review

Reverend Roundhouse HB-FM

Review by Mark Starlin

Reverend Roundhouse HB-FM

Reverend got their start building composite body guitars in their small Michigan factory and over the years built a following for their unique, funky designs. They currently offer wood body guitars built in Korea, although each guitar is still designed by Reverend founder and luthier Joe Naylor, with final setup being done by the Reverend team in Michigan. I received a Roundhouse HB-FM for review, which is probably the most conventional design in the Reverend stable. The Roundhouse is Reverend’s funkier take on the classic Les Paul body style.

Construction

The Roundhouse uses the time tested Mahogany/Maple combination for its body with the addition of a Flame Maple veneer added to the top of the Maple cap. The top is flat instead of arched like a conventional Les Paul. I received the Faded Burst finish, which is a gold to orange color. It wasn’t the prettiest flame maple top grain I’ve ever seen, but it was still quite attractive. The top of the body is bound with cream binding that matches the pickguard and pickup mounts. The body is a little thinner than a Les Paul and therefore weighs less. Using an unscientific left hand/right hand comparison, it seemed very close in weight to my Strat, maybe even a tad lighter.

The entire back of the guitar including the neck is painted black. Some people like this, but I prefer to see wood grain, and painted guitars always make me wonder what the paint is hiding. I removed the control cavity plate and found a fairly neat wiring and soldering job. The neck is one-piece Mahogany with a tilt-back headstock, and has a medium oval profile with a 12" radius Rosewood fretboard. This means it is chunky, but comfortable. The nut is 1-11/16“ (42.86 mm) wide graphite, which is a tiny bit wider than my Gibson Les Paul Custom. The headstock features Wilkinson EZ-Lock tuners.

Construction was nearly flawless with the exception of some small indentations and file marks on the edge of the fretboard in several places. Also, the pickup selector on the guitar I received had significant up and down play in the center position. Although it didn't affect the tone, it was a distraction. I contacted Joe Naylor and he confirmed that there should not be any play in the switch and that it should only move left to right, not up and down. This is not a construction flaw, but a faulty switch — something that occasionally happens to any brand of guitar.

Tone

In addition to the woods used, a big part of a guitar’s tone comes from its electronics. Reverend guitars all feature proprietary pickups designed by Joe Naylor. Each pickup is wound specifically for its position on the guitar. The bridge pickup is a little hotter than the neck. The Roundhouse also uses a unique control configuration with a single Volume knob, single Tone knob, and a very cool Bass Contour knob that allows you to roll off the bass frequencies and get a more “single coil” sound. These electronics are higher quality than those usually found on budget imports and they make a real difference in the ability to tweak the sound of the guitar.

I tested the Roundhouse through three amps: a Mesa/Boogie Mark II (class AB - 6L6 tubes), a Traynor Custom Valve 20 (class A - EL84 tubes), and Fender Jazzmaster Ultralight (solid state.) Naturally the Roundhouse sounded a bit different through each one, which really showed off the value of the Roundhouse’s unique tone controls.

Overall, the pickups were well balanced, although I felt they lacked a little “presence.” However, I found that boosting the treble a little on my amps really brought the pickups to life.

On clean amp settings (all three amps) the bridge pickup sounded a bit “nasal-y” to my ears, but using the Bass Contour to cut some bass provided a much more pleasing tone. Through the Boogie lead channel, the Bridge pickup tone was a bit “woofy” or “bassy.” Rolling off a little bass using Bass Contour knob made the tone less muddy and bought out nice detail. Through the Traynor overdrive channel, I got great tone from all three pickup settings with no tweaking. The Roundhouse also sounded great through the Distortion channel on the Fender Jazzmaster Ultralight, and using the neck pickup it was easy to dial in some warm, jazz-worthy tones through the Jazzmaster’s clean channel.

I really like the Bass Contour control, which has a very useful effect on the tone of the guitar. Much more than the usual cutting of the highs you get with a standard tone knob. The Bass Contour actually allowed me to tweak the tone of the guitar to suit whichever amplifier I was using. Which is very cool.

Playability

The Roundhouse balances nicely on a strap and its medium weight makes it nicer for long sets than a typical Les Paul. The neck action was great right out of the box with no dead spots or fret buzzes. It shipped with .10 strings, which are my preference. The volume and tone controls are all within easy reach, but I would have preferred the pickup selector to be a little closer. Overall, the Roundhouse is a sweet playing guitar.

Final Thoughts

The Roundhouse styling is a nice mix of funky and traditional. It is an easy playing guitar with great tone controls, especially the Bass Contour, which allows you to tweak the Roundhouse tone to work with your other gear. And when you factor in the reasonable price, the Roundhouse is a great value for anyone looking to add a Les Paul style guitar to their collection.

Reader Comments

Better Guitar encourages your input. Agree with this review? Think I’m crazy? If you have played a Reverend Roundhouse HB-FM, email me your comments and I’ll post them below. The more opinions we have available, the better our buying decisions will be.

stats

  • Better Guitar Great Gear Award
  • • Body: Solid mahogany. Black back and sides with cream binding
  • • Pickups: Two Reverend humbuckers, output/tone calibrated for each position
  • • Neck: Glued-on, one-piece mahogany, tilt-back headstock
  • • Truss Rod: Dual-action, access at headstock
  • • Fingerboard: Rosewood, 12“ radius
  • • Scale: 24-3/4"
  • • Frets: 22 medium jumbo
  • • Neck Profile: Medium oval
  • • Nut: 1-11/16" (42.86 mm) width, graphite
  • • Tuners: Wilkinson EZ-Lock tuners
  • • Bridge: TOM w/ stop tail
  • • Controls: Custom volume & tone, Bass Contour, 3-way
  • • Strings: 10-46
  • • Tremolo: (OPTIONAL) Les Trem tremolo with precision roller bridge
  • Positives
  • Funky looks; easy playing neck; versitile tone controls; good value.
  • Negatives
  • File marks on fretboard; loose pickup switch.
  • Rating
  • Performance: 10
  • Sound Quality: 9
  • Construction: 8
  • Overall: 9
  • Ratings Key
  • 0 = Worthless
  • 10 = Excellent
  • Estimated Street Price
  • Discontinued

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