Quarantine Project: Turning The Stadium NY Strat Into My Ideal “HSS” Guitar

P90s, a Wide range humbucker, and locking tuners highlight our DIY MOD project Strat

My love affair with HSS Strats began with my very first guitar, a MIM Strat with the HSS configuration. While that guitar will always be my number 1, or at least tied for number 1 with my future Gibson Explorer, I have always wanted a handful of modified HSS Strats. In fact, I always though a few different types of these guitars could provide the same tones as dozens of other guitars. They’re incredibly versatile and I see them as an ideal live guitar.

Sitting around bored at home, I thought why not take that solid Stadium NY Strat from Pelican Beach Music, and see if I could unlock its full potential. I loved the sparkly, candy apple red finish and the overall build quality was solid for an affordable guitar. So why not update the electronics and tuning stability and see if I couldn’t build a stage ready partscaster?

Securing The Parts

I decided pretty early on I wanted to do something weird with this Stadium Strat, but how could I make an HSS Strat weird? Well, P90s are technically single coils right?? So I contacted WD Music and quickly figured out that they could make me a custom pickguard for this project. I simply sent them in the original pickguard from the guitar, and they made me a stunning black pearl guard with a P90-P90-Humbucker configuration. If you’re gonna build a unique homemade guitar, you have got to hit up WD Music first, they are life savers!

With the pickguard secured it was time to upgrade the tuners. Being an import model, you can’t just drop Fender bridge or tuners into any Strat-style guitar like this Stadium offering. Luckily, Kluson exists, and has a wide selection of high quality tuner replacements for guitars cut to oversea’s standards. I wanted gold locking tuners, seeing as I’ve never owned a guitar with locking tuners before, and picked out their 19:1 Gear Ratio Contemporary Die-cast tuners. They fit right into the Stadium Strat, improving the looks and tuning stability by a mile. I’m probably going to be putting these tuners on all my Strats going forward, especially the old Squier I modded a few months ago!

Lastly, I needed to decide on the pickups and didn’t really want to be boxed into traditional options. That led me to the huge pickup repository offered by Guitar Fetish. They’re super affordable, sound strong, and most importantly, they offer literally every type of variation and flavor of pickup. I decided to go gold foil P90 in the neck, soap bar P90 in the middle, and their take on Fender’s wide range humbucker in the bridge. Plus, the humbucker is coil split enabled thanks to a push-pull tone pot.

Wanna See Something Brutal?

The Stadium Strat was unfortunately not perfectly routed to fit this new pickup configuration I had in mind and my lack of access to a router was an issue. So my brute force idea? Get a forstner bit and go to town hollowing it out!

Is this how a professional would do it? Definitely not, but I’m not a professional and the point of me doing this is to prove anyone can make DIY mods work if they’re willing to get their hands dirty! At the end of the day, everything finally fit in and worked so I’d call that a success.

Sound Comparison

Here is the original quick demo I recorded of the Stadium NY Strat from Pelican Beach Music. If you check the original review, you’ll see it had a pretty decent Strat sound but was fairly underwhelming otherwise.

The upgraded pickups make the guitar not only look awesome, but it sounds so much better to my ears. It’s just as versatile as I ever wanted it, but more importantly the neck sound of that gold foil is just so much fun to play lead on. It only cost a few hundred dollars when all was said and done, and the guitar feels, plays, looks, and sounds way more fun. How do you think it turned out?

Before anyone comments on the gap in the wood between the pickguard and the body, I do have a plan for that! But right now I’m too lazy to finish it…

Final demo below!

Howl Guitars Sirena 3 Review

Top notch build quality highlights this stripped down take on the classic Les Paul

Credit: Howl Guitars

Cost: $879.00 from Howlguitars.com!

Overview & Final Score: 8.4

Howl Guitars’ recently unveiled Sirena 3 is a gorgeous and user friendly take on the Les Paul guitar design. There are plenty of distinct features that make the Sirena 3 interesting, without deviating too far from a basic guitar that anyone could pick up and love. A clear satin finish sits atop a Korina top and back. White body binding surrounds the arch top that holds a single Alnico V humbucking pickup with coil-split volume knob and a wrap around tailpiece. The neck and fretboard are both Roasted Maple and are wrapped in binding with crested inlays. A bone nut provides yet another premium feature to this impressive spec sheet alongside Custom Tonepros tuners and a long tenon neck joint for maximum stability and sustain.

That is quite a lot of guitar for under $1000, a feat they likely accomplish by the simplified electronics and South Korean construction. Make no mistake about it, the Sirena comes out of the box looking closer to a custom shop guitar than an import model.

Sound: 7.5

Howl’s Sirena 3 packed a huge PAF sound into that bridge pickup in my opinion. It had that vintage, “loud without being overpowering” tone where I could still hear each string ring out. This made power chords with layers of distortion on top a real joy to play, as the single pickup guitar brought me back to my punk roots. It felt like the perfect marriage between Mick Jones’ (of The Clash) Les Paul Junior DC and Les Paul Custom guitars.

The coil split is a nice touch, and I messed around with it a lot for rhythm tones during songs and Edge-like delay tracks. To be honest, I’m not super impressed with the sound quality, as it seems to just be a bit more of a volume cut. In my coil splits I prefer the pickup to take on that slap or chime of a single coil and I just didn’t get that here. On the other hand, it was still useful for playing dynamic pieces and adding in something different!

I love the single humbucker and single knob controls. Of course I’m knocking off a point here because it isn’t very versatile, but once you get over that the single humbucker tone is awesome. It easily pushed my tube amp into crunch and eventually, full on distortion.

Playability: 8

Overall, the Sirena 3 was a joy to play. The tuning stability was really, surprisingly strong compared to the trio of locking tuner guitars I played before this Howl Guitar. The Sirena was pretty much on par with their stability with just the Tonepros and wrap around bridge (my favorite freaking type of bridge). There was minor fret buzz around the first two frets, but that can be easily corrected. The neck is big, with that old LP baseball bat feel. The Sirena’s roasted Maple fretboard and neck were comfortable pretty much all the way down the neck, with awesome fretwork too. I always find LP’s to give me a bit of a hard time at the higher frets, but this was certainly no better or worse than my Gibson.

Finish & Construction: 9

The charcoal finish may seem a little plain but once I saw it in person I was super happy with it. It not only showed up completely flawless, but it just gives the Sirena 3 such a strip down, old-school rock n roll vibe. I feel like I could see Keith Richards or Joe Perry walk out on stage with this. The binding, finish, and hardware installation all was pretty much flawless. Plus, my love of vintage Gibson Explorer’s means that their use of Korina wood really struck a chord with me. The looks and feel of this guitar are way past the price range it is in. The roasted Maple feels super smooth and looks killer too. If nothing else, this guitar has near perfect bones, with excellent bridge, wood, and design choices made by Howl Guitars.

Value: 9

Howl’s Sirena 3 really won me over with the feel and look of the guitar. For the price it just feels like I have some crazy boutique Les Paul in my hands. The Korina wood honestly gives it a bit more top end than the traditional Mahogany you’d find used for a guitar like this. The arch top, finish, and binding was all flawless and honestly I often find issues on $1000+ guitars. For just shy of $900, I’m pretty happy with the Sirena 3 but it definitely has more appeal to some players versus others. As someone who grew up listening to punk but also legends like Led Zeppelin and The Who, this guitar beautifully bridges those sounds together for me.

Good for: Classic Rock, Blues, Punk, Players Looking For Something Between Epiphone and Gibson, Korina Wood Stans

One Thing I’ve Learned After 1 Year Of Guitar Reviews

You know what, some guitars just aren’t that different…and that’s okay!

I’ve been fortunate to have a career in guitar journalism for about a year and a half now, with almost exactly one year of guitar review experience now in the books! I never would have imagined the likes of Fender, PRS, or Ernie Ball Music Man sending me guitars to review, demo, and talk about. I’ve reviewed guitars as expensive as $5000+ and as cheap as $60, and everything in between.

The difference between relatively expensive guitars ($1000 or more) and super affordable guitars ($300 or less) is obviously pretty big. Brand name pickups or hardware, finish quality and colors, and overall craftsmanship are the features that really stick out at these high prices, resulting in a great sounding and feeling guitar.

But honestly, when you starting playing guitars in that $500-$1000 range, they are more similar in overall quality than not. That’s why you’ll see so many guitars in that price range get a score of 7.5-8.5 on Guitarsforidiots.com and Ultimate-Guitar.com, where I also handle reviews. That’s not to say these guitars are all the same, because they have a ton of fun, interesting variety. In fact, that’s what I’m always writing about, is the variety.

But at the end of the day, the awesome $1100 Harmony Juno I just reviewed isn’t that far off from the $600 Fender Lead III. In fact, both are awesome guitars that won’t be a disappointment. The fact is that price isn’t necessarily derived from quality. Surely it is sometimes, which is what makes an awesome Squier so much better than the $60 Glarry products. But at the end of the day, a guitar’s price can be inflated by the brand name, country of origin, or business model of the company making it.

Basically, my take away message here is that if you think the USA-made Harmony Juno is overpriced because it is comparable in overall rating to a Mexican Fender or high end South Korean guitar, you’re wrong. Maybe it isn’t the best value out there, but the Juno is an awesome guitar and that 8.4 score reflects my thoughts that “if you want this guitar, it will exceed expectations”. In fact, that’s why I started putting a section at the bottom of each review saying what the guitar is best suited for!

If you buy the Juno, which I highlight for its clean tones and songwriting applications, and expect it to be the Fender Lead III, which is a super high output, distortion-ready guitar, yeah, it won’t be an 8.4 in your mind. All the scores are relative and when you see a guitar like the Harley Benton DC Junior get an 8.1 with a price of barely $200, that means you should think it’s a good value. Not necessarily that it is just as good a guitar as the Gretsch G5622T. They are both excellent guitars but suited for very different styles and players. The Harley Benton is an 8/10 for a Les Paul Junior, shockingly good results from such an affordable guitar.

The way I review guitars is always changing, as I don’t think any reviewers are exactly the same nor do any stay exactly the same over the course of their YouTube/magazine/website career.

So when you read my reviews looking for information about what guitar you should consider buying, look for key words like “versatility” and check my suggestions about what each guitar does best. Of course, anyone could pick up a Silver Sky and turn it into a perfect metal guitar in their hands. But definitely don’t buy that guitar for metal without playing it yourself first. On the other hand, if you’re in a punk band, then yeah, order a Fender Lead III because it’s an awesome punk/garage rock guitar and many more reviews out there reinforce that idea. Only buy a guitar without trying it out in person when you’re confident it will suit your needs, especially if you read 4 different reviews all saying the same thing!

Hopefully this rant makes sense and helps explain why you may sometimes see so many guitars get similar ratings out of 10. It doesn’t mean they’re all the same, it just means they’re all great options. We’re living in the golden age of guitar manufacturing and overseas models no longer suck. If a guitar is similar quality but a bit more expensive, it’s usually because of some intrinsic value. Is it made in the USA? If supporting domestic builders is important to you than the extra cost may be worth it. Is it a unique signature model? An extra few hundred may be worth it if you can’t just pick up any off the shelf Strat to get your favorite musician’s guitar model. Either way, when reading reviews just remember context is everything, price isn’t everything, and compare similar guitars, not widely different models when comparison shopping!

Shameless plug coming below….

Oh, and buy guitars through my Reverb links so I can keep the lights on and grow this website into the resource tool I always wanted but never found as a young guitarist!

Harmony Juno Electric Guitar Review

A short scale, compact offering with gold foil P90s that’s new for 2020 from Harmony

Credit: Reverb

Cost: $1199.00 from Harmony.co and Reverb.com!

Check out my UG Shot of the Harmony Juno for some quick sounds and my thoughts!

Overview & Final Score: 8.4

Harmony’s Juno electric guitar packs a ton of volume and tone into a really small package. 25″ scale length guitar features 22 frets on a C-profile neck that leads to a deceptively small LP-style body. I was sent a gorgeous “Champagne” colored guitar with a classic nitrocellulose finish. Harmony’s signature custom “half-bridge” sits below two gold foil P90s that are 3-way switchable. The electronics include an Orange drop capacitor that lets you roll off a ton of treble when you pull the cupcake volume knob.

The lightweight and compact Juno sports a USA-made Mahogany body and neck with Ebony fingerboard. Harmony’s locking tuners provide great tuning stability and modern flair to this vintage inspired guitar. It’s certainly not short on looks, even if it has a short scale length.

Sound: 8.5

For some reason, the smaller scale and comfortable feel of this guitar made me just want to finger pick on it. I was instantly impressed with the incredibly clean tones from these gold foil P90s, and found myself playing chill, mellow arpeggios and chords instead of my typical punk riffs and pentatonic solos. The P90s were also exceptionally quiet for single coils, played through both my solid state and tube amps. Harmony’s Juno had a ton of chime in the bridge position, perfect for sparkling pop lines and modern, almost acoustic-like rhythm tones.

The neck position was creamy, more Les Paul like, and was perfect for those single note blues and jazz lead lines up and down the neck. The neck pickup also didn’t get too muddy, until you engage the push-pull. To be honest, I don’t fully understand this push-pull Orange drop capacitor. It made the pickups incredibly muddy, with all treble rolled off. It was fun, and I certainly got some cool slide tones out of it, but really couldn’t do anything else with it. However, that’s not necessarily a knock on the Juno as that’s just an extra feature. The gold foil P90s were also great with some distortion and fuzz, easily venturing into Black Keys territory, much to my delight. But honestly, the clean tones are just vibrant and engaging, that’s why you should pick up this guitar in the first place in my opinion.

Playability: 9

Tuning stability was excellent, thanks to Harmony’s high quality locking tuners. The C-profile neck and short scale made it super comfortable, fitting in between both a Gibson and Fender feel. Honestly, the super small body made me feel like I had more control of the neck, which (maybe this was just placebo) improved the playability a ton in my opinion. The fret work was also excellent, with easy access up and down the fretboard. Specifically, they emphasized that lower cut out, so that it’s far more comfortable than your typical Les Paul. This gives it both a more unique appearance and excellent feel. It is by all means a player’s guitar!

Finish & Construction: 8

The champagne finish isn’t for everyone, but the finish quality was excellent. The nitro feels and looks amazing, somehow seeming both worn in and brand new. The construction gets high marks from me as well, I love how light the guitar is. It’s super easy to play sitting down, to carefully fingerpick and I see it as a great tool for a songwriter, more-so than a live, gigging instrument. Not that it wouldn’t make an excellent live guitar, I just feel like I would buy this to write songs in a studio or house. There was one small ding on the headstock, but I’m not too mad about it, a lot of times companies send used models for review and I’m just super appreciative they sent me one! I would have few reservations about Harmony’s build quality, as everything else was near-perfect on this Juno!

Value: 8

The Harmony Juno certainly won’t break the bank, but at almost $1200 it’s no impulse buy either. For the money, I believe you get an excellent guitar with unique looks and tones. The Juno is an above average value for the money overall, but certain players will get more out of it than others. Songwriters, acoustic players, and studio musicians will love the comfortable feel and tuning stability. This is a guitar you can play for hours with a tape recorder and notebook by your side. It’s a superb example of a “lifestyle guitar” or a guitar I think you’ll constantly pick up throughout the day and never get rid of.

Good for: Jazz, Pop, Blues, Clean Tone Enthusiasts, Smaller Sized Guitar Players, Players Who Fingerpick

Schecter Guitar Research Unveils Trio Of New Models

The Tempest, PT Fastback, and Corsair 2020 are ready to hit the market!

Schecter Guitar Research announced three stunning new models to be added to their 2020 guitar lineup. Featuring the semi-hollow Corsair, the solid body Tempest, and my personal favorite, the PT Fastback, Schecter is not messing around. Let’s dig into some of the specifics of each model!

PT Fastback

No one loves a good Telecaster more than me, but once Schecter added in the Ultra’Tron humbuckers they really won me over. This model mixes classic Fender Deluxe Tele vibes with some premium features. X-Jumbo frets, body binding, and push-pull coil splits for each pickup give it a distinct modern flair. This Gold Top finish is just the icing on the cake. These will have an MSRP of around $869 and are on my must-try list.

Tempest Custom

This Tempest Custom screams high-class, offset Les Paul vibes to me. The pearloid slit crown inlays are gorgeous and separate 22 X-jumbo frets on the 3-piece Mahogany neck. Powered by Schecter’s USA-made Pasadena Plus pickups, push-pull pots allow for each humbucker to be coil split. Wrap that all up with stunning color options and locking tuners and you have a pretty lit guitar for the $1569 MSRP value.

Corsair 2020

Introduced to the line based on the success of their Corsair Custom model, the Corsair 2020 is a more affordable version that’s just as eye catching. Schecter’s Diamond Humbuckers are coil-split enabled using push-pull volume pots, and the tremolo arm adds a nice, vintage aesthetic as well as a useful tonal option. Grover rotomatic tuners, 3-way selector switch, and classic ES-inspired looks make this a pretty sweet semi-hollow that will have an MSRP of $1429.

Gibson Launches Virtual Guitar Tech Service & I Got To Test It Out

Credit: Gibson

If you were worried about getting work done on your guitars while on lockdown, Gibson has got your back. For proud owners of Epiphone and Gibson guitars, the company has launched a 100% free Virtual Guitar Tech Service where you can sign up for specific times to meet one on one with a professional Gibson guitar tech.

Sign up on Gibson.com or Epiphone.com!

I was fortunate enough to get the chance to try this awesome service out before it went live and I honestly loved it.

How It Works:

You schedule a first meeting, a virtual consultation essentially, where you’ll discuss what specific topics about your Gibson or Epiphone guitar/bass you want help with in a one-on-one setting with a pro guitar tech. These virtual guitar teches (VGT) can cover electric guitar and bass, acoustic guitar, and they even have a mandolin specialist!

During this first virtual meeting the VGT can also instruct you what specific tools you may need before your next session well you’ll learn to remedy the issue. Need strings? He or she can direct you towards the best options for your playing style! Tools like screw driver types, peg winder, socket wrenches, whatever it is they will guide you. It is important to note though that this free service is generally limited to the more simpler guitar techniques such as neck set up, string changes, guitar care, etc…You won’t be learning to solder in new pickups or set in a new neck on your LP through this program.

After this free 30-minute consultation video, you’ll schedule your free 60-minute meeting to actually address the tune up problems. The VGT will walk you through adjusting the action or changing strings, giving you the confidence and instruction you need to learn vital guitar tune up basics!

I had the pleasure of going over my heavily modified Gibson LP Special and giving it a set up alongside a Gibson VGT. Not only was Mark, the VGT I met with, incredibly helpful and detailed in going over the work but he was also just a wonderful guy! There is no doubt in my mind that this Gibson program will make it 100% easier for beginners to get the help they need with their guitars. More importantly, it may be the single best way to learn these simple guitar set up tricks without taking a luthier class in person! Expect a full detailed rundown of my experience to be up on Ultimate-Guitar.com shortly!

Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty Purple Nebula Electric Guitar Review

Limited to only 200 instruments, these new Majesty’s are a work of art with feel and tone to match.

Cost: $5299.00, find out more here!

Check out my official Ultimate-Guitar.com Shot Here

Overview & Final Score: 9.8

Where to begin with this new Majesty….It’s probably the most feature loaded guitar out there. This brand new John Petrucci Majesty comes out of the gate with a stunning “Purple Nebula” Finish on top of a neck-through body construction. The neck is two pieces of Honduran Mahogany, with Alder on the sides of the body, and Quilted Maple on top.

Hardware includes locking tuners, Ernie Ball Music Man’s Modern Tremolo, two separate 3-way selector switches, and a built in piezo underneath that crescent style trem system. You can switch between three options including piezo pickup, magnetic pickups, and a blend of the two using the top switch. The bottom one is a typical HH configuration 3-way selector switch to control the DiMarzio Rainmaker (neck) and Dreamcatcher (bridge) humbuckers. But it’s not done there. Push in the volume knob for the magnetic pickups and you can instantly add 20db of boost to your tone. Pair that with a tone control and piezo volume control and you can get almost unlimited utility out of this Majesty.

Sound: 10

This Majesty is really one of those rare “do-it-all” guitars. The DiMarzio pickups retain excellent clarity and articulation, even with my ProCo Rat and Big Muff layered on top. This was especially impressive in the neck position, which I typically avoid on guitars. DiMarzio’s Rainmaker never really got that muddy or bassy tone that I hate in my neck pickups, even with the tone knocked down a bit. Bridge humbuckers always sound sweet to my ears, but this Majesty sounded even better than normal, with a very snappy, rhythmic response when played clean that I usually only get from single coils.

Probably my favorite feature, the built in boost far exceeded my expectations. I’ve never actually played a guitar with this feature and I was so excited by the tonal versatility this guitar provided without me touching my pedal board. The piezo was also excellent, letting you go from acoustic tones to electric sounds and then to a solo or lead setting within seconds. The boost also drove my Vox AC15 right into beautiful tube overdrive and crunch. I can’t say enough great things about this guitar’s sound, but I mean that should be expected at an almost $7k price tag.

This guitar, in my opinion, was not designed to be made for John Petrucci or Dream Theatre fans. It was designed to be the best electric guitar on the market for a hardcore musician.

Playability: 9.5

The neck on this new Ernie Ball Music Man Majesty is just nuts. It’s smooth, with an excellent finish on the back. I never felt like my fingers got stuck on the finish and all the frets were super easy to reach. The exaggerated horns on this guitar make it easy to even wrap your thumb around the top strings, something I love to do but often struggle with on guitars. Tuning stability was excellent, as the modern tremolo held tune great even with some aggressive whammy bar work. The locking tuners slipped out of tune a little bit more frequently than I thought, similar to what I saw on the Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre. On the other hand, the neck through body provided crazy rich sustain. Pretty impressive playability and definitely gig ready.

Finish & Construction: 10

Look at that “Purple Nebula” finish, the Quilt Maple top is just stunning. One of the top three finishes I have ever seen in person. Also, the finish is truly spotless, no scratches or signs of lazy finish work or clear coat globs. While this guitar may look like a collectors edition worthy of being wall art, it is a player’s guitar through and through. A player’s guitar that just has crazy looks.

Another excellent feature of the construction was how light the body of the guitar is. It’s definitely not the largest guitar body out there, but it also doesn’t feel small enough to feel this light. I assume it would be very comfortable to play this guitar on stage for hours, something Petrucci likely prioritized. All the hardware is well installed, it’s one of those really expensive guitars that you just look at and say “yeah, I see why this costs x dollars”.

Value: 9.5

An almost $6K guitar getting this how of a value score? Unheard of on this website. But realistically, I think if you can afford this guitar you’ll be surprised by how much you pick it up and use it. It isn’t built to hang on a wall and it costs so much because it genuinely feels to me like it was engineered to be the best player’s guitar on the market. The amazing features, construction quality, and looks back up the hype. It’s not a guitar for everyone, and I’ll certainly be going back to my Strats and LP Juniors for punk and indie rock. But, I was surprised at how easily I could pick this guitar up and make it do whatever I wanted. You can shred and be JP with it, or you can write your own low-fi punk songs. I’m impressed and I think most people will be too.

Good for: Shredders, Serious Gigging Musicians, Professional Musicians, Players Who Really Need Versatility

Check out my official review for Ultimate-Guitar.com where I’ll also be putting up a UG shot of the guitar!

An Interview With Nate DeMont of DeMont Guitars

My obsession with Illinois-based DeMont guitars began late last year when I reviewed their Goldfinch electric guitar. This custom-designed and USA-built six string was small and light, but packed a monstrous punch. Now, Nate DeMont, the man behind DeMont guitars is planning even bigger things for DeMont’s line of offerings, as well as a few familiar brands some of you may have heard of…

Fortunately for us, Nate sat down to answer a few questions about what we can all expect to see coming DeMont headquarters in the coming months and year!

Matt: What inspired you to start building your own guitars? What was the first guitar you ever assembled or built and did it come out great on the first try? 

Nate:

When I was 14 I walked into Rick Cremer’s “Cremer Guitar Werks” in Aurora, IL, which has since moved locations. He had a small little shop that was fantastic, and did repair and custom work. I love it!The first guitar I build was a strat style multi-piece solid OAK body that I got as scraps from our wood-shop program in Highschool. I was a senior at Oswego, OHS, in Illinois with the best wood-working program at the time. I had been building a lot of furniture, but wanted to try a guitar. The neck I did not build, but took from an old washburn lyon, and reshaped and painted it. I didn’t know a thing about wiring so I hired Cremer to wire it. I really didn’t know about building guitars, but it actually worked pretty well and I used it on several recordings in college!


Matt: With any of your current or future guitar models, what is one distinct goal you hope to accomplish? Are you trying to leave a specific impact on the guitar? 

Nate:

We are now making both Guyatone and DeMont brand guitars. Likewise, we hope to re-introduce Kent model guitars. Guyatone instruments will be based off of vintage designs, but new models. Currently we are working on the S7, E5, and G3. The G3 will be the most innovative and highest end, and we have come up with new construction to make a semi-hollow electric guitar. We are in the processes of milling some of our own hardware for these instruments as well. The goal is to be as unique as possible, while still paying respect to the vintage models. The DeMont brand guitars will focus more on the unique and interesting cuts of wood we get locally. Most all our lumber is milled and dried by ourselves here outside of Chicago. Each DeMont Guitars, even though it may be the same model, is made as it’s own instrument out of different combinations of materials to compliment and highlight the best aspects. These are more of a ‘player’ that follows in the foot-steps of old USA brands like Harmony, Kay, Valco, etc…
We are working on one new DeMont model electric guitar and continue to produce DeMont Goldfinch models as well.

Matt: What is your favorite thing about the amazing DeMont Goldfinch model that I was lucky enough to review last year? 

Nate:

That we were able to make it! It is our first production-model guitar. Before this, all were one-offs, or custom shop. It’s a steep learning curve to produce the same style instrument, but each one seems to get better and give us new ideas. I especially like choosing the neck wood, since I feel that relevant properties often get overlooked on many mass-produced instruments. Since we mill our own lumber, we are able to use the exact cuts we want. 


Matt: If any famous musician could walk into your shop, purchase one of your guitars and tour the world with it, who would you want it to be? 

Nate:

Sufjan Stevens – I love his music, and he seems like a great guy. I don’t mind so much how famous someone is as much as I like how nice and friendly they are….although fame does help promote our instruments! Ted Nugent just showed up on a livestream sitting next to a DeMont Goldfinch which was pretty awesome.

Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre Electric Guitar Review

Ernie Ball Music Man does it again, with one of the prettiest guitars I’ve ever held.

Credit: Ernie Ball Music Man

Cost: $3,199.00 USD, find out all you need to know here!

Watch my Ultimate-Guitar.com demo of the Sabre 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.

Credit: Ernie Ball Music Man

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.

Sound: 9.5

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.

Hell yeah

Playability: 9.0

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.

Once again, hell yeah

Value: 9

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!

Meet RWM Guitars: A Company Putting It’s Own Touch On Classic Designs

Credit: RWM Guitars

One of my favorite aspects about guitar reviews and journalism is discovering new guitar companies, luthiers, and designs. Randomly scrolling through Instagram brought me to RWM Guitars and they’ve been stuck in my mind ever since.

RWM Guitars is the work of Ron Mason, a talented luthier who mainly focuses on putting his personal touch on classic Fender designs. What caught my eye most of all was his work building double cut Telecasters. As a huge fan of both the Tele and Les Paul Junior Double Cut, this guitar is somewhat of a dream come true for me.

Fortunately, Ron was able to conduct a short interview with us, allowing you to get to know him and his amazing guitar builds!

GFI: Hi Ron, thanks so much for your time! How long have you been building your own guitars? How did the first guitar you ever built come out, was it a disaster or did you get it right from the start?

Ron:

My path to guitar building came gradually as my skills developed. First, I started to hot rod my own guitars by changing out pickups, bridge saddles, doing small upgrades that didn’t require any specialized tools.  Then I moved up to building kit guitars, my first was a Carvin Strat style guitar, which only needed finish work and assembly.  These and other experiences were full of learning opportunities, such as: taping up your pick guard before making mods so not to scratch it, putting wax on screws to make them go in easier, preventing them from breaking, and testing my wiring work before closing up the controls, etc.

In 2017, I took a guitar building class with master luthier Jamie Boss and built a Stewmac Triple 0 acoustic guitar kit, which took 40 hours to complete.  I quickly gained the confidence to build my own line of electric guitars, both right-handed and left-handed.  Three months later, I filed my LLC and RWM Guitars was born.

My first build was the Butcher Block Tele, which can be seen on my website (rwmguitars.com).  It took me about eight months to complete, partly because I juggle a full-time job, but mostly because I was taking my time double checking each step.  I did experience some bumps, like not getting the neck pocket correct and breaking a screw when installing the strap buttons – but nothing that couldn’t be corrected!  I am very proud of the finished product.

GFI: You’re clearly very inspired by classic Fender shapes and designs, what inspired you to make the double cut Telecaster such a prominent part of your offerings? Do you feel you’ve improved on any of those classic designs?

Ron:

I have always been a big fan of Fender guitars, the telecaster being my ultimate favorite.  My first electric guitar was a MIM 1994 Fender telecaster, which I still own.  I love the telecaster for its straightforward, simple design, two pickups, one volume, one tone and a three-way switch.  The double cut tele came one day when I was flipping my template around and I saw the double cutaway.  I had never seen one before and just thought it was unique.  I created my double cut template, by simply taking a single cut template, tracing the right side, then flipping the template to trace the left side to create the double cutaway.

I’m also improving the basic tele design by adding the belly and stomach contours.  Also, I am making the body a little thinner.  The typical tele body is 1 ¾ inch thick, but I started making my bodies 1 ½ inches thick, such as my 2019 left-handed Paisley Tele.  Another interesting feature to my guitars is the material – all the bodies are made with reclaimed or locally sourced wood.  For example, the body to my double cut semi hollow tele is made from pine trees by the reservoir on route 66 in Middletown, CT.  The top is made from pine panels out of an Estey’s 1889 pump organ.  So, not only do my guitars use unique wood but they also have a little back story. 

GFI: If you could build a custom guitar for any famous or professional musician, who would you most want to see playing one of your builds?

Ron:

The one person I most want to see playing one of my builds, is also one of the best players of the telecaster: G.E. Smith.  I’ve seen Mr. Smith perform many times and admired his talents while he led the Saturday Night Live band, when he toured with Hot Tuna, and of course his Masters of the Telecasters shows.  It’s also incredible the number of musicians he’s not only performed with but backed.  And let’s not forget his own outstanding music!  Yes, G.E. Smith would be the highlight of my career.