Baker RF vs. Anderson Cobra vs. Johnny A

Discussion in 'The Small Company Luthiers' started by KLB, Aug 10, 2004.


  1. KLB

    KLB Member

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    I was about to order a Baker RF when Baker folded. I've never had the opportunity to play one, but I gather this guitar is quite good. Robben sounds awesome on his, and our own ScottL makes his sing. Bummer this guitar is not made anymore, and I'm not excited about shelling out $5K for a used one.

    Meanwhile, the Anderson Cobra I played recently was a mighty fine guit-fiddle.

    Here's what I'd like to know. For those who've played both the Baker RF and the Cobra: Are they close in tone and overall vibe?

    Also, I'd like to hear about the variations in the Cobra -- Hollow vs. Solid, "T" style vs. "S" style, pickups, solid Rosewood neck vs. Mahogany w/ Rosewood board, etc. The latest "Deluxe" model with three mini humbuckers looks particularly impressive.

    The upside is that I can special order a new Cobra in the color, neck, body and pickup style I want for less than $3k. Used ones appear regularly for under $2K, sometimes as little as $1500.

    At this point, the Baker RF is made of unobtainium, and who knows if Gene Baker will ever make them again.

    To complicate this even more, the new Johnny A signature guitar looks and sounds amazing (in Johnny's hands, at least!) Unfortunately, Atlanta Guitar Centers don't stock it, so I haven't had the chance to play one. (They also don't stock the CS-336 or CS-356 either...) I sure do like the tones Johnny A gets on the new record, "Get Inside."

    I realize the Johnny A guitar has a longer scale length than the Cobra and Baker RF. Perhaps due to this, the guitar's clarity and rich tone, especially on the neck pickup and lower strings, is a real ear-catcher. It is a sexy looking guitar, too!

    What'cha think?

    - Ken
     
  2. Tom Gross

    Tom Gross Supporting Member

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    I play a hollow Cobra with H0 humbuckers as my main axe, and I love it. It is in the same ballpark as the RF, and the split coil sounds are wonderful.
    On the other hand, hearing Scottl in person with his spruce topped Baker RF, I had a moment there where I thought - "that's about as good as tone's gotta get". The combination of guitar, amp and hands was just perfect.

    The only other guitar besides what I have I'd consider is the RF, but I ain't spending that dough right now.
     
  3. JoeB63

    JoeB63 Supporting Member

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    I currently have a Baker RF, an Anderson Cobra and a Hollow Cobra S. I've never played the Johnny A, so I can't offer an opinion there.

    Before I comment on my guitars, I'll suggest you call Steve Mesple at Wildwood Guitars. I bought the RF from his store (back when Baker was still making them) and he sells lots of Andersons, and he has several Johnny A's in stock. He also loves to talk - especially about his guitars. Good guy (but don't forget, he is a salesman).

    (Note: All my observations below relate to playing through my Two Rock Custom Reverb).

    Of my 2 Andersons and the RF, I most like the Hollow Cobra S. It mixes some of the open tone of the RF with some of the more mid-thick tones of the solid Cobra. Hard to explain really. The solid Cobra is most similar (in tone) to a Les Paul - though I would say it is more articulate. It's the best guitar of the 3 for rock.

    The Baker does the best Robben tones (obviously), but the Hollow Cobra S can get very, very close to RF tones, and actually, I kind of like its variation on that tone more than the RF most of the time. There's just a bit more "crunch," or perhaps that's mid-thickness. I would even say that the Hollow Cobra is better than the RF for Robben's more rock stuff, like Politician, and the Baker is better for his more smooth stuff, like Life Song.

    I haven't heard the Anderson mini-buckers, so I can't comment on those either.

    I have tried a Holow Cobra with a rosewood neck, and I prefer the mahagony neck. Side note: I once had a guitar with a solid rosewood neck, and I had the builder swap it out for a mahagony neck (due to weight and balance issues) and I liked the tone with the mahagony neck better. I also had a Brazilian McCarty that didn't sound that good either. I wouldn't recommend a solid rosewood neck based on my experience -looks cool, but doesn't sound as good, and it costs more.

    Bottom line, if you want to rock, LP-style, get a solid Cobra. If you want to do RF, get the Hollow Cobra. If you've got big bucks and want to do RF, get the Baker - but don't count on it going up in value -- you never know what Gene and Robben are going to do next.

    One final note: If you're looking to get RF tones, note that the amp is more important than the guitar. I can get very close to his tone with just about any guitar in my arsenal that's got a HB in the bridge.
     
  4. stark

    stark Supporting Member

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    I've played the Johnny A. and I really like it. It's totally hollow so it is more of a Jazz guitar sound than a blues or rock sound. 25.5 scale really makes the guitar. Great for clean or light crunch tones.

    Adam Stark
     
  5. vladorg

    vladorg Supporting Member

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    For what it's worth I've played both ScottL's Bakers-the RF and the B1-and I own a BJC with Seth Lovers.All the aforementioned guitars are incredible though a little sonically different.ScottL's guitars have ebony fingerboards and the RF has a spruce top,mine has a rosewood fingerboard and a chambered mahogany body with a maple cap.IMHO any humbucker Baker will probably get you close to the Robben tone especially with a careful pickup selection.Of course,if you want the real deal and be as authentic as possible the Baker RF is the way to go.

    Vlad

    PS Perhaps Scott himself will chime in.
     
  6. scottl

    scottl Member

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    Chime...

    haha

    I do wish my RF had the mahogany body and not the alder. It is a tad lacking in low end girth. I don't miss the lows in a live band situation though. More noticeable when playing alone.

    Scott
     
  7. KLB

    KLB Member

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    Didn't the latter RF models have mahogany bodies and necks?

    What about the Gibson CS-356? It's the same scale length as the RF, with a mahogany body and neck, maple top, and ebony fingerboard. I recall Robben has been seen playing a CS-336 live.

    Who knows what signature model might be in the works.
    If Gibson can be successful with Johnny A, why not Robben?

    From the discussion so far, it seems there are many options beside the Baker RF to get the "Robben Tone", that is, if you have a good amp -- and have the touch.

    Of course, there is the venerable ES-335. It's been almost 25 years, and I've heard it well over a hundred times, but I still get a buzz listening to "The Inside Story."

    For that matter, I sometimes prefer Robben's Tele tones above all.
    "Chevrolet" just wouldn't sound right on any other guitar.

    Now I'm all confused.

    Guess I better go rob the piggy bank, be the Russian buyer, and get the "One-of-vich" model.

    :D
     
  8. TNJ

    TNJ Gold Supporting Member

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    Yes,
    I think one of Gene's (and Robben's) fave versions of the RF was the Mahogany body/Spruce top...'59 neck and Duncan Pearly Gates bridge pup with toggle coil splitter. Be great to go back in time, and buy a handful of these great guitars. Who knew?

    S.
    j
     
  9. Guitarded

    Guitarded Member

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    FWIW:

    Gene made three or four RF's with Mahogany Backs and Spruce or Maple Caps. #200 is the second prototype for the series and it is made of Mahogany w/Spruce Cap...Robben's Black Guitar (the one he still tours) is the same construction. There is one Maple Capped RF with a Mahog. Back...and a Flamed Redwood Top over Mahogany makes the last one!

    Robben flipped back and forth between Mahogany and Alder...finally sttling on the Mahogany.

    Who Knew???

    :rolleyes:
     
  10. shoe

    shoe Member

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    FYI.....I just happend to snatch a brand spanking new Tom Anderson Hollow Cobra S with three mini humbuckers in it (mahogany back and neck, africa rosewood board and a walnut top) and it is a great meld of all the above worlds.....you get the humbucker thing when you want it and you get the single coil (more p90-ish actually) when you want it.....all coupled with the warmth of the mahogany body and neck along with the shorter scale length.

    YUM!
     
  11. KLB

    KLB Member

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    Congratulations!

    What does it weigh?
    Tremolo or fixed bridge?
    Serial number, so we can look it up?

    I hope to play one of these soon because the curiosity is killin' me.

    Thanks for sharing your new guitar.

    Cheers,
    Ken
     
  12. TNJ

    TNJ Gold Supporting Member

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  13. KLB

    KLB Member

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    I wonder if Anderson has been "invited" to the Fender lawyer's big "Cease and Desist" party. Fender has recently been sending such letters to several makers with guitar styles like the Strat and Tele.

    Better get a Cobra S before it's too late!
     
  14. shoe

    shoe Member

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    While I'm not sure on weight, I can safely say it's my lightest guitar. It's lighter than my Suhr Standard with alder body and maple neck (with "light" body option)

    As for the bridge, that was part of the allure.....it's fixed and the sustain on this thing is really incredible. Serial number is 07-03-04A (which means it was born four days after my 30th birthday!) :dude

    This guitar is so dynamic.....I'm just really loving the mini humbuckers (what a great sound) and the overall vibe of this chambered beauty......certainly my first walnut-topped guitar.

    I'm really looking forward to trying this out at Scottl's "*umble fest"
     
  15. KLB

    KLB Member

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    I wish I could be there!

    By the way, the serial number you gave brings up a different guitar, a Hollow T.

    - Ken
     
  16. shoe

    shoe Member

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    :jo Doh.....that would be my wedding date.....the serial number (really is four days after my birthday)

    07-23-04A
     
  17. mtndog

    mtndog Gold Supporting Member

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    I just got a Johnny A - its a fabulous guitar. I will try to give a meaningful review sometime soon, but work has been all consuming this week and will be for a little while longer ( project deadline). All the axes in this thread are bound to be wonderful. What a great time to be a player.
     
  18. shoe

    shoe Member

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    Here's an updated shot of my harem known as the "Evil Den" - take note of the new Tom Anderson Hollow Cobra S with Walnut top dead center......:dude

    [​IMG]
     
  19. Jim Martin

    Jim Martin Member

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    Looking forward to the review, mtndog. I've been really intrigued by the Johnny A, but there's no place around here to try one out. I'm a bit dubious about ordering a Gibson unplayed, since it seems to be the concensus that their quality varies quite a bit...

    Did you get the Bigsby or fixed bridge?
     
  20. mtndog

    mtndog Gold Supporting Member

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    Jim -

    I completely understand your concern with buying a guitar without trying it. Up here in Alaska we are apart from most resources, and my local shop would never stock a Johnny A. I took a chance with a distant dealer who offered a 48 hour return policy, so worst case was I was out the shipping. Fortunately, this is a great ax, and I am very pleased. Perhaps the fact that this is a Custom Shop instrument increased the odds of it being well made with no quality control issues ( certainly no guarantee of that, though).

    I am not a Bigsby fan, so I got the stop tail model. I will try and write up impressions this weekend. Happy to answer questions along the way.
     

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