G22 Corona review
FRET-KING GREEN LABEL CORONA 60 What’s in store for someone opting to take the UK-built Green Label Fret-King route? Impressively, one of the main attractions of choosing a Green Label guitar or bass must be the fact that Trev Wilkinson himself will have put your new guitar together. Tony Simmons gets the Green light... efore we start this review, I want to clarify that opening header. Namely, a world-renowned guitar authority with many years of experience and knowledge, and arguably the UK’s #1 guitar making name, Trev Wilkinson will put your Green Label guitar together, from start to finish, in his own personal workshop. That’s pretty incredible, especially at the price levels we’re talking about here – after all, the most expensive guitar option in the Green Label range will still leave your pockets lined with many tenners of change out of £2000. Consider this – if you bought a posh USA boutique-y guitar at sums well in advance of Trev’s most expensive F-K GL option, you still wouldn’t assume for a second that name on the guitar headstock had personally built it, would you? And that wouldn’t be a problem. But, here we are with Fret-King guitars, and the name behind this international range of guitars is going to build it for you? Isn’t that a simply amazing concept? A UK-sourced guitar, personally specified and assembled, then sprayed ‘n’ set up by the man himself, a guitar capable of competing and winning – in terms of classy looks and classier performance – on the world music stage, against the very best of anything else that’s available? At this kind of price point? Great Scott, in terms of value systems, guitar fans the world over – and the UK in particular coz it’s a UK thing, support home industry and all that – should be queuing up to beat down Trev’s workshop door with money in hand...
coil pickup, vibrato-equipped version. Open the moulded case, and this is a striking looking guitar, the pale satin-finish lacquer of the maple neck contrasting starkly with the exceedingly strident Candy Apple Blue body colour, all balanced by the neutral, slightly pre-aged mint green of the ‘stepped’ design three-ply scratchplate, and cream shaded pickup covers and plastic rotaries. The Corona 60’s pickups are a set of matched and calibrated Fret-King Custom vintage-voiced single coils, and feature staggered height Alnico V polepieces – mounted in authentic fibre bobbins, detail freaks – wound to give the optimum clean, sparkling tone that we’d expect from this type of guitar. The body’s elegant and comfort-enhancing curves and dimensions echo those of its inspiration, meticulously and impressively shaped from hand-selected light weight American alder, constructed as a two piece centre-jointed assembly, finished with the traditional swooping, sexy contours ‘n’ chamfers that we love. In keeping with the sixties tradition this model has a familiar and comfortable shallow ‘C’ profile maple neck with 25 1/2“ scale length. Available as standard with a rosewood fingerboard, or as here choosing the option of a one-piece maple neck with skunk stripe, both styles of neck utilise a 10” fingerboard radius to facilitate easier string bending. An additional internal detail from Trev W is that by utilising an original spec small diameter truss rod, there is a much greater ratio of wood-to-metal in the neck, contributing to retaining that elusive ‘vintage tone’. Superb quality Gotoh® tuners replicate the style and light weight of the original Kluson® tuning keys. Here though, height-adjustable tuning posts provide the perfect break angle for each individual string to rest in the self-lubricating Wilkaloid™ top nut, ensuring minimum string friction, particularly from the infamous headstock-mounted string tree, which is not required here.
These unique tuners also feature posts which lock automatically as the strings are brought up to pitch, eliminating excess string winds, making string changing a breeze and keeping the guitar in tune even with heavy vibrato use. Keeping a vintage guitar in tune can be a nightmare, as we all know, however all Fret-King Corona series guitars are fitted with the Wilkinson Gotoh-manufactured VSV high-performance vintage vibrato system, and its intriguing lightweight bent-steel saddle design.
CHOICE SYSTEM So what’ll we go for review-wise? Well, we’ve chosen a top-of-theBlue-Label-range set-neck Eclat Standard as the Blue Label choice (as you’ll see if you turn a page or two). So, let’s now therefore have a look at a bolt-on neck Fret-King Green Label guitar, one which pays respectful homage to the most famous Californian double cutaway guitar shape of all time – a Fret-King Corona. The Corona will represent a familiar looking option to many from the Green Label range, because – (a) it’s almost a known quantity to legions of guitarists born and raised on playing this style of guitar, and (b) it’s also it’s very well priced for reasons outlined above.
CONSTRUCTION We’ve plumped for a Corona 60 in Candy Apple Blue, the three single
IN USE The Corona is a really nice weight, just on the lighter side of what you’d expect. When you slip the strap over your head, it’s a similar experience to putting on a pair of jeans or a shirt that you know you look really good in. I think this colour is a beauty, and I feel good with it. I want to be on a stage, right now, with an audience who, I just know, are admiring my choice of guitar, and therein lies much of the appeal of Green Label ownership – it’s a cut above, for sure. Playing-wise, tonally there’s crisp, bright definition to the sound of each individual pickup, but with real body. That’s more reassuring than it sounds too, because for once I felt that the middle pickup could be used on its own as a valid additional tone option, a facility I wouldn’t normally use. I normally use it to provide the ‘in between’ voicing on positions 2 and 4. Being reverse wound/ reverse polarity,
G22 Corona review
Corona 60 SP
Corona 60 HB
• Single coil • Single coil • Single Coil
• Single coil • Single coil • P90
• Single coil • Single coil • Humbucker
• Humbucker • Humbucker
• Humbucker • Single coil • Humbucker
Corona Options: 12 colour finishes. One-piece Maple neck/fingerboard. Gold hardware. Vintique 24 Carat Gold scratchplate. Left-hand model.
these distinctive S-type tones are phase cancelled and totally noise-free, and as glassy and transparent as it gets, a real boon when laying down some funky 16ths on a backing track in the studio. Big mention too for the bridge pickup – Trev states that this is overwound for increased output. It really holds its own too, whether used totally clean on, say, Shadows’ tunes where because of the delays used to give that characteristic Hank sound, you need a brisk and well-defined front end on the picked melody notes to avoid the song descending into a mushy sprawl of echo. This pickup moved effortlessly to more rocked-out Hendrix finale songs by the end of the evening’s gig. Hank to Hendrix, can’t ask for more than that in the band I play in, and the smooth vibrato adds much to each sound obviously - you couldn’t do either style without one, but I actually needed to max out the trem springs to control the Corona’s unit, such was its effortless response and easy, friction-free movement. Loved the little groove-located plastic ring around the rim of the Volume control, too – so easy to do volume adjustments – swells even – with a mere movement of a pinky!
CONCLUSION “I’ve owned many of these guitars and repaired many hundreds more over the decades,” Trev Wilkinson explains by way of a personal mission statement. “These years of knowledge and experience are the essence of Fret-King’s authentic vintage construction, and which imbue my guitars with that true vintage vibe.” Taking the Corona Super 60 as an example, there’s very clearly an expert touch at work here. “Making a guitar of that twin cutaway shape is easy,” furthers Trev. “However, knowing how to build one from the inside out is a much lesser-known skill.” Again, no argument from us. For one thing, there can’t be many players out there who wouldn’t be instantly able to detect a bad version, no matter how laudable, of this style of guitar, certainly in terms of how it looks, sounds and performs, so well known are the reference points of the ‘Standard’ version, ahem. But to be able to include all the positive elements, and add individual characteristics in a subtle, high developed way? Well, that’s a skill on its own. Don’t forget, Leo Fender went on to launch another –
more contemporary – guitar manufacturing company, and I feel there is as much inspiration for the Corona coming from this ‘second generation Leo’ company as anything else, and as people will naturally make comparisons, it’s important to look at the bigger picture. Trev Wilkinson also asserts that his guitar designs are built around the practicalities of actually playing, and you can feel this when you hold the guitar. Interestingly there are additional versions of the Corona Green Label which underline Trev’s practical approach to building guitars. Those who prefer increased firepower can opt for more hot-rodded Corona 60 models; the 60SP sports a fat-toned Wilkinson P90 at the bridge, whilst the 60HB boasts Wilkinson humbucker in that position, alongside Mr W’s neck and middle single coil units. There’s also the Corona 70, a twin humbucker-equipped version of the guitar (Trev’s Vari-coil rotary transfers the ‘buckers into single coil units by gradually eliminating one set of polepiece slugs in each pickup, a very versatile option), whilst the ultimate Corona 80 offers the works - a humbucker/single coil/humbucker layout, again with the added versatility of the Vari-coil operation. There’s no way that anyone could look at such an extensive list of options on this, the Fret-King Corona series, and not think that here is a guitar maker who really understands the whole approach. Famous for developing and making high performance aftermarket hardware that totally out-performed original fitments, Wilkinson went on to design complete guitar ranges with this approach. So, then factoring in the variety of colours which can be chosen, and the appeal shoots off the scale. Trev’s workshop is surely a sparkling mecca of creativity in the UK music industry and we should be grateful to know that this UK-based force in the world music industry exists. Enjoy it while it’s there. As for the blue Corona 60, it’s a true journeyman guitar but with so much of that intangible ‘plus’ feel. It’s a real looker too – everyone who saw it loved the colour - with a strong identity that’s easy to love. ‘And do you know, Trev Wilkinson himself put this guitar together for me,’ I stated proudly to anyone who asked...’He could do that for you, too...’