Weighing 7.5 pounds (3.4 kg), the Backlund 200 guitar has a mahogany body with a polyurethane finish (it comes in blue, black or red, whereas the model I’m reviewing is blue).
With a Telecaster style body, there are obvious design elements of Art Deco and Streamline Moderne, making it look very Americana (and particularly from the 1950s, albeit with some modern aspects and tone). Its looks reminds me of the old 1950s diners found across middle-America, which is a good thing, since I like nostalgia. It has a solid maple 24.75-inch scale maple bolt-on neck (and maple fingerboard) with a soft-C shape. The fingerboard radius is 14-inches (350mm), with 23½ medium jumbo nickel frets, shark teeth position markers and a 1-5/8” carbon nut. The pickguard (which covers much of the front of the guitar in two sections) is plastic, but has a brushed metal-looking finish. The bridge is a Tune-O-Matic (with flat edges for better comfort while palm-muting) with a through-body tail. There is a slight neck heel bevel (upper frets are easy to access) and an ample belly contour and arm rest.
Both pickups are medium output passive custom wound, with a humbucker in the bridge position and a blade at the neck. The electronics (volume and tone) are quiet, whereas the 5-blade switch has some modest clicking when changing pickup selections, but a very typical level of ‘noise’ (nothing of consideration). The jack cover appears to be a countersunk Telecaster style. There is a Volume and Tone control, as well as a 5-blade switch for a host of very usable sound options (bridge humbucker, bridge tapped, bridge + neck tapped, neck tapped and neck). The machine heads are Wilkinson tuners and the hardware is chrome. The Buckland 200 does not come with a gig-bag or case (an option for an additional fee), nor was there a truss-rod tool (that may have been overlooked in shipping as Mike Robinson over at Eastwood rush-shipped the same day as ordered and then was received the next day – all the way from Memphis TN to Northern Ontario!).
The pickups are very clear and cutting, including the neck pickup. They are not shrill or thin, but simply sizzling and clear. There are five variations in pickup selection and there seems to be a very nice transition from one to the next. In other words, when switching from a bridge to a bridge tapped you can hear the difference, but it’s not extreme (thus making it very practical when you want a slightly different tone from one pickup selection to the next). The same is true when selecting a bridge + neck tapped, neck tapped or neck. I’m uncertain who makes the pickups, but Eastwood indicates they are custom wound. The Volume control does not roll off suddenly, but produces a very gradual reduction until backing off to about 90% (where it drops much faster). The Tone control has a good range, and due to the crisp clarity it comes in handy (to back off the treble) when playing some higher-gain distortions.
This guitar has a very nice setup with no adjustments required. Pickups were adjusted at a good height with no concerns in that regard and all routing for pickups was done with precision. The neck blade pickup had a slight slant to it, so that the bass (heavier strings) did not over-power notes in the higher registry. There were no flaws in the paint, the neck is incredibly smooth (satin finish), and the frets very well dressed (a slight bevel or roundness to their edges). The neck heel has a smooth carve, as do the armrest and belly contour. The carbon nut has a proper cut/finish, and the tuning pegs have a solid feel. You can see the wood grain under the yellow paint (which is translucent, as opposed to solid like the blue pantone color on the body) and there does not appear to be any bleeding or sloppy work in that area.
Reliability & Durability
A professional-level instrument, the Backlund 200 plays as well and sounds as good as any guitar in its price-range, and when compared to other guitars in my collection. The Wilkinson tuners (a trusted name in the industry) have a very solid feel, the knobs are steel, the strap buttons well-secured and of a good size and contour/shape, and the pots are quiet and feel of good quality when turned. All elements are up to standard for a quality instrument, and with a Tune-O-Matic through-body design not much can go wrong. The frets are nickel, which means faster wear than stainless steel, but that would require several years of regular play.
The Backlund 200 may be ideal for softer styles of music (jazz, blues, country), but it handles rock and higher-gain rather well – and with a pleasant ‘edge’ to the tones (although most hard-rock or metal players may not be keen on its design). The pickups absolutely cut through the mix and are clear and sizzling without being overly bright and definitely not brittle. At a price of $1249 USD it is of typical value (neither overly expensive nor a bargain), but in large part you are buying a Backlund design, which is one of the elements that drew me to this guitar – I love the looks, although it’s not for everyone. It certainly plays as well as any guitar I own, it has a great finish and fret-work, and it sounds good with just about any gear I put it through. For its price range I would like to see locking tuners and stainless steel frets, but overall I’m enjoying playing it very much.