Take one quick look at the ML2 Modern Standard and you can see exactly where Chapman found the inspiration.
Behold the classic, single-cut body, two chrome-plated humbuckers and a black pennant headstock that’s not a million miles away from Gibson’s ‘Open Book’ style, as immortalised in mahogany on the late Lester William Polsfuss’s most famous creation.
But appearances can be deceptive. It’s soon apparent that Chapman was looking to take the hallowed geometry of an LP-style profile and run with it: this instrument is a very different beast.
Turn the ML2 Modern sidewise and it near enough disappears. Chapman pegs its weight at a relatively svelte 3.5kg, so it’s unlikely to see you turning over your salary to the chiropractor. Not only is its body slimmer than your common or garden LP-style single-cut, it’s heavily contoured with its cutaway and heel carved for easy access to the upper frets. Its upper body features a wide bevel, a “rear tummy cut”, which again cuts down on weight and ensures the ergonomics work in your favour.
It has a modern, satin-smooth C-profile neck, hewn from maple (another deviation from the LP blueprint) and glued neatly to the body. The 25" scale lends it a unique feel - and with 24 jumbo nickel frets, the ML2 Modern is hugely shreddable. There’s nothing bulky about the ML2 Modern whatsoever - except maybe its tone.
Like its LP-esque kin, the ML2 Modern feels as though it was spec’d for big and fat, classic rock and blues tone. Its mahogany body is like a Kitemark guaranteeing warmth and it seats a pair of Chapman Stentorian Zerø humbuckers in the neck and bridge positions. While both pickups are essentially the same, with an Alnico V magnet at the heart of them (think tight low-end, brightness, a little less on the mids) they’re wound differently.
The bridge humbucker has a higher output (14.5k ohms, since you asked) for a thicker tone and, naturally, with a bigger signal going to your amp, there’s more distortion. The neck humbucker (9.5 k ohms) is a little cleaner and a little brighter, making it a neat choice for the neck position, where tone can tend to get muddy if you’re not careful. But if the ML2 Modern’s USP lies in its humbuckers, mahogany and high- calorie tone, it’s got plenty of range if you know where to look.
With a coil-split, accessed by pulling up on the master tone pot, you can split the signal of these humbuckers for some single-coil snap and sizzle. The middle position selects the outer coils of the bridge and neck pickups - and that is a darn interesting combination: bright with an elastic quality, perfect for fingerpicking, jamming funk or blues, or just for adding a different texture to your rhythm playing.
Dial in some gain so it starts to break up and you’ve got some hot, soupy goodness on draft, perfect for rambunctious surf- and alt-rock, and grunge, too. The single-coil tone in the bridge position has got bite and clarity that’s nice and sharp, while the neck rounds off the treble for a chewy tone that’s good for subtle chord work and blues alike.
Chapman makes a point of noting that down-tuned riffs, presumably in the style of heavy rock and metal, are mother’s milk to the ML2 Modern, and so too a “standard tune ripping out a melody”. It’s a smart move. The ML2 Modern finds itself in a crowded marketplace where we are seeing the coil-split as an all-but-ubiquitous feature, creating an expectation, or rather a demand, so that the ML2 Modern and its peers compete on who can cover the most ground tonally.
The ML2 Modern makes a good claim on being all things to all guitarists. With coils split or not, we love its tone. That bridge ’bucker really sings with some gain. While the neck pickup is a great ‘rhythm’ humbucker - articulate and dynamic.
Whether you find the modernity in its versatility, or in a feel that’s more Jackson than Gibson, the ML2 Modern sure lives up to its name.