as you might assume. Of course, the price
of any instrument is almost never just the
sum total of its parts. Perri brings his many
years of experience of accidentally destroying
countless guitars he attempted to mod or
build—and this experience counts for a lot.
Recently, a friend of mine spent about $950
in parts to put together a Strat-type guitar,
only to have it turn out to be a dud.
Rocking In Black
While Nick Perri’s personal style is arguably
about as rock as you can get, the Protostar
Custom’s sleek, rock-star looks are not quite
as over-the-top as you might expect. The
plain black, swamp-ash top and body perfectly contrasts the understated elements of
flash, like the pearloid body-binding and
the clean boost indicator’s blue light. The
bright, maple neck has a scale length of 25
1/2", and the maple fretboard is inlaid with
black stars, inducing flashbacks of Richie
Sambora’s star-inlaid Kramer.
The controls consist of a master volume,
kill switch, clean boost with an LED indi-
cator, and a 3-way pickup switch with the
middle position wired for an
out-of-phase sound. My test guitar
also came equipped with a Floyd Upgrades
tremolo, an EVH D-Tuna, and Sperzel tun-
ers (a classic Strat-type bridge is also offered
as an option). Right off the bat, I knew it
was going to be a scorcher, and it reminded
me of some of my older Charvels.
Piloting the Protostar
The Protostar comes set up by Perri himself
and he did a great job—the guitar arrived
with relatively low action and was really
comfortable to play across the length of the
fretboard. Barre chords were easy to hold and
there were no issues of fretting out on bends.
The guitar’s relatively flat 12" radius and
medium jumbo 6130 frets also made speedy
runs a breeze to play. Generally, I prefer dark-sounding guitars, and although the Protostar
Custom is fairly bright and has no tone control, it’s got a good balance of liveliness and
warmth. It’s definitely not shrill or brittle.
The Seymour Duncan pickups—a SH- 1
’ 59 in the neck and a TB- 14 Custom 5
Trembucker in the bridge—are an excellent
fit for this guitar. Playing through a 60-watt
Fender Super-Sonic 1x12 combo, I easily got
Van Halen-type rhythm tones that were really
thick and crunchy, yet enabled articulation of
triads without a hint of muddiness. With a
clean-amp sound, I accessed a rich, full tone
that was excellent for strummed or arpeggiated open chords, jangle rhythms, and even
fusion-esque playing of single notes.
In lead situations, the guitar had excellent sustain and made pinch harmonics
easy. Tone-wise, it’s a bit more Steve Vai
than Eric Johnson in lead settings, which
inspired me to really abuse the whammy
bar. The bridge pickup sounded very
organic, responsive, and detailed during
quick runs, while the neck pickup had a
round, vocal quality that I liked for bluesier styles and bends. I also enjoyed
the out-of-phase sounds while in
the middle pickup
position, and it was fun going
from that setting to the bridge pickup in
the middle of a searing solo.
Needless to say, Perri’s performance
history lends a lot of practical perspective
on what makes a good, professional, rock
guitar. One unique feature on the Protostar
Custom that came from his stage experience is the built-in clean boost, which I was
unaware of when the guitar first arrived.
Thinking it was a coil-tapping switch, I
activated it by accident and was blown away.
The guitar smoked! Using the clean boost
became part of my playing routine and
anytime I wanted to kick a solo into higher
gear, I turned it on. It’s a self-contained
effect that does require a battery— which
is conveniently located on the back—and
there’s a 0-20 dB trim pot in the electronic
compartment if you need to make adjustments. When the clean boost is disengaged,
the guitar runs true bypass.
The Protostar Custom is a great-playing
guitar. And many of the design elements
REVIEW > PERRI INK GUITARS
really do reflect a thoughtful, player-first
approach. If you’re a heavy-rock or metal
player, this is a fine guitar by any measure.
If I had any hesitation about the
Protostar, it’s based on the fact that I always
consider whether or not an expensive guitar will also be an investment that retains
its resale value. And this is one area that
gets a little iffy for the Protostar Custom,
which is built around sourced components.
Considering that builders like Suhr and
Tom Anderson sell guitars in a similar
price-range while offering a range of customization options, it may not be an easy
battle for Perri Ink to get a foothold in the
market. But if your need is a player’s guitar,
and if Perri’s vision of the perfect rock guitar is in-line with yours, it’s definitely worth
a look and listen.
you want a hot-rod guitar
that plays like a dream.
you want customization options and
handcrafting when you’re shelling
out this kind of bread on a guitar.
Perri Ink Guitars
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