One of the biggest electric guitar stories to come out of NAMM 2023 was the news that Rabea Massaad had signed on the dotted line as an Ernie Ball Music Man artist, and that plans were underway to develop a new signature guitar.
The guitar was to be based on the superlative Sabre, but with a few key differences. From the pics, we could see that there had been a little more contouring work down on the lower horn of the solidbody double-cut. Pictured in the Anaheim Convention Center, Massaad, who had hitherto been a Chapman artist, looked as happy as a clam – and little wonder, this prototype he had was a doozy. And it was unexpected. Massaad had only sent EBMM a rough spec wishlist and was under the impression he would be sitting down with Drew Montell and CEO Brian Ball to draft something. They had planned ahead.
“I turned up. I went into the room, and gave Brian a hug, said, ‘It’s great to meet you.’ Give Drew a huge said, ‘It’s great to meet you.’ And then all of a sudden he turned around and handed me this,” says Massaad. “It is an absolutely beautiful guitar and I was not expecting to be handed this at the time of arrival.”
And that is how he got his hands on the first official prototype. The official word then was that something was coming, when, or what form it might take we didn’t know. We could make some educated guesses.
Surely, Massaad would go for his own Silo humbuckers, the electric guitar pickups he developed in 2019 with Bare Knuckle. Locking Schaller M6-IND tuning machines are standard on these EBMM models. But what else was new?
First off, it had a satin finish. The Sabres have all been high-gloss. The finish was all-new, based off a Charcoal Burst. The “spoon cut” on the treble horn reveals not only enhances the upper-fret access but it shows off a little more of the figured maple top that has been used as the binding. Very PRS. Very high-end electric guitar. As Massaad reveals in the video, the carving in that lower horn was done personally by Montell.
The roasted flamed maple neck and fingerboard is something we see a lot in these high-end EBMM builds. Bet your bottom dollar that this neck has had the gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend treatment, but what Massaad says about the neck profile really differentiates it – not just from the other Sabres in the EBMM range but from many electric guitars on the market.
Ernie Ball Music Man Sabre review: "The Sabre shows a different side to Music Man, with a classic double-cutaway body the launching pad for an all singing, all dancing modern electric that's got heaps of tricks up its figured-maple sleeve."
Massaad's neo-Sabre has a neck profile that is thicker around the nut, and then tapers towards the neck. Far more commonly we would find the neck to be at its thinnest at the first fret, and fattening up by the 12th.
“Well it makes sense,” says Massaad. “If I want to play riffs I want a fatter neck that I can hold and dig in. But when I am shredding leads and stuff, I want it to be thinner.”
Sounds intriguing. Massaad does say that Montell’s carve is subtle, but the overall thickness is ‘50s Les Paul, y’know, “fat, but not stupidly fat.”
There is no confirmation on when Ernie Ball Music Man will release the Massaad signature but as he explains in the video above, there will be some changes. The next prototype is in production, and will feature a different colour finish, revised hardware – the bridge is going to be more JP15 – and the pickups will have a push-push coil-split. Allied to a five-way blade pickup selector, that makes for one versatile guitar. Take a closer look at it in the video above.