NAMM 2024: EVH Gear brings back a pair of Eddie Van Halen cult classics as the Shark and the Circles (aka Unchained) guitar return to the lineup

EVH Striped Series Circles
(Image credit: EVH Gear)

NAMM 2024: EVH Gear has unveiled two blasts from the past that are guaranteed to have Van Halen superfans reaching for their credit cards as soon as pre-orders are open, because the infamous Shark is back in the tank, and the Circles guitar, also known as the Unchained guitar, returns too.

Both are steeped in Van Halen lore, both based on two electric guitars that were radically modified by an Eddie Van Halen who was approaching the peak of his powers. 

Besides Frankenstein, the ür-guitar in the Van Halen legend, the Shark has to the most recognisable – made famous on the 1978 tour, staying famous because who else carves up an Ibanez Destroyer in an act of avant-garde, DIY luthiery? 

Who else takes thinks to make this weird steam punk guitar that looks held together with springs, giving it a finish of silver and burgundy courtesy of a can of Schwinn bicycle paint? It’s a genius, that’s who. 

The Circles guitar has a more familiar shape. It’s an S-style, hot-rodded of course, but really stands out for the “crop circle” black and white design on the front, and for being the guitar EVH rocked circa ’81 when he was blowing minds with Unchained. 

That guitar eventually ended up in the possession of Dweezil Zappa – but not until it had been remade anew, modded again and turned into the Rasta guitar. Maybe we’ll see a repro of the Rasta guitar some time soon?

It seems not that long ago that the Shark was released, NAMM 2019 to be precise. But it’s good to see it rejoin the line-up. It has a quartersawn maple neck that’s glued to an ash body, as per the original. The jagged edges that gives it the toothed look, and hence its nickname, the Shark, are here in full effect. It’s got the industrial fastenings.

EVH Striped Series Shark

(Image credit: EVH Gear)

Brass plays a big part in its story. There’s a brass nut; the bridge is a solid-brass harmonica-style unit that is chrome plated, and that helps give this its tone. The shorter 24.75” scale – remember, the Destroyer was an Explorer rip-off – gives it a different feel to its 25.5” Fender-esque siblings in the line-up.

The details look bang on, here, with the pickup toggle mounted on a brass ring, the gold and chrome mismatched tuners (which here are EVH-branded Gotoh tuners). 

A pair of EVH Wolfgang Shark humbuckers are controlled by a low-friction 500K Bourns pot with treble bleed circuit, and a 250K high-friction Bourns tone pot. It’ll cost you £1,499 / $1,899 this time around.

EVH Striped Series Circles

(Image credit: EVH Gear)

The Circles model is a cheaper date at £1,299 / $1,399. It is more conventionally EVH, with a Strat-like body of basswood, a bolt-on maple neck, 12” to 16” maple fingerboard with dot inlays, an EVH-branded Floyd Rose vibrato with a D-Tuna for drop D tuning on the fly. It has a single EVH Wolfgang humbucker at the bridge position. It’s only got a master volume control ‘cos that’s all you need.

Flip it around and you’ll see it has the “Bye see ya later” decal, just like the original – though you will want to take that cover off to reveal the vibrato springs just like Eddie did.

Both of these models hit stores in April 2024. For more specs and pictures head over to EVH Gear.

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.