Rasmus Modern M200
No sooner had John Suhr revealed his intention to offer import versions of his USA-made Standard and Modern models than the online naysayers began to, well, say nay. "How can a Chinese-made guitar be worth that kind of money?" some angrily typed. "John Suhr is selling out his existing customers."
Considering his hard-earned reputation for producing outstanding electric guitars, you'd think John's followers would cut him some slack. After a period taking custom orders from the likes of Eric Clapton and Mark Knopfler at Pensa- Suhr in New York, John took up the position of senior master builder at the Fender Custom Shop.
"The Modern has a two-octave 'board and a neck that feels like and '80s Charvel - meaty yet fast."
Post-Fender he established Suhr Guitars, a company that has Scott Henderson, Guthrie Govan and Michael Landau in its stable. He clearly knows his onions.
While Suhr has cut costs having his Rasmus models built in China, they come loaded with the same Japanese Gotoh hardware and US-wound pickups as John's £2,000-plus USA beauties. Each Rasmus guitar also pays a visit to Suhr HQ in Lake Elsinore, California for a final set-up that includes a fret dress on a Plek machine to help towards great playability.
Despite the fact that its body shape made its debut in the Suhr catalogue back in January 2008, the 'Modern' tag feels like something of a misnomer. Slipping the M200 from its padded gigbag takes you back to the heady days of the late '80s - when men were men, looked like ugly women, and made their guitars sound like sewing machines.
The stripped-down hot rod aesthetic that was all the rage in rock guitars in those days is echoed perfectly by the Modern M200 and has aged far better than much of the music from that period - in our opinion, anyway.
Body and neck woods here are the same as on the Rasmus Standard S100. The Modern features the treble cutaway scallop but its body is more offset than the Standard.
It also features a plate-less sculpted neck heel with four recessed bolts. The Modern ups the performance ante with a two-octave fingerboard and a neck profile that's described as 'modern elliptical'. Pushed further Suhr describes the neck profile as a 'squished circle'. It feels like an old-school '80s Charvel neck – meaty yet fast, but it doesn't flatten out on the back quite so much.
Moving on, you don't get locking machineheads on the Modern, but you don't need them. The bridge is a Gotoh- made Floyd Rose with locking top nut. Like the non-locking Gotoh 510, the Floyd has a vibrato arm that's threaded on the inside. And it doesn't have one of those annoying sleeves that always seem to work their way loose on other Floyds, either.
Again, there's a grub screw to set the arm at the position you prefer. The Gotoh offers a decent amount of pull-back thanks to a recess cut into the body. You can ping the arm and make the whole vibrato wobble for cool sound effects. Daft, yes, but great fun.
The SSH+ and SSV humbuckers are connected to a single volume and master tone, plus a five-way switch. The positions on tap here are: bridge 'bucker; inside single-coils of both 'buckers; both 'buckers on full; neck outside single-coil only; and neck humbucker.
By the way, if the locking Floyd doesn't do it for you, but you still want the two-octave 'board, there's the Modern M100 variant in a humbucker/ single-coil/humbucker format, which comes packing a non- locking Gotoh 510 vibrato.
Compared with a Seymour Duncan JB, the SSH+ 'bucker featured in the bridge position has a slightly lower output. Plugging in, you get a bright, punchy tone and excellent string definition no matter how much filth you dial in.
The SSH+ proves that you don't need an overwound ceramic behemoth to pull a killer rock or metal tone from a guitar. Dial in some compression and you get a perfect, smooth '80s rock tone. Harmonics leap from the fingerboard like fireworks and the sustain on tap is excellent. The neck 'bucker offers bags of vintage warmth and sustain.
The Modern pumps out stunning vintage-voiced single-coil tones. If they were any more 'glassy' you'd smell the Windolene.
The combination of vintage and modern tones makes this a seriously versatile guitar in the truest sense of the term. No matter what style of music you play, this Rasmus model hits the modified S-type bullseye.
None of the aforementioned doom merchants had actually tried a Rasmus before they unleashed the negative vibes. As ever, the proof is in the pudding and today's special for the doubters is a big slice of humble pie.
We like the fact that your money appears to have been spent on the important stuff - playability, pickups and hardware. You know you're on to something good when the only thing we can find to moan about is that headstock logo.
That should also help put to rest the backward notion that the Chinese can't cut it at this price point. Every guitar manufacturer builds to a price and the Chinese factories are no exception. Okay, Rasmus guitars receive a final spit and polish at Suhr HQ in California, but the quality of construction and flawless finish are a testament to the abilities of the Asian workforce.
The relentless box-ticking of the Rasmus Modern S200 takes the sting out of not being able to commit to the loftier price tags of John's US-built guitars. For many of us, this guitar will be the only way to 'be Suhr'. That would be just fine by us.
Righteous tones. Neck. '80s hot-rod vibe.
The headstock logo. Some may prefer a bit more bling.
An '80s rock monster, but with some fantastic vintage single-coil tones on offer, too.
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