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Few guitar builders impress us with virtually every instrument they send our way, but Music Man never ceases to impress. Each guitar we’ve had the pleasure of reviewing has excelled in numerous ways, and I don’t know if we’ve ever bothered to return a single review instrument! At this point in time, almost every member of our guitar staff has purchased a Music Man loaner instrument from Ernie Ball to keep, and with the new Steve Morse Y2D guitar, we suspect this trend will continue.
We first beheld the beautiful purple sunset instrument with a quilted top and clear acrylic pickguard at the Winter NAMM show and couldn’t wait to hear it in our studios. Featuring a silky-smooth neck with the trademark Music Man feel and custom DiMarzio Steve Morse pickups, the SM-Y2D is a winner on all fronts: it looks great, plays great, and sounds great.
The Music Man Steve Morse SM-Y2D has a lightweight poplar body with a stunning quilted maple top. The 22-fret maple neck has a 12” c-shaped radius, larger than most Music Man guitars, and giving it the comfort of a classic favorite. Frets are wide, and the neck width is 1-5/8” at the nut and 2-1/4” at the last fret.
While the body has a high-gloss polyester finish, the neck has the familiar Music Man gunstock oil and wax finish, and it is topped off with a rosewood fingerboard. It is bolted to the body with Music Man’s standard five bolt neck joint. A single truss rod provides for neck adjustments without string removal.
Schaller M6-IND locking tuners are at the headstock, and the bridge features a Tuneomatic bridge mated to a Music Man solid brass tail block.The guitar is optionally available with a Floyd Rose-licensed locking tremolo, configured for pitch-down use only.
Pickups on the SM-Y2D are a DiMarzio DP-205 Morse Signature humbucker at the neck and an DP-200 Morse Signature humbucker at the bridge. Immediately adjacent to the bridge pickup is a proprietary, custom-wound, single-coil pickup.
The guitar features one volume and one tone control, and the five-way selector switch selects pickups in the following sequence (from Down to Up): Bridge, Bridge and Middle in parallel, Middle, Neck and Bridge in parallel, and Neck.
The jumbo frets make for dreamy string bending, and the silky-smooth neck finish let our hand glide effortlessly across the 22-fret span. We thought the neck felt most like our Music Man Axis Super Sport, but the neck radius is actually one inch larger. Combined with a beautiful setup and low string action, though, the neck never felt too large for even the most shredtastic acrobatics.
Although there was no coil tap option for the humbuckers, we did’t miss it at all. In fact, we appreciated the simplicity of the controls — any serious guitar player would feel immediately comfortable with this instrument’s control layout.
We played the SM-Y2D guitar through numerous tube amps from Mesa/Boogie and Fender. The DiMarzio Morse Custom humbuckers have hot enough output to drive our high-gain rectifiers into modern metal territory, but are not so hot as minimize their usefulness in blues and mainstream rock.
Through our Lone Star and Heartbreaker amps, we heard focused tone that was more akin to a Les Paul than a Stratocaster. And while not as syrupy as the sound we might get from a mahogany-bodied guitar, the SM-Y2D delivered our heavy tones with beautiful clarity and warmth, and with all the attack needed for fast staccato runs. The bridge pickup in particular was notable for delivering both rhythm and lead tones without harshness, and with great clarity and note separation.
The single-coil pickup was especially handy on clean tones, and helped to deliver chimey, bell-like tones. It was very easy to get beautiful country twang from the SM-Y2D when paired with our Fender Super-Sonic.
Preferring the sound of humbuckers in general, though, we were drawn to the second pickup position on clean tones, which preserved that bell-like tone, but added the warmth and depth of the bridge humbucker. This also masked most of the single-coil noise (on clean tones it was barely noticeable, but with high-gain sounds, some of the single-coil noise came through). Even by itself, however, the middle pickup wasn’t particularly noisy by single-coil standards.
With a little bit of distortion, the middle pickup was also well suited to classic rock and blues rhythms, and switching from this position to the neck or bridge for solos showed off the beauty of a HSH pickup configuration.
The neck pickup was deep and warm, and it sounded great both playing jazz leads as well as blues lines. The tone was surprisingly comparable to mahogany bodied guitars, especially given how much lighter in weight the SM-Y2D is.
Really, this guitar was comfortable in any musical situation we threw at it. The lack of a tremolo on our review model made it especially easy to switch to alternate tunings such as dropped-D and DADGAD without messing up our setup, and the Morse Custom pickups always preserved the quality of our tone, even with the dropped tuning.
Music Man recently launched a new website separate from the Ernie Ball site, complete with user forums, so if you haven’t been to their site in a while, it’s worth a visit to the new site. There’s plenty of entertaining stuff to read.
Ernie Ball Music Man
Overall Rating - Product Summary
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