Koa, Bubinga and Ebony are what your average builder might call exotic tonewoods. How about Java Teak, African Walnut or wood rescued from an abandoned shipwreck? That’s more Sjuman Instruments’ style. The boutique guitar, bass and piano builder has two goals; to make an instrument you can’t get elsewhere and to be genuinely excited about each build.
After a 10,000 mile trip from Indonesia where Sjuman (pronounced shoeMAN) Instruments is located, an SQJ arrived at my door. The SQJ is from Sjuman’s 2nd Generation, or Semi-Pro, Series. I hope it was fun to build, because I haven’t seen anything like it before!
The body is Java Teak wood, the neck is Molucan Black wood and the fretboard is Indonesian Rosewood with 22 stainless steel frets. The pickups are Eargasms by Ganee and the bridge with brass saddles is custom made by Aldridge Empire. Everything is wired up with Alpha pots and a .47uf paper oil capacitor. While finishing touches may vary, this one came with a mixture of black and aged brass hardware.
Despite its looks and my flashy adjectives, the SQJ feels like a broken-in guitar. The body and neck are protected by a thin satin finish. The neck profile is comparable to a Fender Stratocaster. Weighing in right around 8 pounds on my scale the SQJ balances well.
After a quick tune up the SQJ was playable right out of its hardshell case. While I prefer 10 gauge strings, the 9s that were on it felt right, so I didn’t bother to change them. The only adjustment I made was to lower the neck pickup so I could play harder. While the construction is more like a Telecaster, unplugged, the SQJ has the sort of loud and deep sustain a Les Paul has.
Clip One: Starting on the neck pickup, here’s how the SQJ sounds clean through a Fender Blues Junior amp with just a little bit of reverb. With the 3-way toggle switch in the middle, it combines both the bridge and the neck pickup. This gave a Fender Precision Bass level of punch, so I set the pick down and played fingerstyle. Finishing up on the bridge pickup, I grabbed the pick again and added more reverb to play through some barred 7th chords.
Clip Two: Here’s the SQJ through my Jet City 20 watt amp for some overdriven sounds. I started on the neck pickup. I feel the Ganee neck pickup sits somewhere between a Strat’s neck pickup and a P-90. Flipping both pickups on gave me a nice fat rhythm tone. For the bridge pickup, I stepped on a Boss DD-7 Delay to fill out the difference between some single note picking and open chord strumming.
The Sjuman SQJ is available now for approximately $600-$700.
For more info, head on over to sjumaninstruments.com.