Tim Armstrong is in the unusual position of having signature guitars currently in both the Gretsch and Fender catalogues. Gretsch markets the big G5191 hollow-body in both left and right-handed versions (Armstrong is left-handed) and Fender features the Hellcat range of acoustics and electros, in six and 12-string versions.
Best known for being the guitarist/vocalist in punk rock band Rancid and hip hop/punk rock supergroup the Transplants, Tim Armstrong is also a renowned songwriter and producer who founded his own label, Hellcat Records in 1997. In 2012, through his website, Armstrong started releasing stripped-down cover songs of his own work under the name Tim Timebomb. Armstrong is also a Grammy Award for his work with Jimmy Cliff and Pink and he has also worked with Gwen Stefani from No Doubt and Joe Walsh from the Eagles.
The Tim Armstrong Hellcat-12 12-string electro acoustic is a follow up to his extremely successful 6-string, which has been in the Fender catalogue since 2010. It features a solid mahogany top with laminated mahogany back and sides with a natural satin finish in Fender’s ‘Concert’ body shape, scalloped X bracing and multiple body binding. The bound maple neck is also satin finished and is topped with a 12” radius rosewood fingerboard with ‘Hellcat’ and skull inlays. For accurate first position chording, Fender has installed a superior Graph Tech NuBone 45mm wide nut and has also fitted the Fishman Isys III System with active pre-amp and chromatic tuner which includes Volume, Bass, Mid and Treble controls. Other notable features include a 4-ply tortoiseshell scratchplate, chrome hardware, open-gear machine heads and a handy strap button on the upper bout. It of course available in right and left-handed versions.
Despite the concert-size body, the Hellcat-12 is a bit of a handful due to the width of the fingerboard, which will take some getting used to for most players switching straight over from a 6-string guitar. However, this is mitigated by a nice low action and accurate intonation. In fact the extra finger space is welcome after a while, making tricky chords and arpeggios just that bit easier under the fingers. Although not the loudest 12-string ever acoustically, the Hellcat has a really pleasing tone, with bass and trebles well-balanced. Like a lot of 12-strings with low actions though, it will not stand too much of a thrashing and a more refined touch yields better results. Plugged up to a suitable acoustic amp is really where the Hellcat-12 show its merits, the quality Fishman system bringing the guitar to life in the best way.
Whether you’re a fan of the artist or not, the Hellcat-12 is a good looking, good sounding and distinctive guitar which will work straight out of the box in a variety of situations. Recommended.