Trussart Steelcaster

We've looked at a couple of Trussart guitars over the past five years but, due to unreliable distribution, the brand has only had limited availability in the UK.

Hopefully that's set to change thanks to a new distribution venture, Rockstar Guitars, which also handles Don Grosh Guitars and Mojave amps.

The Steelcaster is the core of the Trussart line that now includes the Thinline Tele-style Deluxe Steelcaster, the Steelcaster bass, the Les Paul-like Steeldeville, the Steelphonic – now with undersaddle transducer – and the wooden bodied/metal-topped Steeltop.

The numerous options, however, and finishes from the rusty one here to gleaming nickel and even aged colours, mean that each Trussart can virtually be a one-off custom designed by you.

Our review model, a 'holey rusty' Steelcaster with gator engraved pickguard, control plate and headstock face illustrates the point.

Overview

The standard Steelcaster features a solid metal front and back, but here we see the holey option: both back and front are made of a sheet-metal mesh.

Originally this mesh was merely a visual twist, until Trussart realised it reduced feedback when compared to his standard sheet metal designs.

The edges fold over the mesh and it's all quite a tidy job… until Trussart purposely, with this rusty finish, goes and mucks it up.

The net result – given a light sealing coat – is a rusted masterpiece, like an old piece of farm equipment that's been left out in the fields for way too long.

Not only is the finish rusted but it's artfully distressed too: a metal relic.

Further visual interest is added by those 'engraved' (actually etched) plates.

Even the knobs, initially copper plated then blackened and burnished, look like antiques, and the Seymour Duncan pickups also get the special Trussart cosmetic treatment.

Why go to these lengths? Well, in the me-too world of the electric guitar Trussart's rusty finish especially is immediately identifiable.

Importantly, each one is unique. Yes, the guitar might be modelled on a Telecaster, but no one is going to think it's anything else but a Trussart.

Of course, you may find this all completely mad, and to a great extent it is, but James Trussart is nothing if not different.

Aside from the substantial visual impact of the finishing, the Steelcaster doesn't mess with the vintage Tele vibe.

It may have a metal body but the weight comes in just right at 8lbs. The neck is maple with a tobacco red stain and light thin clear finish.

With a typical vintage-like width and slender but not thin depth (19.8mm at the first and 21.4mm at the 12th) the neck feels immediately comfortable.

The fret job from Dunlop 6105 gauge wire is very tidy and the rosewood fingerboard with a vintage-style radius is clean, the edges slightly rounded for a more worn-in feel.

Overall set-up is good, though on the high side for some players (2mm clearance at the 12th fret on the low E and 1.8mm on the high E), but it avoids any upper fret choking that can be problematic with the small radius 'board.

There's a rather large gap on the treble side where the neck sits in its body socket but the actual neck is very firmly held – even with a lot of sideways pressure it didn't want to move.

The head is subtly changed from the Tele outline but, more obviously, has an inset metal plate as the facing – a patented feature that Trussart believes improves sustain and resonance – with its cut-out James Trussart logo.

Tuners are old-style individual Kluson-types with cream buttons, and the bridge is a six-saddle Tele-like creation with a rather crude looking locking bolt to hold the saddles tightly together.

Looks aside, the function is fine. Under the bridge is a wooden block to provide some structure and rigidity; the top and back also have a light arching, but other than that it's a true hollowbody.

Various pickup options are offered, but what look like Duncan Antiquities are actually production models: an Alnico Pro II Tele Lead (APTL-1) at the bridge and Alnico Pro II Tele Rhythm (APTR-1) at the neck.

"I could see why you'd think they were Antiquities," says Seymour Duncan's Evan Skopp. "James often uses Antiquities on his Tele-style and Les Paul-style guitars (and Basslines on his basses).

"These pickups, however, are the closest pickups to Antiquity I Tele pickups in our production line.

"Like the Antiquity I, they use sand-cast Alnico 2 magnets, plain enamel wire (unlike other vintage Fender pickups, the earliest Tele pickups were wound with plain enamel, before Leo switched over to Formvar wire), Forbon fibre flatwork and waxed cloth hook-up cable.

"The biggest differences between these and the Antiquities are the aging, cosmetic and sonic, and the scatter-winding versus machine-winding."

They're hooked up to a standard three-way lever switch, volume and tone control and, despite the metal body and its finish, the Steelcaster is actually a very straightforward guitar.

Sounds

If you're thinking that a bright spanky Tele sound combined with a metal body will give you way too much high end, you're wrong.

This Steelcaster sounds like a hollowbody with Tele pickups. Compared directly with a '69 Fender Tele the sound difference is astonishing.

Whereas the Fender has oodles of bite and twang, the Steelcaster, which still has plenty of clarity, has a firmer, more fundamental tone with less high-end sizzle.

It wouldn't be a first choice for high-gain as it's very microphonic – selecting pickups can result in an almighty clonk through your speakers – and too much gain and volume can easily evoke feedback.

But for more classic styles there's a good-bodied tone that distorts well, and the pickups create a wide tonal range from the bite of the bridge pickup to the warm tubey vocal tone of the neck pickup.

There's less sparkle on the twin pickup mix compared to our Fender, but the Trussart still captures a slightly hollowed vibe.

It seems a dynamic guitar, too, and if you reduce the pickup output and switch to a clean channel it creates a beautifully old hollowbody jazz tone.

Like the style of the instrument, its sound is highly characterful.

It felt like it needed a little playing in but, after a couple of hours, it really did begin to feel, if not quite as old as it looks, certainly like an old friend.

MusicRadar Rating

4 / 5 stars
Pros

Ultimate relic vibe. Sounds.

Cons

Unfortunately, the 'rock star' price.

Verdict

It may be only the very committed or rich that will enjoy the fruits of Monsieur Trussart's art.

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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