First thing first, Pete Dubaldo was great to deal with and supplied cool goodies in the case. Thanks Pete, much appreciated
Guitar arrived safe and sound, though I am baffled that the case was packed without any sort of protective material in the box from MusicMan.
Second; this guitar's original ETA was December 9th. But only arrived at the dealer a week ago i.e. more than two months late.
This is quite frustrating given that many retailers received unclaimed guitars, all the while pre-orders remained unfulfilled. To make this experience more customer-centric, I wish MusicMan would consider prioritizing spoken-for demand.
But it's here now...
I have a Valentine PDN. It's now for sale locally, due to the lack of forearm contour, but it's a GREAT guitar and the PDN finish is stunning.
On this guitar it's quite different... The burst is more pronounced, and she's more blue than grey. Perfect: this is EXACTLY as I wanted it As you all know it's hard to show properly, so here are pics with and without flash (there is no sunlight where I am... that's Seattle for ya :P):
The neck is really nice; not as flamey as my AL SSS or Valentine, but definitely eye-catching in a chaotic kind of way. I like it!
It's a fairly light guitar, and in fact weighs pretty much the same as my AL HH with the tremolo. I don't have a way of checking this down to the gram but they feel remarkably similar in that respect. All good.
So, physically at least she is everything I could have hoped for! Now for getting in the depth of things...
The tone: she sounds great.
She's a little brighter than my tremolo AL HH with the full-Rosewood neck. Maybe a tiny bit clearer too, due to that extra treble. There's no lack of bass; it's just a slightly different feel to the overall tone.
I don't think she's any louder than the other AL: in fact, apart from the brighter tone, these two are rather similar in aural feel, plugged or unplugged.
So, again, just fine. I will maybe put some slightly warmer pickups in there, I was thinking a set of Black Dogs... anyway... the 'maybe' in that sentence is due to two specific problems with that axe...
I picked her up to play a few things and immediately things were... off. She plays, sounds, and sustains ok... but the strings feel a little out of place. It's hard to explain. So I went looking for what was up and lo, I found it at the usual suspect.
The nut slots are WAY. TOO. HIGH.
Really. Just way too high. I don't know how else to describe just how high they are, so here are pictures in lieu of thousands of words (first one is when depressing the third fret, second is open string):
Now normally, I'd pop-out the nut, deepen the slots a little et voila, Bob est votre oncle.
But. The nut appears very well integrated to the fingerboard. Again, pictures will make it easier to describe:
So to remove this baby I'd have to score the side of the fingerboard, try to loosen it as much as possible before sliding it out, and HOPE I don't take out anything in the process.
If the nut was perfect, then ok, it wouldn't be an issue. But it's not, far, far from it.
While I'm an adept tech, I rarely use actual measurements when setting up guitars. Here I feel it'd help illustrate my point, so I've noted down below some metrics for low E strings on a few Balls:
* AL PDN, 3rd fret depressed: 2mm
* AL PDN, open: 2.5mm
* AL HH, 3rd fret depressed: 1mm
* AL HH, open: 1.5mm
* Valentine PDN, 3rd fret depressed: 1mm
* Valentine PDN, open: 1.5mm (very consistent with the AL HH)
This is truly disappointing... My other MusicMan have nuts that are maybe not as low as they could be, but are a satisfactory height nonetheless and one I never felt the need to adjust.
But here, this really throws the guitar off.
I was expecting another NGD today, an Aristides 070. That one got stuck, but I did get an AL (my favorite stock guitar) with what I consider a wholly unavoidable and yet somehow not easily fixed issue due to the quirks of this guitar. I'm a little sad.
I'll play her a little more over the weekend, but I'm still debating what to do.