There’s a strong and welcome whiff of people power when it comes to Chapman guitars.
Brand founder, Rob (aka the Monkey Lord), isn’t a dusty tonewood tappin’ guitar maker; he’s a guitar-toting internet celebrity-cum-entrepreneur who’s gone from creating a smattering of electrics in 2009 to a full-blown range of some 29 new models.
“The culmination of 18 months worth of feedback, comments, chats and meetings with the guitar-playing public,” says Chapman Guitars’ MD, Matt Hornby.
The guitars are now available in over 20 countries worldwide. The range is split into three tiers - Standard, Pro and Signature. We selected ML2 Pro Modern. Based on a maple through-neck with mahogany wings and nicely violin-like dished centre-jointed maple top, it’s thinner than a Les Paul with a similar depth to the ML1 (around 36mm at the rim with a max depth of 45mm). It comes with a more substantial weight, but not off the scale at 8.4lbs.
There’s a slight PRS-like scoop in the treble cavity and a sharp-pointed horn - both enhancing its modernism - and a custom shop vibe is suggested with the matt jet black ebony ’board and 24 stainless-steel frets.
With the almost faded blue colouration of the maple top and muted black hardware, it all ties in smartly. Less so perhaps the rather foreshortened headstock with a brown striped ebony facing - it doesn’t tie in colour-wise and its square top looks uncharacteristically unimaginative.
Powering here is from a pair of black-coiled Stentorian humbuckers, using Alnico 5 magnets and mounted directly to the body without mounting rings. The cavities are very cleanly cut, but in combination with the raked back neck pitch, the bridge pickup does sit rather high - its baseplate is virtually in line with the face of the body.
Feel & Sounds
With such sharp, clean presentation, there’s a danger that - like many modern instruments - this could feel rather sterile. It really doesn’t.
All the controls fall easily under your hand - they look a little cramped, but in use are intuitive and fast, while the Tele-style knurled knobs are very grippable, not least for pulling up the tone switch to voice the pickups’ split coils.
It’s these tuned-in features that makes this model seem more like an artist-designed guitar, which in reality it is.
The ML2 drops right into the modern-rock single-cut slot. Yes, it’s thinner than a more classic LP-style - both in size and sound - but with the hot bridge pickup selected, it’s quite a ride for driving a cranked Vox or Marshall, with a couple of boost pedals for good measure.
These pickup heights are a little low, but we’re not sure it matters. Likewise, the splits (which voice both inner single coils of the ’buckers) hardly add woody ‘Strat’ - they’re altogether more pristine - and dialling in a few Helix LT presets with some dense modulation and reverb, the ML2 really sings in a contemporary fashion. A modern single-cut that is an effortless player but with a big kick.
Helped by direct-to-retailer pricing, this guitar offers a spec that’s hard to beat at the price - and you get a good case, too. The ML2 takes the single-cut platform but - in a more ergonomic size - adds a through-neck, different but very viable control positions, and creates a lighter but nicely hot single-cut voice.