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September 01, 2021 6 min read
Here at Heartbreaker Guitars, we are big fans of innovation, technological progression, and the ability for musicians to be in full control of the unique tone and general sonic quality of their instrument, all embodied by Swiss guitar company, Relish Guitars. In this piece, we would like to spotlight this company whose approach to competent construction fully embodies the ongoing quest for the world’s finest electric guitar tone. As we go through the company’s history, their approach to building, and their perspective on the desires of the guitar community, there is one key word to keep in mind: “innovation”. Throughout the many complexities and nuances of the various Relish models, they all share a provably coherent theme of being a product of forward-thinking, intricate yet classy design and aesthetic, and a more broad expansion of the tonal possibilities that may have otherwise been left untapped. Over the course of the past decade, Relish Guitars, and companies like them, have been changing the means by which we approach tonality, instrument accessibility, and the overall experience of the player. As we go through the many features of these excellent instruments, I encourage you, the reader, to think about how exactly you could implement these unique components and how they may be of extreme aid to you in the everyday scenarios of being a guitarist.
Founded in 2010, Relish Guitars quickly became a company to watch as they steadily began a release of their product line that screamed of research and innovation directed toward the instrument’s mechanical quality, aesthetic, and materials. Their main inspiration behind creating such a unique new design came from a frustration with a perceived lack of transformation and modernization of guitar body styles in the decades before. Additionally, the notion of utilizing alternative materials and a completely distinctive construction of the body would be inspired by a pursuit of more sustain, more clarity, and the ability to produce noteworthy undertones in order to yield a more fully-balanced tonal spectrum. Within the eleven years the Relish team has been active in the market, they have introduced the mainstream guitar community to a plethora of new design elements that seek to, among other things, improve playability, minimize needed gear, offer more options for tonal flexibility, and increase the durability and renewability of the instrument. As I discuss the different models offered by Relish, I will be highlighting the specific appointments of each one. Additionally, I will be recommending applications for these guitars, and pertinent scenarios in which they may be best used. We will begin with the company’s flagship product, the Jane.
The Relish Jane (akin to every other model) exists in two forms—its original form, and its modern form. While different, both are composed of the same main build, and are mostly differentiated by added appointments and enhanced technological function. All models of the Jane are hollowbody, with no soundhole. The top and back are made of a moulded wood veneer, while the bracing and core of the guitar are shaped out of aluminum. The aluminum core, as explained by Relish, is intended to retain more sustain, as well as having a sharper attack, while creating a tone that audibly differs from a solid-body wood guitar. When it comes to the neck, Relish has created something truly revolutionary, as well as useful. They have developed a system of cutting the headstock and neck out of the same piece of bent wood and bolting the neck directly into the aluminum frame. This design, and the utilization of bent wood, renders the maple neck nigh unbreakable. Speaking from personal experience, I have witnessed many people stepping (even jumping) on the neck in order to test its durability, all attempts leaving the neck undamaged and without fractures. For the fingerboard material, the builders have decided on the use of dark strand woven bamboo. As they explain it, bamboo is a widely renewable eco-friendly material, while possessing an extreme resistance to changes in humidity and temperature, making it an undemanding experience for the owner in regards to upkeep.
When it comes to the electronics, the modern Jane comes equipped with an entirely new system for guitarists to design their tone. The signature Relish pickup system is comprised of swappable pickups that are held in place with strong magnets, making it simple to remove a pair of pickups, and to replace them with different ones, all in a matter of seconds. Though they primarily come equipped with the in-house-made Relish Bucker XV’s, they offer a variety of signature pickup models, as well as some from your favourite pickup companies, including Seymour Duncan and Bare Knuckle. To control the operation of the pickups, the Jane is appointed with a seventeen-way touch pickup switch which additionally allows the player to tap and untap the coils at their leisure, leading to further possibilities in development of tone. For the final ingredient, the designers at Relish have installed a Graph Tech GHOSTPiezo pickup with a Stereo Out signal, which can be controlled by its third knob (the other two controlling the volume and tone, respectively). This piezo pickup, in combination with the tone of the aluminum and the hollowbody construction, has the capability to produce lush, full-sounding acoustic tones. From the wide tonal spectrum it captures, to the unique undertones it creates, the Jane can easily be a sonic replacement for the average acoustic. With all of these features, the Jane is a formidable opponent to many mainstream electrics, as well as many mainstream stage acoustics, due to its unique approach to both tones.
Up next, we have the Mary and the Mary One models. Both are designed with a similar aluminum core design to the Jane, but designed for a less-hollowbodied, more traditional electric guitar structure. Additionally, both are made with Relish’s signature “sandwich” style construction. Two high-pressure veneers surround the aluminum core, while the back plate is attached with a set of strong magnets, leaving the inside contents available for manipulation. While the Mary is primarily made with high-pressure veneers, the Mary One comes with a combination of the veneer, as well as appointments of maple on the top.
For electronics, both models are equipped with the same pickup-swapping tech that the Jane comes with, with both featuring a three-way toggle switch (as opposed to the touch pickup system), as well as the same Graph Tech piezo addition. For the piezo on these models, both Marys are given an added control to switch between the magnetic pickups, the piezo pickup, or a hybrid of the two. On the Mary models, the tone control acts as a push-pull coil split, something not featured on the Mary One. Both versions of the Mary have proven themselves to be incredibly diverse in tone, allowing the player to experiment within their chosen genre as well as easing functionality. These Mary models stand right up next to the Jane when it comes to operation.
Of the main core models from Relish, these are the last and most recent. Designed in Switzerland and assembled in Indonesia, the Trinity models are a more simplified electric guitar, while still featuring some of Relish’s unique design elements. With a solid basswood body, a quartersawn Canadian maple neck, and a Laurel fretboard, the Trinity differs in many of the materials that comprise the Mary and the Jane. Its main differentiating feature is the addition of Relish’s signature pickup swapping design. This Trinity was designed to be a more affordable, more conventionally-built electric guitar, while the addition of the swappable pickups is the upper-hand that still allows the player to expand and diversify their tone, even with more limited controls.
When it comes to the application of the added technology that Relish have implemented into their guitars, many are still approaching these models like normal electric guitars. However, they were built with artistic diversity in mind, and empowering the player with the ability to go beyond the limitations of what a guitar can be used for. Speaking from personal experience, my Relish models have served me particularly well in the context of using a loop station. I lay down an initial acoustic guitar line (on the piezo pickup), add a percussive kick/snare imitation, then switch the guitar to the magnetic pickup to add accents, play leads, and allow for more flexibility than if I were to just be looping with an acoustic. Rather than bringing both an acoustic and an electric, you now only need one Relish. The swappable pickups can allow the player to access perfect tones of metal, jazz, and everything in between; all with one guitar. The possibilities are endless, and exploration is key in developing artistry and design in this world. New technology is provided to us, we take that technology and synthesize it with our own artistic tendencies, and we begin to employ the technology in ways that the conceivers and builders could never have imagined. At Heartbreaker Guitars, we largely support and respect any company that seeks to push the boundaries of the norm, as well as creating a system for artists to expand their creativity, and to change the idea of what one musician and one guitar can do.
Check out the Relish Guitars tab on our website to find one for yourself today!
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