Review of Ebony-Topped Semi-Hollowbody Maguire Guitar

Discussion in 'Guitars in General' started by apalazzolo, Jul 4, 2015.

  1. apalazzolo

    apalazzolo Supporting Member

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    This is a review of the ebony-topped Maguire guitar being built with five other guitars in the "Trip to Maguire Guitars" thread found here: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?threads/trip-to-maguire-guitars.847398/ There is a lot of information over there, so I’ll focus on aspects not apparent there. Pics can be found here: http://www.thegearpage.net/board/index.php?media/albums/guitars-in-progress.166/&page=9


    Custom build vs. off the rack. I’ve been playing for many years and am fortunate enough to have some sweet guit-fiddles for reference. This is the first electric guitar built for me from scratch and that alone sets it apart from almost all of my other guitars (almost all of which had some feature or other that wasn’t quite right for me). It’s almost as though having/playing off-the-shelf guitars was a necessary step and those guitars (as well as TGP) finally taught me enough that I was ready to graduate to a no-compromises custom build. I wish I had done this years ago.

    While this guitar has its own thing going on, it may be helpful to say that it is similar in size, shape, fit/finish, and features to a private stock Paul Reed Smith, particularly the hollowbody PRS model.

    For better or worse, my friend’s 10 year old son christened this guitar "Batman" and the name stuck. Coloration comes naturally from the materials used: gabon ebony (top), Brazilian rosewood (board and headplate), Honduras mahogany (back, sides, and neck), buffalo horn (nut), and fossilized walrus ivory (inlay). Rick made the pickup rings, knobs, and toggle switch tip from a pure black ebony. Ridiculous care was taken to match the flame across the multi-piece neck and back. The true oil clear-coat must be pretty thin b/c the finish on the neck feels a like a sanded neck (like there is no finish). The top is carved from a slab of quartersawn and bookmatched gabon ebony. Rick even carved/tuned the underside of the ebony top until it “pinged” when tapped. At 6lbs 7oz, Batman is so resonant that you can feel the strap vibrate your shoulder while standing and playing chords. Surprisingly, it doesn’t feedback uncontrollably, even at stage volumes. It's comfortable sitting or standing because it's (a) well-balanced, (b) a featherweight, and (c) ergonomic (in part due to the ¼ round perimeter of the back). If this were a car, it’d be a roadster.

    Batman came with 0.010’s and it plays as perfectly as it looks. Rick rolled the fretboard edge to match a ’59 Stratocaster so it feels somewhat broken-in right from his shop. The neck is somewhat comparable to a PRS wide-thin carve (actually it’s copied from a 1979 Greco I brought to Rick for duplication). When I picked it up, Rick had me play it for an hour or so and we dialed it in to my taste. I play with a light touch and lots of subtle left-hand slurs, hammers, pulls, slides, etc. so it’s set-up to buzz-out some when hit hard. In fact, it’s so touch sensitive that it kinda makes you want to lean-in and listen more closely, as though it were whispering to you.

    The pups are Tom Short Fleetwoods that I had stashed away for a rainy day and all three positions sound just like a great two-humbucker guitar should. The bridge has this Graphtech RESOMAX piezo system for acoustic sounds: http://www.graphtech.com/products/b...-gold?id=7c938122-81eb-4cc3-8e2a-2150c40800d9 There is a blend knob that lets you choose magnetic pups, piezo saddles, or any amount of blend of the two into a mono ¼” guitar cord or a stereo ¼” guitar cord for separate amplification. Since the two sounds can be blended in any amount, there’s a lot of flexibility with just a few knobs. When blending both sounds into a blackface Fender Pro Reverb, the piezo saddles add something akin to a “shimmer” not possible to obtain otherwise. I can’t comment on the authenticity of the full-on acoustic sound into an acoustic amp b/c I haven’t tried that yet. I wondered if the black saddle material would sound different than typical metal saddles. I didn’t do a double-blind hearing test between the two. I just know the black saddles (whatever they are) sound great.

    I chose Gotoh high-gear-ratio tuners that came on a Tom Bills jazz box I have because they permit extremely precise tuning. They work equally well on this guitar. You can easily make strobe patterns on a tuner stop dead (instead of a slow roll). It intonates perfectly and the highest frets are very accessible. Naturally, that encourages use of the whole neck for chording and soloing.

    Wound strings seem to sustain FOREVER … 30 + seconds at low volume (no feedback tricks). Solid strings sustain about 20 seconds, which is still a lot! Rick says all his Meridian guitars do that. His Meridian guitars have what Rick calls a though-body neck tenon that is similar to neck-though guitar construction but allows a bookmatched carved top. Meridians also have a unique neck-joint and heel that is a hand-carved thing of beauty. I suspect that this construction contributes to the crazy sustain but I have to think it’s also due to Rick’s extreme build precision.

    I also suspect that the extremely precise intonation is a contributing factor. All guitars are a little out of tune in various places on the neck. Whatever Rick does to minimize that effect probably helps sustain because there is less clashing of slightly out of tune notes (less destructive resonance maybe?).

    I played Batman a LOT before writing this review because it's inspiring and because I wanted to be objective. I think it comes down to this: While Batman won't replace some of my flat-tops, archtops, and strats, it has already sent 15 solid and semihollow bodies packing. That’s a lot of deadwood. What’s the down side? Except for a lack of natural talent, I’m completely out of excuses for sounding anything less than stellar.

    Thanks for reading and thanks to Rick Maguire for producing an heirloom quality instrument!
     
    Last edited: Nov 3, 2016
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  2. superstratjunky

    superstratjunky Member

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    I'm really, deeply, & honestly trying my damnedest not to hate you right now! That is a one in a billion type instrument you have there. It's a supermodel. Congrats! :aok
     
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  3. superstratjunky

    superstratjunky Member

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    Almost forgot, post some clips of it.
     
  4. DEMENTED

    DEMENTED Supporting Member

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    Congrats Tony, kudos to Rick. I have played Batman also and have to agree, it's an amazing instrument. I spent the longest time just holding it and marveling at the level of craftsmanship that is apparent...Rick's attention to detail, fit & finish is just inhuman. I do not have the skill or talent to do any justice to playing such an instrument but I will say it was awe inspiring to attempt to do so.
    Enjoy it Tony.
     
  5. robertkoa

    robertkoa Member

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    Yeah- a Supermodel with great Resonance that will even get better...
    Congrats to OP - should inspire you to some of your best creativity and playing!
     
  6. apalazzolo

    apalazzolo Supporting Member

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    Lol ... haters gonna hate ... Thanks to all who posted.

    So I got together with another gearpager and we compared the bridge piezo transducer in this Maguire with several acoustics (Martins and Taylors). The upshot is that the acoustic sound is pretty close to an actual good acoustic using an undersaddle piezo. It is not the end all be all acoustic sound and it is not as good as a good acoustic with a good piezo/mic blender system (that/those mic(s) make a difference). It's a worthwhile usable feature and, of course, it can't be beat for convenience. I'm glad I have it. However, I doubt any piezo bridge on a thin electric will ever completely match a good acoustic with a good mic system (with or without a piezo).

    One lesson for me (obvious once you think about it for even a moment) is that the "user-interface" makes a difference. The typical stiff acoustic strings, reaching around a thick hollow body, bronze strings, thicker neck, etc. all affect your attack when playing an acoustic. Switching back and forth between this electric and acoustics in an effort to find similarities in sound, is very disorienting because they feel so different. So even if this bridge piezo were a perfect pickup, there would still be differences due to the player's "touch."

    Loving this guitar!
     
    Last edited: Jul 24, 2015
  7. superstratjunky

    superstratjunky Member

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    So how was the honeymoon? Any home movies?;)
     
  8. apalazzolo

    apalazzolo Supporting Member

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    Not yet SSJ but it's on my to-do list. Life has been so full lately I haven't had the time. It's a nice problem to have actually.
     
    Last edited: Mar 21, 2017
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  9. apalazzolo

    apalazzolo Supporting Member

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    For anyone interested in playing this guitar, it will be available to play at the Maguire Guitars booth at the Northeast Guitar Expo in Farmington, CT on Sunday, April 2nd. http://northeastguitarexpo.com/
     
  10. apalazzolo

    apalazzolo Supporting Member

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    I can't believe I've actually had this guitar for four years now. There are a few others get some attention but this Maguire Meridian has been my number 1, played all over Connecticut and Rhode Island in that time.

    She was recently at the Artisan Guitar show where Jimmy Bruno had his way with her for about an hour. She learned some new licks and chords from Jimmy (man can he play), but she still came home with me.

    Check it out:

     
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