You may know I frequent the metroamp.com forum – or more accurately the Edward Van Halen subforum of that forum, simply because that’s hands down the best forum for all things gear related to EVH.
Couple months ago one of the regulars there said he was putting together some guitars for sale based on a few things that got my attention. They were, in no particular order:
> A good wood combo: swamp ash, maple/rosewood
> An interesting and unique combo of components that basically resulted in a Strat-shaped and -scaled guitar with an ABR bridge and stop tailpiece with a classic rock pickup (DiMarzio Super Distortion) and old-school brass nut
> A different type of tone control, in part based on experiments around the question of why EVH had other pots and pickups hooked up in his Frankie guitar, back in the day
> A good price point
Gotta say that much as I love guitars, I’m seldom intrigued by new axes. Usually they’re either too expensive, oddly shaped somewhere that doesn’t agree with me, don’t have anything different enough than I already have or, in the case of the big companies, are too random when it comes to tone and build quality.
But like I said, this one intrigued me because it was none of the above: not too expensive, a classic shape, different, and tested by a guy with ears for tone. I hit up Kevin Holbrook – the man behind these axes – asked him if I could test drive one, and got an affirmative. Days later a big box showed up. Don’t you just love when that happens….
The brief version is I loved the guitar, and missed it when I had to send it back. Yep, wanted to buy it, did not have the funds, bummer – but the guy Kevin had me send it to did buy it and apparently loves it.
Why I loved it, again no particular order:
1. Sounded great. I like testing gear with a drummer because a guitar has to be heard above and through (not below) the snare, kick and cymbals, and this guitar cut through well, as I thought it would with the swamp ash body/maple neck combo. Should also mention it was not at all harsh, even with the brass nut. Props to Kevin for coming up with this combo of components.
2. Super easy to play. The combo of the Strat shape and I think the ABR/stoptail with that scale length made playing, moving around on the guitar and bending strings an absolute breeze. Felt like cheating. Plus it was light. Had forgotten what a boat anchor my #1 guitar is, a 1980 Les Paul.
3. Wow did I realize that I missed playing Super Distortions. Been on the lower-output pickup bandwagon for a long time now, but fact is the DSD lets you do things you can’t with lower-output pickups, and it sounds good. Not sure how much of that sounding good has to do with the guitar’s unique electronics, but I’m sure it’s a big part.
I miss the guitar. I really do. It’s well-made with great attention to detail, which is why I don’t have to go over all the basics (fret dressing, etc.) like all the guitar magazines have to these days. And – most importantly – it’s put together by a guy who is into woody tone, and isn’t nutty expensive at $1,395 plus shipping.
Note that the Model-A, like just about any quality guitar, isn’t a one-trick pony. In other words, it’s not only EVH, and in fact isn’t designed for that. It can get a wide variety of tones, which you should be able to hear in the vid below even with my “no practice” playing (sorry Kevin!) and through the tone urethra that is YouTube.
> Coming next week: Q&A with Kevin about the guitar.