Tradition S20

Sunday, November 30, 2008| by Will Chen

Last month when I sat down with Rusty Bickford at the Tradition Warehouse, one of the guitars I spent a good deal of time playing was their single-cutaway S20. With a sunburst finish on the ¾” maple capped mahogany body and set neck, the Korean built Tradition S20 definitely tips its hat to the LP. A few minor differences distinguish the axe, the most obvious of which is the neck volume and tone controls which have been moved forward placing the neck volume in closer proximity to the bridge. When I’m given the option with a dedicated volume control for the neck pickup I tend to roll it back when needed to mellow out the neck output and I think I actually prefer the location of the Tradition volume control to the original LP design as it made adjustments very convenient.

The Tradition S20’s maple neck profile tappers from a substantial C to a soft U as you move up the neck. Coupled with the immaculate fretwork along the rosewood fretboard and medium low action, this is an extremely comfortable guitar for both chording and lead work. Bucking tradition, the S20 offers their T-inlays rather than standard block or dot design adding a unique cosmetic element to the otherwise classic looks. Tuning stability was rock solid and the Grover tuners allowed smooth and precise tune-ups. While I was initials impressed running the guitar through a Rivera combo at the Tradition warehouse, I was eager to run it through some of my rigs to see how versatile this guitar truly was.

I auditioned the guitar using a Tech 21 Trademark 60, a First Act VA881, and a Boss GT-10 into multiple full range systems. The pickups on this axe are scorchingly beautiful providing plenty of articulate snap as well as low mid punch with an output hot enough to drive anything other than a pristinely clean amp into sweet overdrive. This baby felt equally at home in pretty much any style I threw at it. Crank up the gain on an amp and you’re rewarded with chunky low mids yet retain a decent amount of sizzle to cut through during solos. With moderate gain and a British voiced amp, you’ll have no issue eliciting Page-esque crunch and grind. Using the bridge pickup and a compressed clean tone with a boosted high end and she’ll provide a pretty good country swing and rockabilly tone. I was even able to get some convincing jazzy tones using the neck pickup with the tone and volume controls rolled slightly back. Absolutely excellent! I’d really like to hotwire this baby to split the humbuckers which would likely turn this already versatile guitar into an absolute chameleon.

Tradition Guitars is building some very fine instruments and the S20 is an excellent example and one of the best LP tributes I’ve played to date. Highly recommended.

Price: ~$420
Pros: Excellent playability and tone
Cons: None

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Filed Under: Tradition, Reviews