Maton’s now-classic Mastersound model has gone through many permutations over the years, from the original versions in those famous photos of Phil and Tommy Emmanuel as young kids traveling around Australia playing to adoring crowds, to the more sleek and refined version favoured by Josh Homme of Queens of the Stone Age and Jesse Hughes of Eagles Of Death Metal. The basic template of the guitar lends itself to a variety of styles – classic rock, punk, jazz, even metal, and Maton has taken the opportunity to recast the guitar’s aesthetics and appointments accordingly.
The new BB1200 semi acoustic brings with it the vibe of a much older guitar. When I opened the case I experienced that same ‘aaah!’ factor one gets when holding a genuine vintage Gibson or Gretsch.
The review model was finished in a classy high gloss black with gold hardware – other colour options are ultra blue, cherry, black, natural and wine red sunburst, but custom colours are available for an extra cost. The body is made of Queensland maple (with a big chunky centre block for stability, and options include either a rock maple or Victorian blackwood top. The neck is rock maple, and its profile is surprisingly thin, almost like an Ibanez Wizard II neck, although the painted, glossy back of the neck also has a lot in common with Gibson’s slim 60s necks. The fretboard has a 12 inch radius and 22 jumbo frets.
The strings are anchored to a Tonepros nickel stop tailpiece and bridge set, fast becoming an industry standard due to its stability and durability, while the pickups are a pair of Maton’s own Alnico 8-loaded humbuckers, the JHB and JHN. Each pickup can be split to single coil mode, drastically increasing the number of sounds on offer.
There’s a warm, loud midrange to the BB1200, which is accompanied by a tight bass and smooth treble. It seems the guitar’s natural frequencies are perfectly tailored to sit well in a mix without overpowering the other instruments, but at the same time occupying enough of its own space to be heard. The bridge pickup has a great, loud classic rock tone with a touch of dryness and a lot of dynamic control. The neck humbucker is round and noodly, and in combination their respective volumes can be set to either darken up the bridge pickup, or brighten up the neck.
The single coil mode almost turns this guitar into a Thinline Telecaster, and the resonance of the hollow body makes it hard to resist playing bluesier styles. Switching back to the neck pickup on a clean tone, a fine amplified jazz sound is available. While acoustically it’s a loud guitar compared to a solid body electric, the body’s a bit too small to make it really viable as an acoustic instrument in the same way as some of the big jazz boxes, but amplified it can hang in there with the big boys.
One final thing I’d like to mention is the exceptional setup right out of the case. This guitar played so well that it was very easy to rip out blazing fusion or shred lines, yet there was enough height left in the strings to still be able to dig in with fingerpicking styles.
The BB1200 has all the makings of a modern Australian classic, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this guitar ended up in the hands of a lot of high profile players.
BODY: Queensland Maple core, selected Rock Maple or Victorian Blackwood top.
NECK: Queensland Maple or Rock Maple set
FRETBOARD: White bound Rosewood, 12 inch radius, 22 jumbo frets
SCALE: 25.2 inches
BRIDGE: TonePros nickel stop tailpeice and bridge
TUNERS: Chrome Grover
PICKUPS: Maton JHB, JHN
CONTROLS: 2 Volume (both w/coiltap), 1 Tone, 3 way toggle selector