Shergold Telstar ST14 review – one of the best new budget guitars of 2023
The original Shergold grew out of the UK guitar boom in the 60s and over the course of the next two decades appeared in the hands of such legendary British bands as Genesis and Joy Division. The current Shergold however, dates back to 2017 when the marque was revived by UK distributor Barnes & Mullins with the help of legendary British luthier Patrick Eggle.
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Since then, the brand has launched two models – a revival of the Masquerader design from the late 60s, and the single-cut Provocateur back in 2019. Now we welcome the Telstar, another original design but one that very obviously nods to its pool of influences with its roughly Telecaster shape, Firebird-style raised centre section and Gretsch-y ‘Filter-Sonic’ humbuckers.
If you’ve thought ‘Cabronita’ at any point in the last few minutes, well that’s also a pretty obvious source of inspiration here – and why not? The Telstar is also less than half the price of the Masquerader, putting it squarely at the budget end of the market – so instantly I have to ask myself, where have the compromises been made?
Well, the pickups are not Seymour Duncans now, for starters, and the wood choice is a little less exotic – the mahogany body and solid rosewood neck becomes poplar, and maple/laurel here – while nice little touches like the inlaid ‘shield’ on the headstock are swapped for a standard decal. But spec sheets are one thing, it’s how it feels and plays that really matters. Let’s dig in.
Shergold Telstar ST14 blue and gold
Straight out-of-the-box first impressions are very positive. The Telstar gives off a cool late 50s Southern California surf vibe – especially in this fetching pastel blue. Set up is excellent and there is an overall feeling of class beyond what I would expect from an instrument in this price range. The maple neck has a comfortable deep ‘C’ profile and feels very comfortable in the hand thanks to the matt finish applied to the neck, while the extra depth adds to the overall tone and tuning stability.
The flattish laurel fingerboard is dressed with 22 medium jumbo frets giving the fretboard a nicely modern and easy to play feel. The nut is well cut helping open chords to ring in tune and the fret ends are well polished for a smooth playing experience. Access to the higher frets is also very good due to a well thought out heel joint.
The individual volume and single tone controls are quiet and have a nice taper lending , while the non-branded chrome tuners do a good job of keeping things stable, and are both smooth and responsive. The slimline poplar body feels pleasingly light on the strap, though I do notice a little neck heaviness when played sitting down.
Shergold Telstar ST14 in use
Starting off clean the ‘Filter- Sonic’ pickups produce a bright but well-rounded tone, with excellent balance across the strings and no discernible change in volume when switching between pickup settings. Using the bridge pickup and a clean tone I can coax a very satisfying jangle when strumming open chords with a pick, while the neck pickup mellows out the sound without losing any clarity, and if you want to add just a touch of top-end to proceedings, the centre position is very charming.
As you’d expect for a guitar loaded with Filter’Tron-alike pickups, it does rockabilly and surf with aplomb, and much more besides. Add some gain and the clean sparkle becomes a blues-rock growl, and it never loses its punch as you push it further.
The through-body stringing gives the guitar decent sustain despite its light weight and relatively slight dimensions, while the layout of the guitar feels sensible and intuitive – no doubt because it straddles the familiar and the different with aplomb.
Shergold Telstar ST14 headstock
It would be easy to dismiss this guitar as a Cabronita rip-off, but given that Fender are bafflingly refusing to produce a bona fide version of their most beloved modern Telecaster iteration with Filter-Tron pickups right now, why shouldn’t someone else have a go?
Even forgetting all that, there is an awful lot to like about the Shergold Telstar. The retro look with modern features is a winning formula, and the production quality is superb. Excellent playability, simplified controls and a range of highly usable sounds lend the Telstar an air of class and a real workhorse vibe. Best sub-£400 guitar available right now? Could be.
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Squier Classic Vibe 70s Telecaster Thinline Maple $499.99/£379
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Gretsch G2210 Streamliner Jr Jet Club $349.99
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