One of the most eagerly anticipated electric guitars of 2022, most definitely the most eagerly anticipated 7-string guitar since its unveiling at NAMM 2022, the Ernie Ball Music Man Kaizen has now officially been launched.
Designed with Animals As Leaders guitarist Tosin Abasi, the Kaizen is available to preorder in Apollo Black or limited edition Spectraflash finishes – with only 75 units of the latter being produced worldwide – and presents players with what is truly a 21st-century high-performance electric.
This initial launch offers the Kaizen as a 7-string, but the plan for future models includes a six-string version, too.
As with signature guitars for St Vincent, Albert Lee, and Omar Rodríguez-López, Ernie Ball Music Man has come up with an all-new silhouette for the alder body, one that’s heavily contoured and looks a little like the Albert Lee signature model after it spent a gap year in the Deltra Quadrant.
The body is all sharp angles and smooth edges, and is partnered by neck of figured maple that has been caramelised into a deep toffee colour. Expect gunstock oil and wax and all things to make this neck as tactile as can be. The neck joins the body with a five-bolt join, and is topped with an ebony fingerboard that has what EBMM calls an Infinity Radius fingerboard.
Forget 7.25”, 9.5”, 12” or 12-16” compound radius ‘boards; this is on another level, featuring “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.” Okay, so there is one fewer excuses for playing the wrong note.
This, of course, simply would not do on a regular-scaled guitar; EBMM has wisely deployed a 24.75” to 25.7” multi-scale here, promising “thick and chunk” performance on those bass strings, and a normal feel on the treble strings so you can solo as useful – though on this, you might want to think seriously about modernising your Blues Turnarounds in A.
At the headstock you’ll find some more future-forward design in the shape of Steinberger gearless locking tuners. That’s right, they look a little like dials on a pedal, and the word from the Ernie Ball Music Man R&D team is that they’re as smooth as can be, allow for a straight string pull, and are low-profile and lightweight. They certainly have done away with any need for a string tree, and are arranged with five on top, two on the bottom.
Elsewhere, there is a multi-scale vibrato, with string dampeners to cut down on unwanted noise, particularly when the gain on your guitar amp is jacked up to an unreasonable amount.
And, of course, we have the pickups. The bridge pickup is a Heat Treaded humbucker that is described “as one of the hottest pickups on the market” and we don’t think EBMM is referring to the temperature that aided in their design.
The neck mini-humbucker, meanwhile, has been voiced to complement its counterpart, and where the bridge pickup is mounted at 180º when the neck pointed skyward at 90º, the neck pickup matches the slanted angle of the 24th fret.
Controlling these we have volume and tone controls, and a three-way pickup selector with a custom middle position that splits both pickups.
Other features worthy of mention are the 24 stainless steel jumbo frets, the dot inlays, the electrical shielding that always makes these high-end electric guitars from EBMM so quiet, and they ship in a G&G hardshell guitar case.
The Kaizen is available to order now, with the Apollo Black model priced $3,999 and the Spectraflare model priced $4,099 available exclusively through Ernie Ball Music Man. You’d better hurry on over there to grab one – 75 were made, only 68 are remaining at the time of going to press.