AXL Badwater Eldorado

This distressed AXLs look like its seen better days. But does it play like it?

The Eldorado is a fairly low-key offering from Chinese manufacturer AXL, especially when it's compared with its sibling the SRO, possessing a similar distressed look but with a slightly more broken-in feel.

Build

It features a lightweight alder body, bolt-on rock-maple neck and a rosewood fingerboard. The headstock features an inventive, embossed charred-look logo.

The 'C'-profile neck and medium fret wire make for a very playable guitar; couple that with a very presentable out-of-the-box set-up and we're off to a decent start.

The two EMG-designed single-coil pickups are set in an aged off-white plastic scratchplate and selected with a Gibson-style three-way selector switch, with master volume and tone controls.
An off-white distressed finish has been employed on our example – to picture how this finish looks and feels, imagine a guitar that's been bought in the 50s and then left in a humid barn for all that time.

Little patches of wear have been strategically eroded around the edges of the guitar. These are not particularly related to a guitar that's been relic'd to reflect player wear but one that's been left out in the elements.

A string-through anodised hard-tail bridge and enclosed-style antiqued tuners cap it off.

This guitar, although essentially based on Fender's second son, is an original take on a classic design. Although not a wholly original concept, they do come in at approximately 20 times cheaper than a Trussart – now there's some perspective.

Sounds

The Eldorado – after a string change from what feels like 0.008s to 0.010s – is nice enough when played acoustically.

The simple settings give us a bridge single-coil, which is a little thin sounding. It's lacking the bite and attitude of a good Telecaster bridge single-coil but it's good enough, even though we'd like a little more zest. As it stands it handles rhythmic duties fairly well.

The middle combination gets a little more interesting – a stronger tone, Telecaster-esque in character – and the neck pickup serves up some warmer, meatier tones with an underlying twang – to our ears, the most musical sounding of all of the selections.

Summary

It seems that even with extremely cost-effective, mass-produced Chinese instruments, there's still plenty of scope for stylistic tinkering. In fact you could probably con your less-informed mates that this Badwater guitar costs a packet.

There's no getting away from the fact that it's built to that price, though. It really would benefit from better strings and better pickups.

If you were to install some Wilkinson or Kent Armstrong retrofits here, and do the advised tweaks, you'd have something that looks, plays and sounds well beyond that bordering-on-silly pricetag.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Distinct looks. Good playability. Price.

Cons

Only the pickups.

Verdict

Unique in looks it plays really well. A few tweaks, better pickups and you could have a really good guitar on your hands for very little money.

Country of Origin

China

Available Finish

Off White; Crackle Brown/White; Brown Finish

Bolt-on Neck

Yes

Cutaway

Yes

Fretless

No

Guitar Body Material

Alder

Left Handed Model Available

No

Neck Material

Rock Maple

No. of Frets

22

Year of Origin

2008

Review Policy
All MusicRadar's reviews are by independent product specialists, who are not aligned to any gear manufacturer or retailer. Our experts also write for renowned magazines such as Guitarist, Total Guitar, Computer Music, Future Music and Rhythm. All are part of Future PLC, the biggest publisher of music making magazines in the world.

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