Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 134

VG APPROVED GEAR

TALKIN'
TONEWOODS
Ernie Ball's Music Man
Cutlass/Stingray

F

or many builders of solidbody guitars,
the challenge is to improve on a handful of pioneering designs from the 1950s
and '60s. No one knows this better than
Ernie Ball Music Man - in fact, the brand
was co-founded by Leo Fender in 1974. Its
latest Cutlass and StingRay solidbodies are
attempts to improve classic archetypes in
very different ways.
The Cutlass aims to perfect Leo's 1954
Stratocaster without being a straight-up
copy. The tester was an HSS rosewoodfingerboard version (though it's also available in a more-traditional configuration
with three single-coil pickups and a maple
fingerboard). The HSS Cutlass is for guitarists who want more girth and firepower
for solos and power chords. To eliminate
noise, the '60s-voiced single-coils in the
neck and middle positions utilize their active Silent Circuit and buffered output and
require a 9-volt battery in a rear chamber.
Also look for a five-way pickup selector
with 250k Volume and Tone controls.
Other specs include an alder body, maple
neck (25.5" scale, 10" radius), 22 stainlesssteel frets, and Music Man's trademark 2+4
headstock (for a straight string-pull) with
Schaller M6 locking tuners. The bridge is
a Music Man Modern tremolo with bentsteel saddles; it's a dive-only vibrato, but,
because it has locking tuners, you probably
won't be able to make the Cutlass go out
of tune no matter how hard you try.
The neck profile goes from a soft V
(lower frets) to a C carve (upper frets)
and the net result is fast and comfortable.
Plugged into a tube combo and softwaremodeling SIMs, the Cutlass evoked
old-school tones married to modern
performance standards. There was plenty
of single-coil quack, but the 'bucker in the
bridge delivered additional lead cut and
sustain. In fact, a humbucker fitted into
an alder double-cutaway is a unique tone
in its own right.
The StingRay's most dramatic departure
from the Cutlass is its African mahogany

body instead of alder. Combined
with passive humbuckers and 25.5"
scale, this plank seeks the elusive
sweet spot between Gibson and
Fender sensibilities.
Though the StingRay has the
same 2+4 headstock and diving
tremolo bridge as the Cutlass, its
body is an offset shape and its
pickguard configuration is differPrice: $1,599 (Cutlass);
$1,669 (Stingray)
Info: www.music-man.com

VINTAGE GUITAR

134

October 2017

ent - where the Cutlass has a
single sheet of tortoiseshell,
this solidbody has tortoiseshell
over the pickup cavity and a
chrome section under the metal
Volume and Tone knobs. Also, the
three-way pickup toggle is located
in the upper bout - another nod to
Lester rather than Leo.
On the job, the StingRay will give
you many of the fat humbucker tones
players want, from rock and blues
to jazz and country. And that neck
is super-fast. The mahogany yields
hairier tones than the Cutlass, but
as mahogany is a denser material,
expect the StingRay to weigh a few
ounces more.
Both the Cutlass and StingRay
give players modified Leo concepts. Cobble them together with
the company's obsessive attention
to detail and playability, and you
have a pair of superb, professional
solidbodies. Right out of the box,
each is impressive - though from
Ernie Ball Music Man, we expect
no less. - Pete Prown


http://www.music-man.com http://www.vintageguitar.com

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open

Contents
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - Cover
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - IFC
Vintage Guitar - October 2017 - open - 3
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