Manson Mikey DeMus signature MD-1 & MD-2 £1,299 & £1,589
Hugh Manson could well have become (like his brother Andy), an enigmatic uber-custom guitar maker with an order list as long as both his arms. But while Andy chose the primarily acoustic route, Hugh followed his rock ’n’ roll DNA, most famously making a diverse and eclectic number of instruments for Muse’s Matt Bellamy, not to mention Zep legend John Paul Jones and Foo Fighter’s Dave Grohl – instruments heard and seen by millions. And, along the way, he founded a retail store and Manson Guitar Works.
The latest pro to be seduced by Manson’s charms is Skindred’s Mikey Demus with two closely related models based on Hugh’s simple but hugely functional Telecasterbased design. Like the MA models, the woodwork/spraying of the MD-1 and MD-2 we have here is done in the Czech Republic. Manson’s head luthier, Tim Stark, explains more: “Once they arrive in the UK they are individually assigned to each customer order. All the electronics work and assembly are then done in-house with our custom-built circuits and are wired with our new CTS signature pots and Sprague orange drop caps.”
Mikey Demus signature MD-1
The highly competitive MD-1 kicks off at £1,199 in Dry Satin Black, although our version comes in its optional Atomic Tangerine, which adds £100. Both finishes have a beautiful silky sheen when, paired with the toned satin neck, means it’s a completely no-gloss zone. The body, with light forearm and rib-cage contours, is two-piece alder completely hidden by the opaque finish. The Fender-style neck, with classic 648mm (25.5in) scale length, screws on in typical fashion. Near jet-black ebony is chosen for the fingerboard, which perfectly matches the single-ply Deluxe-style scratchplate that holds the shoulder-placed three-way toggle, individual pickup volume and tone controls plus the neck pick-up.
Gotoh is the chosen manufacturer for the hardware – a GTC201 Tele-style bridge with brass block saddles and SG381 tuners with height-adjustable posts that negate the need for string trees. Function is everything, which is hugely important for any instrument that’s going to played and toured. A nice touch is the wheel-style truss-rod adjustment that means tweaks are fast.
Mikey Demus signature MD-2
The MD-2 is a close cousin and starts at £1,449 in our Dry Satin Black finish. It’s graced with an unusual scratchplate, which is bead-blasted to give a textural finish. And again that superb Tangerine adds £100. This price uplift, aside from a lightly flamed
Function is everything, which is hugely important for any instrument that’s going to played and toured
maple neck, is justified by a different pickup complement. While the MD-1 goes for a single-coil-sized humbucker, Duncan Hot Rails Tele at bridge with a covered Jazz fullsize humbucker at neck, the MD-2 comes with UK-made Psychopaf pickups, which we love before we’ve even heard. Why? Anyone who calls a pickup a P-45 Dismissal gets our vote – although the British Rail Iced T ‘Bi-rail’ humbucker, fitted in the bridge here, comes a close second (paired with their most classic Benchmark humbucker at neck). And while our MD-1 is stock, the MD-2 comes with an optional Cybertron partial pickup cover and larger diameter knurled-edge control knobs – for other options see the specs list.
Both builds are very clean not least the fret work from a good medium gauge with nicely filled end-slots and a super highly polished surface.
Feel & sounds
Neither guitar is ultra-light in weight, but both feel very purposeful when strapped on. Typically, as with virtually every modern Manson solidbody we’ve played, both have a lovely vibrant and strong acoustic response. Both necks have a wellshaped full ‘C’ profile and quite beefy feel
the MD-2 is a fine surprise. no, it doesn’t capture the depth of a jazzbox, but its warm clarity covers plenty of jazzier styles
– approximately 43.5mm at the nut, a shade under 22mm deep at the first fret filling out to nearly 24mm by the 12th.
The MD-1’s Duncan sounds pretty familiar if we’re honest, with the big midrange beef of the dual-rail Hot Rails – with its cocked wah character – a nearperfect shoo-in for big walls of crunch and distortion. Clean, well, you sort of wonder if you’re on the bridge pickup, for it’s thick with quite a rounded high end. Plug in the MD-2, however, and it’s a different flavour with a lower output, a lighter voicing and in comparison a lot more Tele-like.
The MD-1’s Jazz drops us nicely into Les Paul neck space, cleaner in the low end as you’d expect perhaps from the construction and the placement slightly further towards the bridge. The MD-2’s neck pickup is close, but again has a little less thickness and slightly more clarity. These different voicings obviously affect the middle positions and the MD-1 again sounds thicker, the MD-2 has more clarity. But both sets are well chosen with a balanced graduation through the three distinct tones.
3 3. The MD-1 uses a complement of Seymour Duncan pickups – Hot Rail single-coil-sized humbuckers at the bridge with a DCR of 15.55k, paired with a covered Jazz full-sized ’bucker at the neck with a more classic DCR of 7.39k ohms
2 1. Manson guitars are known for their playability and sharp finishing details. The medium-gauge frets are well-installed and highly polished. It almost plays itself… 2. No dispute what you’re getting here. The MD is based on the Telecaster but with numerous stageready features, not least the height-adjustable Gotoh tuners, which do away with string trees
4 4. These low-profile, knurled-edge knobs are one of the custom options you can spec for your MD. Manson offers wiring mods too. Good to see at this price-point
5 5. Although the partial cover here hints at a Gretsch-style humbucker, the Psychopaf Benchmark is their most classic design with a measured DCR of 8.42k ohms. “All the great classic tones but with some extra edge… and just a little attitude”