Review: Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa

No matter what style of music you deploy it on, the Mariposa sounds just right.
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Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa

Ernie Ball Music Man Mariposa

Designed in collaboration with Mars Volta guitarist/composer Omar Rodríguez-López, the Mariposa is a sleek guitar that features a roasted maple neck with a 25.5-inch-scale ebony fretboard carrying 22 fairly tall, medium-width frets and what Music Man calls Atlante block inlays. 

The sleek neck is finished in a satiny gunstock oil/natural wax formula, with the visual bonus of a clear gloss finish on the back side of the headstock and body-matching paint on the audience side. It attaches to an angular body made of okoume wood (a species native to west-central Africa) via a five-bolt neck joint. 

The Dorado Green finish is nicely accented by a Turbulent Green pickguard with a laser-etched floral pattern. (The guitar is also available in Imperial Black, Imperial White and Pueblo Pink finishes, with pickguards in black, white and Torrid Maroon, respectively.) 

A small point, perhaps, but the location of the toggle switch at the forward edge of the pickguard is perfect, as it’s easy enough to reach, yet doesn’t lend itself to being accidentally knocked out of position when strumming. The chrome hardware looks great on the green and pink versions, while gold hardware (along with gold “hat” knobs) classes-up the black and white models.

The Music Man Modern trem has a super-silky action and stays in tune under aggressive downward bends. In stock form, it’s set to return flush to the body, but you can adjust it to float. The chromed “chevron” cover on the rear section of the bridge is also a good anchoring spot for your hand.

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Two Music Man HH-2 humbuckers feed individual volume controls and a three-way switch, and since there’s no tone control, you have to balance each pickup’s volume to veer between warmer and brighter sounds. 

This threw me a bit at first, because I kept reaching for the rearmost knob out of habit. But the blending thing became rote pretty quickly when using both pickups, and there are a lot of textures available in this mode. I found that even when using the pickups individually, I could get softer or brighter tones via subtle volume-control adjustments. 

These humbuckers are a great match for this guitar, and they offer a wide range of sounds that work for anything from jazz to twangy rock and roll to hard-ass country and rock. Their output level was enough to drive a Deluxe Reverb into grind, yet they maintained a well-defined response though distortion pedals, sounding fat and juicy without any harshness, even when really laying into the strings. 

This resonant guitar slips into feedback very controllably when playing at medium and higher volumes, and I thought it was dynamite for slide playing, too, as it’s nearly impossible to get anything but cool tones in any pickup setting.

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The neck is super easy to get around on, and playability is excellent, thanks to the polished frets and a great factory setup that kept the intonation sweet in all positions. The low-ish action didn’t drift when I used the Mariposa on several hot, dry California outdoor gigs this summer, and it stayed nicely in tune, too, thanks to the locking Schaller tuners and the small, slippery Melamine nut. 

Everything about the Mariposa feels so dialed in, and no matter what style of music you deploy it on, this guitar just sounds so right. It’s a keeper in my opinion, and it gets an Editors’ Pick Award.

Specifications

Mariposa

CONTACT music-man.com
PRICE $2,899 street

NUT WIDTH 1.625", Melamine
NECK Roasted maple, bolt-on
FRETBOARD Ebony, 25.5" scale, 10" radius
FRETS 22 high-profile, medium width, stainless-steel
TUNERS Schaller M6 locking
BODY Okoume
BRIDGE Music Man Modern tremolo with chevron cover and vintage bent-steel saddles
PICKUPS HH Music Man custom wound humbuckers
CONTROLS Volume (neck), volume (bridge) 3-way selector
FACTORY STRINGS Ernie Ball Slinky, .010–.046
WEIGHT 6.6 lbs
BUILT USA

KUDOS Great sounding, and a superb player. Light, compact feel
CONCERNS No tone control could be an issue for some players

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