NAMM 2023: Ernie Ball Music Man unveils six-string version of Tosin Abasi’s groundbreaking Kaizen electric guitar

The Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen 6-string arrives a year after EBMM debuted the Tosin Abasi-designed 7-string
(Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

NAMM 2023: When Ernie Ball Music Man debuted the Tosin Abasi co-designed Kaizen electric guitar at summer NAMM 2022 it was fair to say it blew minds. 

Some because of the shape; it looked a little like EBMM’s Albert Lee signature guitar had just journeyed back from the Delta Quadrant and was reshaped by a more advanced alien species. 

Others because of the spec, the Steinberger gearless locking tuners, the Infinity Radius neck (just how might that feel in the palm?), or the prospect of the custom-wound Heat Treated humbuckers. But there was a question: these were all seven-string guitars? Where were the six-string models?

Well, they are here now, and they look worth the wait. Shipping in Chalk White, Apollo Black, Mint, Indigo Blue – all exemplars of how good a solid-colour finish can look on an aggressively styled guitar – these share the multi-scale format of their extended-range forebears. 

And it goes without saying that they all have a top-shelf build and spec sheet. Anyone looking for a high-end electric guitar for the 21st-century would do well to check ‘em out.

First off, that custom-designed body – all angles and pointed edges and yet not explicitly a metal guitar profile – is carved from solid alder, the finish satin smooth to the touch. 

The neck is roasted figured maple, topped with an ebony fingerboard. The aforementioned Infinity Radius fingerboard is designed to offer players a better feel and vantage point. 

You would expect nothing less from an Abasi-designed guitar; there are few players who open up a fretboard like him. In Ernie Ball’s words, the “conical fretboard radius peaks along the treble-side edge of the fretboard and folds towards the player for unobstructed view of the entire fretboard in playing position.”

That fretboard seats 24 medium-jumbo stainless steel frets, with white dot markers to aid navigation. There is a Heat Treated humbucker at the bridge, and a custom-wound Offset mini-humbucker at the neck. The scale runs from a Gibson-esque 24.75” at the high E to 25.5” at the low E, and this multi-scale design is reflected in the custom multi-scale tremolo unit.

All the top-tier EBMM touches are present and correct. There is the gunstock oil and hand-rubbed wax finish on the neck. The tremolo design incorporates string dampeners and the electrics are shielded to make this a low-noise instrument, even in the sorts of high-gain, high-volume performance scenarios you’ll be wanting to use it in.

Controls-wise, there is a three-way pickup selector, with the middle position a custom split position between both pickups, plus volume and tone knobs. Again, as with the 7-string model, there are those distinctive Steinberger gearless tuners, which of course lock to enhance tuning stability.

The Kaizen six-string is available to order now, priced $3,799. The seven-string will set you back $3,999. See Ernie Ball Music Man for more details. 

There was also good news from the EBMM family of brands earlier this week, when Sterling By Music Man announced a host of new models for NAMM 2023, including a St Vincent Goldie, a Mariposa in Daphne Blue, and updates to its super-versatile workhorse cutaway, the Cutlass, and a very cool Albert Lee model equipped with P-90s.

Jonathan Horsley

Jonathan Horsley has been writing about guitars and guitar culture since 2005, playing them since 1990, and regularly contributes to MusicRadar, Total Guitar and Guitar World. He uses Jazz III nylon picks, 10s during the week, 9s at the weekend, and shamefully still struggles with rhythm figure one of Van Halen’s Panama.