I’ll admit it, for the my entire career as a guitar player, I have hated Ernie Ball Music Man guitars. I have very vivid memories of going to a Guitar Center, picking up a really nice looking Axis, only to have the experience ruined by the neck. It felt triangular to me, and almost like they forgot to round out the back of the neck. Not only that, but the wood was dirty due to some lack of sanding and finishing. So it stuck in my mind as one of the most uncomfortable guitars ever made, so I never picked one up again. It kept me away from Ernie Ball altogether until one of my favorite guitarists got picked up to do a signature guitar. John Petrucci, the guitarist for Dream Theater, rekindled my interest in Ernie Ball and gave me reason to touch them again. Maybe i’ll review the JP Signature at some point, but right now, we’re on a different mission with coincidental undertones (I’ll explain in a bit)
I went to Guitar Center with a friend of mine who plays bass. He had just purchased one of Ernie Balls new HH basses, so he felt some sort of brand loyalty to Ernie Ball. He sat in front of one of the cheapo Crate amplifiers, ready to butcher a song on guitar, an instrument he’d never really excelled at. He picked up the nearest Ernie Ball, it was the 1800 dollar, 20th Anniversary Silhouette which was positioned quite close to him. He played the guitar, and I looked at it with contempt, still remembering the experience with an Axis a long time ago. I’d never played the Silhouette, but I just assumed it had the same neck as the Axis, but with a double cutaway body. My friend got a phone call, and was just sitting there holding the guitar. I decided to take his seat, and he handed me the guitar. The transformation had begun…
The Specs: It’s a 24 Fret, Dimarzio Loaded beast of simplicity with no tremolo, locking tuners, three way pickup selector, volume and tone knobs. The top is an odd beast, a layered top like a triple ply pickguard, but with wood, plastic, then wood again. It was different, to say the least, from anything else i’d ever seen, as most guitars with plastic around the side consisted of cheap plastic binding, but this was a black plastic with a maple veneer on the top. Very attractive.
The Neck: This was what converted me. My hands fell into an immediate pattern which i’d never felt before. A different kind of comfort i’d never felt on medium jumbo frets. They were spectacularly finished, and with 24 of them, I was in heaven. My ideal prescription for a guitar consists of a 24 fret neck, and one as good as this will most definitely go on my list when some company comes to approach me about building a signature guitar. (I won’t hold my breath) It was smooth, unfinished (They did a bang up job!) and despite being a bolt-on, I felt no limitations like I would on a Fender Strat or Telecaster.
The Body: This might be the only thing I’ve got a problem with. The horns are stretched a little much for my tastes. The bottom one has a perfect curve to it, but the top is a little long, giving it an almost Danelectro Longhorn look to it. But it was perfectly contoured for playing, which is really all that matters. I say that knowing perfectly well that BC Rich wouldn’t be as well known as they are had feel been all that matters when people were buying guitars (Another review some time). Qualms aside, it was light, the pickups fit in there perfectly, and there was no clutter to it; just a beautiful looking guitars. Also, since my ideal guitar has a fixed bridge, (Though a trem is an option on some 20th anniversary Silhouettes) this one is starting to fit the bill as one of my favorite guitars.
The Electronics: Simple active (I am mistaken. An eloquent comment proved me wrong. What I thought was active pickups, was actually a piezo preamp.) circuitry with Dimarzio pickups. I’ve always been a fan of Dimarzios, but these just had a different dynamic, which was excellent. The were clear and crisp in all settings with no muddiness like some single coils tend to do, and some stock Humbuckers. Though, I’m not a big fan of active circuitry, as most people can’t find a 9 Volt battery when they need one.
The Hardware: Good bridge, nice knobs, what else is there?
The Whole shebang: Now, what I mentioned before was that the only other Ernie Ball I really had enjoyed was the JP signature, and I have a feeling this guitar took some of it’s ideas from John Petrucci’s ideas for Ernie Ball. The neck is probably the exact same one, and the fact that the action is perfect shows that a real player had something to do with it, not someone trying to make one-off guitars without caring about playability. (Gibson SGs, anyone?) As simple as it is, this is a great guitar. It feels great, sounds great (even through a cheap amp), looks great, and is a product of American craftsmanship, of which I am a huge proponent. The Ernie ball 20th Anniversary Silhouette has brought me back into the realm of Ernie Ball, and I’m here to stay.
However, i’m not going to give it the A+ that the Charvel had. This Ernie Ball has everything i’d ever want in a guitar, no hassles, fuss or anything that would bother me, and it would sound amazing. The Charvel I reviewed only had 22 frets, and it had a Floyd Rose, some of my biggest irritations in guitars. The thing is, there was an electricity I felt when I picked up that Charvel; an almost undescribable feeling that just made me want to play, and I thought it was an amazing guitar. This Silhouette is, without question, my ideal guitar, and something that fulfills that criteria is a diamond in the rough. I want it to be my next guitar, even if they triple the price. However, it didn’t inspire me like that Charvel, and for that it get’s an A. That plus is reserved for something out of this world.
Pros: Everything is fantastic. My ideal guitar, all the way.