The Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass has a small body fitted with three single coil pickups. There’s not a great deal of bells and whistles as far as the bridge and tuning machines are concerned. But don’t let all these details deceive you: the Cutlass isn’t a delicate little biscuit. It’s no anvil either, but there’s a bulkiness to this guitar, which is reflective of the guts encased within.
The body is a solid double cutaway, resembling a Fender Mustang but a bit more compact. The reviewed product had a vintage sunburst finish with a shell pickguard. Akin to a Mustang, the pickguard is rounded at the top and covers much of the right hand side of the body.
The Cutlass weighs roughly the same amount as a Strat, but a lot of this weight seems to disappear once strapped over your shoulder. The top corner of the body has an ergonomic fold, giving greater comfort when resting against the torso or the waist. The neck is one of the guitar’s biggest assets. It’s 41mm at the nut and 56mm by the time you get to the 22nd and final fret. There’s very little resistance all the way along. Complex jazz chords, intricate lead licks and thrumming power chords all become a breeze on this thing.
If you desire a bit more resistance – perhaps because you’re heavy fingered, or just like making things difficult for yourself – the bridge saddles can be adjusted. The guitar will accommodate heavy strings, of course, but to see it at its peak we’d recommend something like 10-46 gauge or 11-48 gauge strings. Whatever your preference, it facilitates plenty of nimble fretwork.
The Cutlass comes with three single coil pickups. It’s also fitted with a Silent Circuit mechanism, which is effective in reducing the hum while preserving the single coil sound. Some people are apprehensive about these sorts of built-in enhancements, but we’re not goofing around by saying the Silent Circuit doesn’t reduce any of the full bodied single coil sound. Plugging it into a clean amplifier, the level of sustain is immediately impressive. This is true not just in its versatility – giving you a gutsy bottom-end, fantastic treble distinction and clarity and warmth right across the board – but also in the quality of tone. Kicking on the distortion pedal, this becomes even more evident. You’ll get plenty of bang for your buck playing muted percussive riffs, jangly funk, circulating lead melodies, straight-up major chords – you name it. There’s excellent definition and power, without the sound becoming crowded.
Cutlass is part of Music Man’s Modern Classic collection, harking back to an original design from the 1970s. However, it’s made worthwhile by the updated features and high performance capacity. There’s nothing nostalgic about this guitar.
For more details on Ernie Ball Music Man products, head to cmcmusic.com.au.
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