A big part of what drove a lot of that was
the fact that VH wanted to be more in control
of his own destiny. He saw every manufacturer
on the planet lift a bit of the mojo that had
made him a hero and get rich off it (not to mention
hearing how many rock guitarists blatantly
ripped off his licks). The culmination of Eddie’s
quest was his partnership with Fender to launch
the EVH brand of amps and guitars in 2007.
GP reviewed both the 5150 III amp and the
$25,000 (yikes!) Frankenstein replica in the
April, 2008 issue. This year, EVH unveiled the
new Wolfgang solidbody, an instrument identical
to the one that Van Halen tours with. We
tested it through a Soldano 44 combo, a Marshall
JVM half-stack, as well as through several
distortion pedals feeding a Traynor
Hand-wired Vintage Reissue YGM-3.
The cosmetics of the Wolfgang are very
pretty. The maple top is nicely figured but not
overly extreme. The binding is perfect and the
tobacco sunburst is sweet. The headstock shape
provides perfectly straight string pull, which
doesn’t really matter, of course, because of the
locking nut. The top of the headstock, which
looks a little like a fish with its mouth open,
elicited the greatest number of comments,
mostly negative. The zebra pickups and chrome
Floyd lend a cool, workman-like vibe and keep
the guitar from looking gaudy.
As is my wont, I put some time in on Wolfie
before plugging in. Not surprisingly, this thing
plays flawlessly. The neck feels like a well-worn
baseball glove—totally broken in and smooth
in all the right ways. Front to back, it’s what I
would call medium beefy—not massive, but
substantial enough to support your hand. The
compound radius feels flat but not overly so.
One of the boldest features of this instrument
would have to be the stainless-steel frets. Difficult
to work but almost impossible to wear
down, these things should insure that the Wolfgang
plays consistently for years, with no need
for fretwork or setup beyond minor trussrod
tweaks—easily accomplished with access just
past the 22nd fret. The frets themselves, however,
are small. EVH calls them vintage-sized,
and they would seem to go against the oldschool
Van Halen fret preference. I find that I
have to be a little more careful when going for
big bends on these frets—it’s not as easy to get
under the string—but once I do, I can bend
into the stratosphere and it’s smooth as silk.
The other benefit is I can’t squeeze notes or
chords sharp, and that contributes to Wolfgang’s
amazing intonation. The only thing curious
about the unplugged experience is how
quiet this guitar is acoustically. Every other
solidbody we have in the office is noticeably
louder when not plugged in.
None of that mattered when I finally did
plug in, because the Wolfgang instantly sprang
to life. The bridge pickup, which is accessed
by flipping the 3-way switch up, is clear, ballsy,
and detailed. Harmonics jump out at you and
VH-approved 17th-fret squeals are a cinch.
The Bourns pot on the Volume control is super
smooth and perfectly voiced. Rolling it back
cleans up even viciously distorted tones for
“Hot for Teacher” plunk—nice! As tough as it
is for me to accept a neck pickup on a Van
Halen guitar (at least a working one), this humbucker
sounds gorgeous. It never gets into the
wooly zone that renders some neck pickups
unusable. This one is articulate and balanced.
The recipe for this instrument really does
bring in some of the best attributes of Les
Pauls and Strats. Think about it: two humbuckers
and a maple top, but with a 25.5"
scale and a bolt-on maple neck. Factor in the
basswood body and it’s clear that the Wolfgang
has its own thing going. It’s not a red,
white, and black striped Frankenstein, but
it’s a great piece of work, designed and blessed
by a living legend.
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