Ernie Ball Music Man does it again, with one of the prettiest guitars I’ve ever held.
Cost: $3,199.00 USD, find out all you need to know here!
Overview & Final Score: 9.4/10
When it comes to 2020 guitar perfection, the all new Sabre from Ernie Ball Music Man might take the cake. This “Bougie Burst” model features an Okoume body, thick maple top (with plenty of figuring), and a stunning Roasted Maple neck with Rosewood fretboard. Custom Music Man Humbuckers can be controlled by a 5-way switch, yes you read that right.
This helpful graphic from their website explains all five positions, giving you incredibly versatility. Standard HH settings included the neck by itself, bridge by itself, and both in parallel. Then, you get two in-between settings that pair the outer and inner coils of each pickup together in parallel. All these positions are controlled by standard volume and tone knobs.
22 frets high profile, medium width frets sit between Schaller M6-IND locking tuners and Ernie Ball’s Modern tremolo system with a beautiful crescent cover. The 25.5″ scale length neck has a 10″ radius and black dot inlays. Wrap it all up in binding and you have one beautiful looking guitar.
The Sabre is crazy versatile, as the 5-way selector switch should obviously indicate. But what made it so much fun was that those inner and outer coil pairings sound way more like a single coil Strat pickup than I expected. They were articulate, just a bit quieter than the humbucker tones, and had a really percussive sound that made them super responsive to picking and strumming for rhythm parts. When I picked the Sabre up out of the case, the last thing I thought I’d be playing on it was John Mayer and John Frusciante licks. But these “inbetween” settings really had me convinced I had a Fender in my hands.
But then you flip to the neck or bridge humbucker and you instantly know it’s a Music Man guitar. I mean, the Sabre is certainly not cheap, but those custom humbuckers are crystal clear, even with a Pro Co Rat on top of them. Each note in the chords rang out, and it even felt like it had some chime to it when you rolled the gain off just a bit. Having played this right after I played my Tele I was also struck at how much these pickups drove my Vox AC15 into overdrive. With the same settings I just played the Tele on, you would have thought I clicked a tube screamer on. I personally like the stripped down controls with just one volume and tone knob, as I don’t mess with them much. I think it’s also far easier to flip around the 5-way switch mid song to change tones than mess with knobs, and this guitar encapsulates that idea perfectly.
It’s really just a straight up awesome sounding guitar, it’s punchy, loud, and vibrant. This will be an end of the year highlight for sure.
Sooooo close to perfection. The only thing keeping this Sabre away from a 10 is that I personally felt the locking tuners didn’t do such a great job locking. I mean, that’s a really picky criticism, but it still makes it hard to give it a 10/10. The guitar was never egregiously out of tune, but even after just a few hours back in its case I found each string had slipped just a bit out of whack.
Otherwise, the Sabre really justifies that major price tag. The neck is super slim and fast, with the gunstock oil and wax mix on the back of the neck feeling amazing. I also really love the patented Music Man headstock design, the 4 and 2 on a side design really improves tuning stability and the feel of the strings in my opinion. It helps keep the strings attack angle through the nut completely straight, as opposed to classic Fender or Gibson designs. The neck, fretwork, and feel is just impeccable. The tuning stability is still far above average even if I dinged a point off for the (kinda) locking tuners.
Finish & Construction: 10
The thing that caught my eyes when I first opened the box was definitely the look of the Sabre. I’ve always been so captivated by the look of roasted Maple necks, and it just looked so good underneath the Rosewood fretboard (another feature I love). Music Man’s have always had a distinct look to them that feels both familiar and modern, and I think the Sabre really displays that sentiment. The Strat-like body feels heavy but still extremely comfortable and the binding and flamed Maple top certainly don’t hurt either.
The construction was similarly impressive with everything perfectly installed as far as I could see. That’s definitely to be expected with a guitar of this quality and the California production plant for EBMM should be plenty proud. It’s harder to go on about amazing build quality when discussing a $3000 guitar than it is when discussing a $300 guitar, because any customer would be pissed if it didn’t meet these standards. That being said, you should have zero concerns about the product you’re getting when you buy a Sabre.
Man, the Sabre is another guitar I went back and forth on when it came to the price tag. I’m notoriously biased towards more affordable guitars because I think there are so many amazing guitars out there for under $500. So how could I say you get an amazing value with these $2000-$4000 guitars I’ve started to review? The thing is, the Sabre offers up a lot of things that just aren’t completely commonplace. These pickups are so freakin versatile and fun. You’re not gonna find any old HH Strat-style guitar that feels, looks, and sound like the Sabre. For that reason, I still think that’s a real excess of value here, especially if you play multiple styles from shred to blues to pop. The Sabre can really do it all and should be a working man or woman’s go-to instrument for many decades.
Good for: Versatile Players, Gigging Musicians, Shredders, Studio Musicians
The review format is changing a little bit! I’ll now be featuring “shots” on Ultimate-Guitar.com where I go over my favorite features and quickly demo all these awesome guitars I’ll be reviewing. One should be up the same day (or close) that this article goes live! For an example of the “shots” I’ll be doing, check out this one I did for the Fender Lead III I reviewed!