I have been hankering off and on for some years for an electric 12-string guitar. I’ve always loved the 12 in general, and there are some classic sounds to be had, ranging from the jangly Beatles & Byrds riffs to Tom Petty & Zep to progressive styles like earlier Genesis. My acoustic 12 is a very nice instrument, but obviously not suitable for many electrified applications. I do have a couple of electric 12-string “models” in my Taylor Variax, but they frankly don’t hold up to much direct scrutiny. Fine as a small accent in a mix, but not really up to being in the spotlight.
I turned 60 a couple of weeks ago, and although I’m not overly concerned about getting older (sure beats the alternative), it does reinforce the notion that at some point, one shouldn’t put off desires for too long… so I figured it was as good an excuse as any to finally get that electric 12.
I’ve been on the websites of every guitar store within a few hours’ drive, and there is exactly one electric 12 on a wall that I could actually try out, but it’s way above my price range (a $4K Gretsch). So I’m ordering online, and worked with a Sweetwater guy to get four models from them, plus one from Musician’s Friend. I was completely up front with the Sweetwater guy that I’d be keeping at most one of the instruments, and it’s all cool. Bottom line is that I’ll have to pay around $125 in shipping costs by the time all is said and done, and to me that’s worth being able to put five guitars through their paces for weeks, see how they do in a recording setting, and really make an informed decision.
Here are the five models that are now on the way (US dollars). I’ll post my impressions as I test drive 'em… No, there isn’t a Rickenbacker on this list. For one thing, they are at least $500 more than the top of my price range. Plus, in my research, it’s clear that Ricks have narrower necks hence tighter string spacing, and I know that will be a problem for me.
Danelectro 59X12: humbucking split-lipstick bridge pup, P90 on the neck. Bridge has 12 saddles so each string can be intonated (most have six, two strings per, clearly sub-optimum). $499.
Ibanez Artcore AS7312: Humbucking pups, top back & sides made of linden wood. $499.
D’Angelico Premier DC 12: Humbuckers, laminated maple body, ovangkol neck. $899.
Reverend Airwave: Body made of korina, 5-piece set neck of korina & walnut, 12 saddles on the bridge, proprietary P90-like pups. $1199.
Guild Starfire IV 12-ST: Humbuckers, mahogany archtop, rosewood neck, ebony fb. $1299.