Ernie Ball Music Man 20th Anniversary Silhouette

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.
Cons: None.

The Grade:

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20 Comments

Filed under 20th Anniversary Silhouette, Charvel, Ernie ball, guitar, guitar center, guitar player, guitar rant, guitar review, music, Music Man, Silhouette

20 responses to “Ernie Ball Music Man 20th Anniversary Silhouette

  1. This review is worthless – the reviewer is an inarticulate troglodyte and his opinions are valueless and misinformed. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have the same neck profile as the Petrucci Sig. – in fact, the necks are tangibly and undeniably different. The 20th Anniversary Silhouette does not have active electronics – no 9-volt battery would ever be required. And lastly, Ernie Ball Music Man guitars are revered for their incomparable necks – check any decent guitar forum (The Gear Page, Birds & Moons, FDP) and you’ll find dozens of proponents of the Music Man gun stock oil & wax neck finishing, and every print publication for guitarists (including Guitar Player, Guitarist, Total Guitar, Guitar) that has reviewed the Axis has praised it’s neck. In fact, the Axis neck is a digitally carved copy of the neck from Eddie Van Halen’s # 1 favorite frankenstrat, developed when EVH had his signature guitar with EBMM, and this writer’s suggestion that he played an Axis that had an “unfinished” neck where “they forgot to round out the back” demonstrates an ignorance so monumental that it’s frightening. His assertion that it is somehow a substandard neck simply illustrates his complete lack of appreciation for a contemporary classic design that has found favor with a huge number of amature and professional musicians throughout the world.

  2. However informed you believe you are, being an Ernie Ball owner, i’d like to direct you to this page:

    http://www.ernieball.com/site/flyers/20th_ann.html

    If you’ll notice that it says Piezo available, which was what I played. It was my mistake, I corrected it. I’ll pony up to that one.

    However, if you had read my post, you may have read that I was at a Guitar Center. Maybe with a little bit of decisive reasoning, you could’ve concluded that it may have been a floor model, and it’s poor quality was attributed to that. And despite the fact that people say “one bad apple doesn’t spoil the whole bunch,” it did in my case, 6 years ago, when I was new to electric guitar. It should be a testament to either Guitar Center or Ernie Ball that no one was taking responsibility for making the flagship model of a company in excellent condition at all times. Unless you work for them, I have no idea why you’re standing up for them.

    Also, had you read my posts, you’d also know that I am just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer who has had time to sit down and practice his sucking up to a company. These are my opinions, and opinions give people extra data that people can use in the event they purchase a guitar, and more knowledge for judging what they like in other guitars.

    And I don’t know why you’re going out of your way to give me grief, I said the guitar was one of the best i’d ever played, and it might be the next guitar I buy. So I insulted the integrity of your favorite company in part of my post? Sorry I didn’t suck up to them for every sentence like you’d assume in the publications you quoted from memory.

    -The G.

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  4. Norrin Radd

    Seems to me that Jimi D had more issues with your facts than with your opinions. AND, if you’re “just another one of those people who plays lots of instruments at music stores; so what people get are gut reactions from me, not some polished reviewer “, then why even post a review?

    A published review ought to be borne out of professionalism – in the sense that it is your job to do so. If you’re just another guy playing a guitar in a music store, what value does your opinion have? Why should anybody be interested in what you say? Give me some reason to care about your opinion!

    I think it does the reader a dis-service to publish a review on a site like this where the assumption is that you’re a trained professional giving an objective review. Otherwise, why not just post it up at Harmony Central?

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  6. Jimi D sounds to me like a very harsh, unfriendly bozo who doesn’t understand either politeness or basic reading skills.

    Calm down Jimi, you uncouth little lout!

    The review quite fits my own first impressions of certain MM guitars and I also converted after picking up my students silhouette special. I now want one – like it more than my firebird V, Ibanez RG770, Yamaha RGX820Z and Malmsteen strat. Not to mention a lot of other US guitars I’ve owned.

    The reviewer never tried to pass off his impressions as perfectly accurate facts anyway! If you read the review correctly you would have seen this!

    Try being polite next time or get a life.

  7. I’m going to avoid the whole review debate since I’m a bass player and not a guitarist, but I couldn’t help but noticing your friend pick up an HH Stingray. I love Stingrays, but if he wanted to go double humbucker on a five string I would have recommended a G&L L-2500. An L-2000 (four string version) is my main player and love it. It doesn’t quite do the Stingray tone perfectly (the bridge pickup isn’t totally in the Stingray sweet spot), but you can dial in a ton of different sounds.

    I like to think Leo Fender perfected his art with G&L before he died. It’s funny how the company isn’t as well known as Fender or even Ernie Ball, yet people who play their stuff swear by the company. Maybe you can review a G&L ASAT or Legacy sometime? I’d like to see what you think of even the Tribute models (basically non-USA). And no, I’m not a rep from the company.

  8. I’ve owned the OLP MM1 Axis. Hold on. I also own a real
    Ernie Ball MM Axis Sport. The necks are amazingly close.
    It takes me a few months to make up my mine about action
    on neck (not one sitting). I purposely bought the OLP MM1
    to play on the neck for a couple of months intend on throwing
    it away after the review period. I trashed the OLP MM1 and
    bought the Axis Sport.

    I had played an Axis Super Sport at guitar center that were a
    mess. If that had been my only experience I would have never
    looked at another MM. In fact the OLP MM was noticeably
    better in action which I couldn’t understand. I know the EBMM
    Axis Super Sport didn’t come from the factory that way. I have
    no idea how it got so screwed up unless someone was attempting
    an in store setup while playing it. The bridge and the truss were
    out of wack.

    When I finally decided I wanted the Axis I drove to another state
    to get it. In fact my Axis Sport was a mess too when I got it from
    rough handling being a demo model. Once set up it is fantastic.
    I tried other MM at the store which had not been on display
    and their setups were perfect.

    I’m also contemplating buying at least one more EBMM and having
    trouble deciding which one: e.g. the JP, Silhouette standard, and
    Steve Morse original signature (non Y2D). The Silhouette has
    a 10″ radius neck but the back of the neck is not the same
    as the 10″ radius Axis neck. It has a totally different feel. The
    JP of course has the 15″ radius neck and the 1 11/16″ wide
    at the nut neck. And the Steve Morse is a completely different
    different feel with a 12″ radius neck. All the necks have the
    EB feel and yet are all radically different in feel at the same
    time. But of all the EB MM demo guitars have tried over
    the last year for some reason the Axis demos were almost
    always screwed up. The Axis has the most radical of
    the 4 necks and is so tight the slightest bit of it being out
    of setup screws up the entire experience and can flip you
    was being in love to absolutely hating it.

    Anyway I was looking for a review of the 20th anniversary
    silhouette basically to find out how the humbuckers only
    sounded on it and a report on the compensated nut. I’m
    going to have to drive to the next state to get my hands
    on one. Still haven’t decided whether the next guitar
    is going to be the JP, Sihouette (standard or 20th anniversary),
    or the SM. The silhouette special I played sounded a little
    weak in the single coils and the piezo wasn’t as good as
    I expected it to be.

  9. Emm

    JimiD once traded me an EB Silhouette Special for a Carvin and he has regretted it ever since… the Carvin was brand new, a contest prize. He loves EBs, obviously.

    I still have the SS, and don’t play it as much as I should, but it’s a fine piece of equipment even if the neck looks filthy most of the time. But who cares what it “looks” like, eh?

    Emm

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  15. a proud owner!

    well, i got my anniversary, i personally think it’s as close as you get to
    perfect. no active pickups – so there will not be any farther argument.
    well, most guitars i played were ether good at distortion and FX’s
    or a good clean sound, this one though – can kick #ss!! both ways.
    i don’t like the J.P. sig, it sounds bad even on a massive fullstack fender amp and
    pre-amp. the only good thing about it was the piazzo. bad choice if you ask me.
    it took me 4 days and countless hours to handpick my anniversary, at guitar center
    LA, this guitar and the lesspual my friend bought with me were the best tow guitars
    at the store. we simply played everything that cost more than a 1,500 dollars.

  16. OzeShiN

    I,for one,thought the original review was a decent one.
    Jimi D apparently took issue because the reviewer dared not to issue an A+ review?
    I’ve played one of these guitars only yesterday.
    A beautiful looking,well constructed,great sounding guitar but the 10″ neck radias made me feel like I was going to bend of the board…I don’t know how Slash or Morse managed with their huge hands.
    Here in Australia the final price is closer to $3000(AUD) and way out of your average amateur’s price range.
    Is it worth #3000?
    After playing it I would have to say no.
    You know what they say about opinions though don’t you?
    They’re like buttholes…every body has one.
    Cheers,
    Oze

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  19. Ken

    I dont think there was anything wrong with the review! But! I will say that most guitars at guitar center,sam ash,ect play like crap.They dont set’em up they just take’em out of the box,and hang’em on the wall.

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