As a huge Muse fan, the creation of an affordable signature model for Matt Bellamy has been on my wishlist for years.
Overview & Final Score: 7.4 out of 10
When it comes to 21st century guitar heroes, Muse’s Matt Bellamy is firmly at the top of any list. His operatic vocals, punishing riffs, and penchant for precise solos are amazing, especially in concert with the pure thunderous performance of their bassist Chris Wolstenholme. While I won’t let my Muse fandom influence my review, I have long been looking forward to trying one of these Manson products. The Meta Series MBM-1 is the more affordable option, made overseas by famed guitar makers at the Cort factory. What you get is a light Basswood body with a bolt-on Hard Maple neck and Indian Laurel fingerboard. There’s a compound radius on the soft V neck, which has a satin finish. Two humbucker pickups provide good balance, with the neck having a warmer, vintage tone and the bridge being much hotter and modern sounding. Standard 3-way controls, master volume and tone, and a kill switch (for stutter effects) round out the electronics. All the hardware is chrome finished, including the staggered locking tuners, and the Meta MBM-1 comes in Starlight Silver or Dry Satin Black finish options. With an offset T-style influenced original Manson shape, it is especially nice to see another Signature guitar that isn’t just a complete retread of a Strat or LP.
I’m not going to lie, this guitar sounds good. It isn’t the most versatile beast I’ve reviewed but it does cover quite a bit of ground. The neck is warm, smooth, and does all of that warm blues-y stuff you could want out of a neck humbucker. While it isn’t inherently Gibson-like, I found myself feeling just as comfortable sonically on that setting as I was on the Epiphone Black Beauty neck pickup. It really came to life some ambient tones, with reverb, chorus, and delay all layered on top, and it never got too muddy until I rolled the tone knob down. A sort of jack of all trades, master of none neck pickup scenario that is sure to please. Flipping to the bridge, the guitar comes alive and you can instantly see where the Matt Bellamy/Muse influence is hidden in this guitar. It’s thick, cuts through the mix, and feels huge when you kick on the right gain pedal or turn up your amp. Single note lines pour out of the MBM-1 with ease, never feeling too thin or small. The clarity is really what earns it high marks though, as all three settings retained a musical feel and note to note punch, even when playing dense chords. It’s a real workhorse, with the neck and bridge both doing very different things.
Earning the highest praise is the feel and playability of the Manson Guitar Works model. Once you pick it up, you won’t want to put it back down. And while the sounds and tones and looks are all good, it is clear this is meant to be used and abused. The satin neck finish is so smooth and thin, that you can fly around the neck with ease. Fretwork, tuning quality, and action are all squarely above average and have caused zero problems for me. The Meta Series MBM-1 has this sort of unquantifiable quality where it just feels insanely comfortable to me, a function of the light body, smooth neck, and loud sound most likely. I’m sure not everyone will have that connection with the instrument, but as a Fender-player for most of my life, this can be best described as the hot rodded T-style I always wanted, but never found. The locking tuners are convenient for string changes, and the MBM-1 has handled me constantly shifting to Drop D and back to E standard. Whatever issues you may have with this guitar, the playability should never be one.
Finish & Construction: 7
Not having dot inlays on the neck has gotten me in trouble a few times already while filming the demos, but that is the only construction choice that is borderline questionable. I like the Starlight Silver finish, but it is not nearly as bling-y or silver as the pictures online make it seem. Mine feels a bit more muted, albeit still very pleasant to look at. In terms of build quality, it checks all the boxes that I would consider “musts”. There’s no dings, dents, or signs of lazy QA/QC. Hardware and pickups were properly adjusted, and the guitar feels greater than the sum of its parts. Nothing to really lower the score here, but nothing to really shine either. I was impressed with little things like the feel of the tuners, the quality of the strings that came stock on it. The construction choices like the satin finish on the neck and the kill switch in the electronics were really wise decisions, and help make this guitar that much more fun to interact with. Lots of smart decisions here while carefully toeing the line to keep cost down.
It’s clear that the Meta Series is a good value when you consider the playability and the sounds you can pull from it. This guitar has great bones, so even if you want to swap pickups out or tweak something to your liking, the potential is always going to be there without major changes. Furthermore, it is a fairly unique option on the budget market even if you’re not a huge Bellamy or Muse fan. It has far reaching positives aside from just sounding like the guitar tone on “Psycho” or “Knights Of Cydonia”. Many non-Muse fans should take note, as should all Muse fans, because the MBM-1 is just fun, with some modern, borderline-metal sounds hidden in it. With guitar prices rising dramatically, this still feels like really good bang for the buck, and I have played guitars that feel very similar but cost $800+.
Good for: Muse Fans, Modern Guitar Players, High Gain Tones, Lead Guitarists, Single Guitar Bands, T-Style Guitar Fans