Marlin Sidewinder Six String
So this is the guitar that leapt straight to numero uno in last month's Buyer's Bible. So this is the guitar the distributors British Music Strings have sold out of, and which we had to borrow from Magic Music in Clacton (thank you).
It's a Stratocaster copy, with a humbucker in the bridge pickup position. There's a five way switch, and a coil tap for the humbucker. The tremelo is of the Floyd Rose pivotting variety, which is happily capable of dropping the strings low enough to touch the pickups. A locking nut comes as a matter of necessity. So you can see there is no skimping on facilities.
Twenty two large frets on a flat rosewood fingerboard make the Marlin eminently suitable for tapping on (in you insist). The neck even has a walnut (?) strip inlaid along its back - nice touch of class - and the four bolt joint with the body is firm and secure.
The paintwork looks excellent, a good deep midnight blue, enhanced rather than made gaudy by the subtle metalflake. It's a bit pitted down by the bottom strap button, but even that is under varnish. The finish is hard and resilient, unlike some guitars I've seen.
What most impressed me was the attention to detail, totally unexpected in a guitar of this price. Firstly, there are felt washers under the strap buttons; secondly, there's a rubber strip under the back edge of the tremelo to stop you damaging the body when you bend the strings up; thirdly, there's a Marlin (it's a fish) block inlay at the twelfth fret instead of the usual two dots; and fourthly, something I've never seen before - a clamp on the back of the headstock to hold the allen keys needed to adjust the locking nut. Wondrous.
On the negative side, the black plastic nut isn't cut deeply enough (though that's easily remedied) and the black plastic scratchplate is a bit thick. Also, because of the protruding truss rod, the locking clamp is about an inch away from the actual nut, which leaves room for the strings to give, and go out of tune. Which they did, a bit.
The humbucker, with its blade pole-piece, is a better pickup than the single coil fobs. They work fine, but it's only on the back setting that the guitar begins to take life. If you're a Knopfler fan, you might be a little disappointed with those out-of-phase sounds, though they are recognisable as such.
How do the Koreans make such good guitars at such incredible prices? It's not just these Marlins, but also the Hohners, Encores, Images, Columbuses, etc, etc - all the budget brands. The Marlin Sidewinder is definitely one of the best value new guitars I've ever seen. And you can quote me on that.
Review by Jon Lewin
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