The $28,000 Eddie Van Halen question
A great thing about the Guitar Center’s in Colorado is that they are unlike any other GC’s I’ve ever visiting in that they actually let you play the fun expensive stuff. My buddy Kevin at the Arvada, CO GC totally hooked me up this evening in giving me some personal time with the $25,000 EVH Frankenstein guitar, the $2,000 5150 III amp and the corresponding $1,000 4×12 speaker cab. I have to say it was a real treat to check this stuff out for myself, as I’ve been hearing so much about these things. So here are my $.02
The amp was cool, but not what I was expecting at all. I was a fan of the old 5150 II amp (used to own one as a backup) and the new 5150 III is very different, IMO. As it has been reported, the resonance controls have been removed and I really missed that. I amp has a saggy low end that I suppose suits Eddie’s style, but not mine! The 5150 III is also no where near as aggressive as the earlier 5150 series amps. I guess at the end of the day, it does lend itself to sounds more similar to EVH’s old Plexi Marshall Super 100 (on channels two and three), but that’s about it. This is *NOT* a versatile amp. It does one thing fairly well, and this is lend itself to sounding like Van Halen. I guess that’s cool, but it was way more limiting to me based on my personal style. I thought the clean channel was better than any of the previous 5150’s, but that’s not really saying much. It does not have much headroom at all.
For comparison purposes, I brought along my Diezel Herbert MKII which is currently sporting 4 EL34’s and 2 6L6’s. What ever the 5150 III could do, the Diezel did it better……way better. I suppose that’s not surprising since the Herbert was around $3,800 new!
As for the guitar end of things, I brought my Suhr Standard with a basswood body, maple top and one piece maple neck to do some real EVH comparisons (it was the most “Wolfgang-like” of anything that I owned). I was shocked at how similar the Frankenstein felt and sounded to my basswood Suhr! The major difference to my ears was that the Suhr’s DSH bridge pickup was a bit hotter than that of the Frankenstein’s, but not by much. I bet Suhr’s DSV or SSV would suit that EVH sound just fine! That was really surprising. I was really expecting a lot more magic from that pickup. The best part of the Frankenstein was the neck. It was certainly wider than any of the previous EVH signature model guitars, and had huge frets. It was very comfortable to play……Van Halen licks on! Interestingly enough, with the whole “relic” thing going on here, the neck came complete with dirt and a slightly sticky feeling. I was happy to play my Suhr again after handling that guitar. Seriously.
In the end, it was certainly fun to check out the guitar and amp that everyone’s been talking about. However, I was certainly relieved to see that I was more than close enough to those tones with the equipment I already had. I think the thing I actually liked the best was the speaker cab…..it sounded GREAT with my Herbert. From what I hear, its basically a clone of a late 60’s/early 70’s Marshall 4×12 with original Celestian Greenback speakers. I heard the guys over a Wildwood Guitars did a comparison with a period correct 70’s Marshall 4×12 and they sounded practically identical. So I guess the secret speakers in Eddie’s new cab are re-engineered old Greenbacks. Wild.