato system, and high degree of playability should make it worth checking out as an addition to any guitarist’s arsenal.
- PRICE: $549 street
- NUT WIDTH: 1.69”
- NECK: Mahogany
- FRETBOARD: Indian laurel
- FRETS: 22 Medium Jumbo
- TUNERS: Deluxe Vintage with ivory buttons
- BODY: Mahogany
- BRIDGE: LockTone Tune-o-matic
- PICKUPS: Two Pro Mini Humbuckers
- CONTROLS: Bridge and neck pickup volume and tone, three-way selector
- FACTORY STRINGS: .010–046
- BUILT: China
- CONTACT: Epiphone
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