When I started collecting weirdo guitars back in the pre-information age, I relied on looking at album covers and obscure Japanese magazines to see if I could spot a rogue guitar that wasn’t Fender or Gibson-inspired. In 1980, Ric Ocasek of the Cars took an iconic, filmnoir style photo holding one of these crescent-moon-shaped guitars under his left arm. From the moment I saw that photo, I had to find one. So here I am, 36 years later, and I finally got my MoonSault! Well, kinda/sorta. The guitar featured here is a replica made by a company in China called Rare Electric Guitars.
The shape of the MoonSault is what makes it an eye-catching weirdo. Other than that, it’s actually quite elegant in design, and it has the same amenities as some of the best American or European guitars of the ’70s and ’80s. In fact, the people at Rare Electric Guitars paid great attention to how this guitar was built, and they went out of their way to use the same woods (mahogany for the body and neck, rosewood for the fretboard), the same 24.75”-scale, the same inlays, the same Grover sealed tuners, and the same headstock design as the original Kawai model.
PLAYABILITY & SOUND
Not everything about the replica is true to the original MoonSault. The imitation is loaded with active humbuckers, while the real deal added coil-tap and phasing features. As a result, switches 1 and 2 on the replica are cosmetic (though they could be used for your own mods). Switch 3 enables the active EQ and switch 4 is a kill switch. The two Tone knobs have center notches so you know whether you are boosting or cutting the set frequency. All of this adds up to a machine that can produce everything from Telecaster to Gibson sounds, and it can get you through an entire gig with great style.
The moon shape is somewhat controversial. A lot of people have blogged that they find it hard to play while sitting down, and even harder to play standing up. I couldn’t disagree more. I find the shape allows the guitar to be positioned comfortably in my lap when sitting. When I stand, my arm rests snuggly on the upper cutaway, and access to the upper frets is completely unimpeded.
Although MoonSaults were popular in Japan—and they were produced from around 1975 to the early 1990s—Kawai never shipped these guitars to the United States in any quantity. As such, they are quite rare here, and original models sell from anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000. Luckily, I got my replica for just over $500—including shipping.
WHY IT RULES
This super-affordable replica rules for the same reason the original MoonSault rules: It looks uniquely amazing and it plays and sounds awesome.