Featuring a carved flame maple veneer top and basswood back and sides with a flawless sunburst finish and clear pickguard, the Jay Turser Cleopatra sports an uber retro sexy look slightly reminiscent of the Fender Starcaster design from the late 70’s.
Examining the guitar, construction looks good with no binding or glue bleed and everything feels solid. The nut hangs over the headstock end of the fretboard by a fraction of an inch and there is a tiny ding right in the center of the fretboard where it joins the body. However, neither blemish seemed to affect playability or tone. While the Cleopatra balanced well on the shoulder it was a little heavier than I expected for a semi-hollow at approximately 9 pounds.
Setup out of the box was very nice and tuning stability was good. Fret ends were dressed nicely along the 24 ¾” scale neck, perhaps a result of the lovely fretboard binding. However, the frets could have been polished a little better as there was some subtle roughness in several places on the board. The inviting medium profiled neck was a pleasure to caress and I must admit I was already feeling a more than a little attached to this guitar. Time to see if this beauty sounds as good as she looks…
When I first plugged in, I was a little shocked at the output of the pickups which were much hotter and modern sounding than expected. The pickups are definitely hot enough to overdrive the front end of an amp making the guitar deceptively good for hard rock tones. However, I was hoping for something with a little more jangle and snap to match the guitars looks. Fortunately, lowering the pickups significantly opened up the tones eliciting a nice woody bite to the bridge pickup which I found particularly inspiring in a rockabilly kind of way while the neck yielded smoky 335-esque tones. The dual volume and tone controls feature vontage styled knobs furthering the guitars retro appeal and are effective across the potentiometers entire throw. Dialing back the volume and tone slightly on the neck pickup resulted in a super smooth and warm jazz tone perfect for Wes Montgomery styled octave melodies. Both pickups together yielded a Grant Green styled funky tone with a subtle midrange snarl and rounded high end.
While there were a few minor issues with our review model, overall the Jay Turser Cleopatra was a pleasure to play. Those searching for more traditional semi-hollow tones will likely choose to lower or change out the pickups. Jay Turser additionally offers a Cleopatra featuring a Bigsby style tremolo. However, the once plentiful model seems to currently be limited in availability so keep your eyes sharp and that finger on the trigger as you’ll likely have to snipe your way to this beauty!
Price: $300 +
Pros: Hard rocking axe disguised as a retro jazzer
Cons: Several small blemishes