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Roundup! 3 Musicvox Electrics

May 15, 2012
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  Space Cadet 12 String 
Strataspear
Space Cadet 6 String
Guitar Player first discovered Musicvox in 1997, and we were entranced by owner Matt Eichen’s whimsical, off-kilter homages to bizarro ’50s and ’60s designs. Eichen’s Spaceranger looked like either a cartoon guitar gone horribly wrong, or a woodworker’s ode to Picasso. It was beautifully grotesque—the kind of guitar every cool cat must own. In time, Eichen’s concept was proven solid by comedic genius Mike Myers, who showcased the Spaceranger in his retro-rific Austin Powers film, Goldmember, in 2002.

But the story of Eichen and Musicvox didn’t close with a victorious first act. A serious health crisis with his daughter— who is now in fantastic health—caused Eichen to cease production for almost a decade. Happily, when Musicvox resurfaced at the 2011 NAMM show, the classic Spaceranger, the stylishly madcap Space Cadet and MI5 models, and the Strataspear “rocket ship” proved to be just as delightful as ever. With Musicvox’s current line of four 6-string guitars, two 12-string electrics, and four basses, Eichen seems poised once again to become guitarcraft’s benevolent Wizard of Weird.

Space Cadet 6 String

If you want unconventional, but are too timid to wield a Spaceranger, slinging the Space Cadet over your shoulder is as comfortably rebellious as pairing a Pierre Cardin tuxedo with pink Converse. The guitar feels solid, plays well, and rocks hard. Construction is pretty good overall. Although the neck humbucker rattles slightly in its mounting, the frets, nut, and hardware are excellent. I especially liked the chrome Volume and Tone knobs with textured sides, as they are easy to manipulate for volume swells and wah-like effects. The bolt-on neck sits tightly into its socket, and the finish, pearloid inlays, and binding are similarly well done.

Sonically, the Space Cadet straddles the studly chunk of a Les Paul and the aggressive zing of a Gretsch Pro Jet. The bridge pickup is somewhat bright, and it doesn’t offer complex midrange frequencies, but I loved that its snotty kerrang cuts without being overly searing. When you want to energize the crowd—or wake up your bandmates— go here. The neck pickup isn’t as warm or bluesy as that of a good Les Paul, but it delivers a stout low-midrange wallop, and the dual-pickup position uncorks a delicious blend of power and articulation. Overall, the Space Cadet 6 String is a sweet machine.

Space Cadet 12 String

The SC12 is the closest thing to a production-model “pawnshop prize” I’ve come across in quite a while. Like many secondhand guitar discoveries of little-known origin, the SC12 forces you to wrestle with a few construction glitches. In the SC12’s case, the nut is sharp enough to cut your hand, the frets are a bit ragged, the pickup selector is scratchy, and there’s enough room to stick a business card between the neck socket and the body. Furthermore, it’s very difficult to change six of the 12 strings, because the wood backing on the headstock limits accessibility to the tuning pegs.

But here’s the good news: The Space Cadet 12 String sounds fabulous, and it’s such a joy to play that the workmanship and design issues just melt away. I love the wide neck and string spacing, which makes it easy for those-without-slim-and-nimble fingers to dig into all manner of riffs, licks, chords, and solos. The neck pickup sound is very bold and thick, but still delivers excellent chime. Select the bridge pickup, and the volume drops audibly, and the tone is thin and one-dimensional. This isn’t a bad thing, however, as this sound is great for layering rhythm parts or cutting through a dense mix. My favorite tone was the combo plate—the middle position—as it brings on a wonderful balance of shimmer and beef. Yum. Construction glitches aside, this is now one of my favorite 12 strings.

Strataspear

Fender recently informed Musicvox that the Strataspear name infringes on its Strat and Stratocaster trademarks, and, at press time, it was unknown how the model might be renamed. But whatever you call this guitar, you’ll always know it when you see it, because it’s like having a sidewinder missile in your hands. Don’t even try playing this projectile sitting down, as it’s impossible (unless you’re a contortionist). Happily, when you strap it and stand up, the Strataspear delivers a wealth of tones—thanks to its sing-mini-humbucker-sing configuration. I could dial in all sorts of sonic mayhem from snotty and aggressive, to snappy, to chunky and bratty. Warm bass tones are not the Strataspear’s forte, but this weapon can really tear into metal, heavy rock, and punk styles.

Construction is good where it matters (frets, hardware, tuners, and knobs), and a bit off on the cosmetic side (single-coil mounting is rough, Musicvox logo isn’t very sharp). The Strataspear is definitely not a “safe” design that will appeal to everyone, but if you play hard, and don’t mind turning heads with a bizarre guitar, you may want to add this rocket to your armament.

Specifications

CONTACT Musicvox, musicvox.com

Space Cadet 6 String

PRICE $829 direct
NUT WIDTH 1.75"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 24 medium
TUNERS Musicvox locking type
BODY Mahogany
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Two vintage-style humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS Musicvox custom, .009 set
WEIGHT 7.92 lbs
BUILT Indonesia
KUDOS Good construction and tones. Looks retro cool.
CONCERNS None.

Space Cadet 12 String

PRICE $899 direct
NUT WIDTH 1 7/8"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 24 medium
TUNERS Musicvox, Kluson-style
BODY Mahogany
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Two P-90-style single-coils
CONTROLS Volume, Tone, 3-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS Musicvox custom
WEIGHT 7.48 lbs
BUILT Indonesia
KUDOS Great player. Sounds good. Looks fab.
CONCERNS Workmanship is rough.

Strataspear

PRICE $849 direct
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
SCALE LENGTH 25.5"
NECK Maple, through-body
FRETBOARD Rosewood
FRETS 24 medium
TUNERS Musicvox, locking type
BODY Mahogany
BRIDGE Tune-o-matic style
PICKUPS Two hum-cancelling single-coil (neck, bridge), one mini humbucker (middle)
CONTROLS Concentric Volume/Tone, 5-way pickup selector
FACTORY STRINGS Musicvox custom, .009 set
WEIGHT 4.76 lbs
BUILT Indonesia
KUDOS Aggro Tones. Good workmanship. Bold design.
CONCERNS Can’t play sitting down. Some minor cosmetic issues.

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