Many makers today struggle to achieve originality in a form that we still recognize as “an electric guitar.” Not so, Peter Malinoski. This Maryland-based luthier has turned his hand to more creative shapes than you’re likely to find coming out of another one-man shop, yet he insists that however wild and wonderful his designs, each is an instrument designed first and foremost to be played. The Cosmic is outwardly more sedate than some of Malinoski’s more adventurous designs, but is nevertheless extremely outré amid the general run of Tele-, Strat-, and LP-inspired guitars out there. So what did inspire it? Simply the desire of this maker—who is also a genuine artist with a Masters in Fine Arts and Woodworking—to craft an instrument by hand that is unlike anything he has made before, or will make again.
Malinoski does build his guitars within certain model ranges, so there are some similarities between them, but given his varied aesthetics and individual woods and components choices, no two are quite alike. This one has, I feel, great integrity of design from a visual standpoint, and proves entirely ergonomic in the hand, too. As outwardly modern as the Cosmic is, I also keep wanting to apply the overused term “organic,” as that’s just the impression it makes. Everything feels very integral, even if at first glance you might assume it will come off as some modernistic jigsaw puzzle pieced together of several different parts.
The two-piece body is carved from African mahogany and has a maple top. The glued-in neck, which is also reinforced with screws capped with wooden pegs, is made from maple with a scarfed cherry headstock (Malinoski utterly celebrates the scarf joint), and the fingerboard is wenge. Add to these the wooden pickguard, pickup covers, control plate, and back plate, and there’s a lot of wood. It’s all delightfully tactile, too, thanks to the satin oiled finish of the back and neck, and the sleek acrylic of the luscious surf-green top.
The pickups are Malinoski’s own Type5, a Firebird-style mini-humbucker with coil splitting via the push-pull Tone pot in the simple control section. A floating Hipshot trem and locking Hipshot tuners complete the package.
The neck is slimmer than I would usually opt for, yet it feels great with its shallow-C profile and just the slightest hint of V in the lower fret positions, and I found myself warming to it quickly. Tested through a custom JTM45-style amp and a blackface Fender Pro Reverb, the pickups are snappy and lively in the Firebird Mini mold, with clear, silky highs that refrain from being strident, as these types sometimes can, and a nice little bite to them that enables plenty of cutting power when played with some attitude. The Cosmic is jangly and sparkly when played cleanly, sharp and wiry with some overdrive, and has a snarky edge that really helps it jump out. The coil split offers useful bonus sounds, albeit ones that are slightly underpowered in certain circumstances, given it is splitting mini-’buckers to begin with.
The vibrato is set up with a very light action and uses only two springs, so in addition to the easy bends and warble, it also shimmers some when you hit a chord hard or pick a single note with gusto, adding a further dimension to the tone. You could add more springs to dampen the effect, but I think it’s a cool feature that complements the Cosmic’s overall tone nicely and adds a further element to an instrument that is original through and through.
PRICE $2,600 retail
NUT WIDTH 1 11/16"
NECK Maple with scarf-jointed cherry headstock, medium-C/soft-V profile
FRETBOARD Wenge, 24.75" scale 12" radius
FRETS 24 Jescar 47104 (medium)
TUNERS Hipshot locking
BODY African mahogany back with maple top
BRIDGE Hipshot US Contour vibrato
PICKUPS Malinoski Type5 HB with alnico 5 magnets (neck); Type5 HB with ceramic 8 magnets (bridge)
CONTROLS Volume, Tone (push-pull for coil split), 3-way toggle switch
FACTORY STRINGS D’Addario, .010-.046
WEIGHT 7 lbs
KUDOS An appealingly original and artful design. Great playing feel. Lively tone.
CONCERNS Some players might want to tighten up the trem “shimmer.”