STER­LING BY MU­SIC MAN JP MAJESTY

PETRUCCI AND STER­LING BY MU­SIC MAN COME UP WITH A ROAD-READY HOTROD.

Australian Guitar - - Reviews - BY STEVE HEN­DER­SON

Af­ter the re­lease of the JP Majesty a short while back, it was only a mat­ter of time be­fore Mu­sic Man re­leased a Ster­ling ver­sion to sat­isfy the needs of those who might dig the gui­tar, but not its hefty price tag. And let’s be hon­est, that $6K ticket is not for ev­ery­one – es­pe­cially the av­er­age work­ing muso. But that’s not to im­ply that the Mu­sic Man Majesty isn’t worth it. In terms of value for money, I made it clear in my re­view that ev­ery dol­lar is well spent and the Majesty will be played and trea­sured for a long, long time.

READY TO BEND, CHUG, SHRED AND NOO­DLE

So this is where the whole ‘prod­uct re­view’ busi­ness gets a bit com­pli­cated. It’s dif­fi­cult to ap­proach this in­stru­ment – the Ster­ling By Mu­sic Man Majesty – on its own mer­its when it looks so sim­i­lar to the orig­i­nal, and even has the same name! I mean, how do they main­tain the qual­ity and vibe of the USA-made Majesty in an ‘off-shore’ gui­tar at a quar­ter of the price? For me, the process starts with play­ing the gui­tar and not wor­ry­ing about its specs or ori­gin. There’s plenty of time for all of that stuff later.

With­out any set-up on my part, this Majesty feels great – it’s another Mu­sic Man in­stru­ment that leaves the fac­tory ready for ac­tion. The un­plugged tone is quite loud, with a nicely de­fined bot­tom E that isn’t flubby or dis­si­pated. Chordal clus­ters hang to­gether well, but there’s still clar­ity from string to string and each note can be eas­ily iden­ti­fied. But it’s the feel that re­ally drew me in: it’s slick with­out be­ing slip­pery, with plenty of left-hand con­trol, and the fret work is ex­cel­lent. The neck is won­der­fully comfy – slim, with­out be­ing an­noy­ingly thin – the rose­wood fret­board fa­cil­i­tates con­trol, and the 16-inch ra­dius makes bends and vi­brato so god­damn easy.

Plugged in and tested with a tweed Bass­man and simul-class Boo­gie head with ei­ther a Mesa 112 or a vin­tage Mesa 412, the Majesty dis­plays oo­dles of rich midrange, rounded tre­ble and that de­fined bass tone. Switch­ing be­tween the two hum­buck­ers of­fers lighter and darker shades of the same sound, ex­cept that, be­cause of the 24-fret neck, the front hum­bucker isn’t found un­der the dou­ble oc­tave node – as it is on most twin hum­bucker gui­tars – but a lit­tle closer to the bridge. This is cre­ates a slightly brighter ‘rhythm’ pickup sound, and a re­ally cool, throaty Fender-ish tone when the switch is placed in the mid­dle. This sound even works well in the amp’s drive chan­nel, or when us­ing an over­drive pedal – I used a Her­mida Zen­drive and a Mesa Flux-Five, for ref­er­ence. Add to this the 12 deci­bel boost, and there are plenty of sounds just wait­ing to leap out.

FAR BE­YOND DRIVEN

The rear pickup is a killer. It has out­put for days and, into a drive chan­nel, this trans­lates into sus­tain and an ex­pres­sive legato voice. And the tone is sur­pris­ingly rich for a bridge pickup. Into the Bass­man, this pickup de­liv­ers a se­ri­ously good rhythm chunk with­out the usual edgi­ness of a bridge pickup. It still cuts through a mix, but it does so with more mid pres­ence and a springy

ex­pres­sive­ness. Into the Boo­gie’s clean chan­nel, which has a Twin Re­verb-ish weight to its de­liv­ery, there’s a spanky punch that is blis­ter­ing with rich pres­ence. This is an in­fec­tious bridge pickup tone: it’s tone­ful and ver­sa­tile, and it doesn’t wear out your ears with brit­tle or lim­ited over­tone con­tent. This par­tic­u­lar back pickup sounds great.

So, how do they do it for the price? Com­pared to the Mu­sic Man Majesty, the Ster­ling has a bass­wood body (no ma­hogany, so it’s lighter), a stan­dard two-point ful­crum vi­brato bridge, no piezo elec­tron­ics, and a stan­dard nut (no nut com­pen­sa­tion). They’ve also made it with a set-and-glued neck, not a through neck, but this Majesty re­tains the heel-free neck and body joint that makes for com­plete up­per fret ac­cess. The back con­trol cov­ers aren’t re­cessed, but there’s still a flip-open bat­tery com­part­ment pow­er­ing the boost func­tion, and that clever, easy-ac­cess truss rod ad­just­ment wheel. The ma­chine heads are lock­ing tuners, the head­stock tilts back to elim­i­nate the need for string trees and to (the­o­ret­i­cally) even the string ten­sion, and there’s a vo­lute to strengthen the neck be­hind the nut. This par­tic­u­lar Majesty is fin­ished in ‘Ice Crim­son Red’ with black hard­ware, and it re­tains that black sec­tion around the pick­ups and bridge for a touch of late-‘50s Corvette at­ti­tude.

THE BOT­TOM LINE

This ver­sion of Petrucci’s ideal gui­tar is def­i­nitely stripped down to al­most the ba­sics (it still has the boost) but re­mains a ver­sa­tile and stylish in­stru­ment. It has a very classy – even ex­pen­sive – feel and tone with­out the req­ui­site price tag, and the fin­ish is im­pec­ca­ble – there isn’t a blem­ish in sight. I don’t usu­ally like 24-fret gui­tars be­cause of the repo­si­tion­ing of the front hum­bucker, but the Majesty pick­ups work well to­gether. There are a bunch of in­ter­est­ing ‘mid­dle po­si­tion’ tones, de­pend­ing on your pick at­tack, that make this gui­tar even more use­ful. If you’re af­ter the acous­tic tones of the full MM gui­tar, just re­mem­ber that it doesn’t ac­tu­ally sound like a D-28 – it’s a flavour that is best used when blended with the hum­buck­ers. The Ster­ling doesn’t have it, but quite frankly, it doesn’t need it. This is a se­ri­ous rock in­stru­ment with a good pal­ette of ap­pro­pri­ate sounds, is sim­ple to op­er­ate and is an ab­so­lute plea­sure to play and hear.

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