Ster­ling valen­tine JV60

Ma­roon 5 sig­na­ture model of­fers a fresh ap­proach

Total Guitar - - RYAN ADAMS / COME PICK ME UP -

In terms of off-the-shelf electrics, Ernie Ball Mu­sic Man is best known for its for­mi­da­ble artist ros­ter, which counts some of the in­stru­ment’s most out­stand­ing pro­po­nents among its sig­na­ture en­dorsees – John Petrucci, Steve Lukather and Steve Morse to name but three – but one name that may have flown un­der your radar is James Valen­tine, lead gui­tarist for pop heavy­weights Ma­roon 5. The band’s ma­te­rial may not be your cup of tea, but make no mis­take, Valen­tine knows his gui­tars, and this af­ford­able ver­sion of his sig­na­ture model makes a com­pelling prospect in­deed.

Loosely de­signed to marry Valen­tine’s favourite at­tributes of a Tele­caster and an ES-335 (see Be My Valen­tine), the re­sul­tant shape is a cu­ri­ous hy­brid that feels fa­mil­iar and con­tem­po­rary in equal mea­sure. Its body cuts a com­fort­able fig­ure that looks and feels in­stantly clas­sic – it fea­tures con­tour­ing around the heel for easy ac­cess to the dusty end of the fret­board, but true to its Fen­der in­spi­ra­tion, there’s no belly cut. The over­all pack­age isn’t overly weighty like some slab bod­ies can be, yet it’s re­as­sur­ingly rugged, and looks sul­try in­deed with that trans­par­ent But­ter­milk fin­ish and tor­toise­shell scratch­plate.

While it’s based on two clas­sic out­lines, the Valen­tine has a few tricks up its sleeve. For one, that ain’t two hum­buck­ers you see be­fore you – no, sir. In ac­tu­al­ity, that bridge pup is a sin­gle coil, lend­ing the in­stru­ment the tonal pal­ette of a HS Tele, à la Keith Richards’ iconic Mi­caw­ber. Ex­cept most Te­les don’t come fit­ted with an on­board boost: press­ing down on the Valen­tine’s vol­ume con­trol adds a full 12db of ad­di­tional vol­ume to give your amp and pedals a good kick­ing. It should be noted that the Ster­ling in­car­na­tion loses the full-fat Mu­sic Man ver­sion’s coil-split and ad­justable gain lev­els, but then again, this one clocks in at un­der a third of the price of that USA model.

Any num­ber of fac­tors can af­fect a gui­tar’s tun­ing dur­ing tran­sit, but when we pull one fresh out of the gig­bag in per­fect tun­ing, it usu­ally bodes well, and, ac­cord­ingly, the Valen­tine is rock-solid dur­ing our time with it: a hard­tail bridge paired with a set of Ster­ling lock­ing tuners on the 4+2 head­stock means there’s no cause to touch the tun­ing ma­chines, other than to test their smooth-op­er­at­ing ac­tion. There’s a great feel all round: get­ting your hands on the Valen­tine re­veals a glo­ri­ously light satin fin­ish to the roasted maple neck – it’s an em­i­nently playable setup. If you can’t stretch to Ibanez’s AZ line, this elec­tric of­fers a sim­i­lar palm-fill­ing yet swift feel for a lit­tle less.

Ton­ally, this gui­tar can cer­tainly cop a de­cent im­pres­sion of its two fore­bears, while re­tain­ing a flavour of its own. The bal­anced neck sin­gle coil is a blank

its body looks and feels in­stantly clas­sic

can­vas ideally suited to chord vamps and back­ground rhythm work, while the bridge pickup is like a su­per­charged sin­gle coil – it’s smoother, more bal­anced than the spiky tones that can some­times emit from bridge sin­gles. That said, although the mid­dle po­si­tion dulls the bridge sin­gle’s highs with in­put from the neck hum­bucker, it still leans heav­ily to­wards tre­blier tones – not quite as var­ied as per­haps hoped.

Un­less you want to blow your au­di­ence’s eardrums, the on­board boost prob­a­bly isn’t some­thing you’ll switch on and off dur­ing a clean tone, but you may find your­self leav­ing it on all the time, de­pend­ing on your amp and pedal setup. So many valve com­bos sound bet­ter with a boost up front, and this 12db kick sets you up with some record-ready clean sounds. As you’d ex­pect, the trans­par­ent boost comes in handy when you need to push ex­ist­ing gain over the edge for a sweet sus­tain­ing solo, too, and serves up a lit­tle more of ev­ery­thing for rhythm heft.

We’re big fans of Valen­tine’s no-non­sense ap­proach to gui­tar de­sign. While there have been small con­ces­sions in bring­ing his sig­na­ture model to a sub-£800 price point, there’s no ar­gu­ing with the qual­ity feel and work­horse per­for­mance, while the ad­di­tion of that built-in boost el­e­vates the whole pack­age. More ver­sa­tile gui­tars are avail­able for this kind of money, but few of­fer the sheer class that Valen­tine has de­liv­ered. Michael Ast­ley-brown

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1 Boost!Pushthatvol­ume con­trol­foramighty 12db­vol­ume­boost, very­handy­fory­our solosand­chunky dis­tort­ed­tones 2 Sin­gle­coilIt­may­look­likea hum­bucker,but­this pickup is ac­tu­ally a spanky sin­gle coil in dis­guise 3RoastedThemaple­neck andfin­ger­board­have been­roast­ed­fora sweet­caramel­colour an­den­hanced­sta­bil­ity321

See­ing­dou­ble:nottwo hum­buck­ers­bu­ta­clev­erly dis­guised sin­gle-coil pickup

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