What is it?
Eddie Van Halen's mythological status as rock guitar's Macgyver-in-chief is writ large in electric guitars as wacky yet unimpeachably cool as the EVH Striped Series Shark.
This is an out-there shape, even for the turn of the 80s shred guitarist, but such was Van Halen's status and persona, it has become a classic – old-school futurism meeting the new practical demands of high-speed rock guitar head on.
Older readers might recognise the Shark from the 1978 world tour. Others will know it as the guitar on the back of the 1980 Van Halen album Women And Children First. Along with the homemade Frankenstein, black and yellow “bumblebee” Charvel and “5150” Kramer, the Shark was one of Van Halen's most brazen experiments.
It started out as an ash-bodied Ibanez Destroyer before he took the saw to it and bit into the lower bout. It was painted silver. He applied masking tape, took a spray can of burgundy Schwinn bicycle paint and refinished the whole thing, pulling the tape off to reveal the stripes.
This Shark, part of the EVH Striped Series, was unveiled at NAMM 2019 and is an uncanny recreation of that guitar. It has the hockey stick headstock on the quartersawn maple neck, carved in a modified C profile and glued to the body for extra sustain.
The 12-16" compound radius pau ferro fretboard is very friendly to the soloists out there, flattening out as you approach the spotlight notes. As for pickups, there are a pair of hot Alnico 2 humbuckers in the neck and bridge. They really are wound hot, for a resistance reading of 12.98k ohms at the bridge and 15.65k ohms on the neck.
Eddie Van Halen's paw prints are all over this. While we were distracted by the shark jaws cutaway in the body, mismatched hardware made its way onto the guitar. The tuners might not all match – some are gold, some chrome, but they are Gotoh and they are quality.
This mismatching is all part of the charm and it is recreated faithfully here, right down to the brass nut and chrome-played brass harmonica bridge. The three-way toggle sits on a brass plate, the routing for the circuit exposed to the elements because why not have the guitar look like the lutherie equivalent of a game of Operation?
That circuit is well thought-out, too. There's a 500K EVH Bourns low-friction volume pot for EVH-esque swells, and a treble bleed circuit and tone 250k tone pot that's high-friction to prevent accidental bumps.
Performance and verdict
You don't take a guitar named Destroyer, cut it up so it looks like it could eat Robert Shaw in two bites, call it the Shark and give it a burgundy/silver striped finish and then forget to make it sound like an open E through a modded Marshall stack would take your head off.
This, frankly, is the Shark's bread and butter. It's big and bold, wide and warm, bringing depth and weight to the juicy, harmonics-rich Van Halen tone. Throughout there is a lot of definition, and this only adds to the Shark's upfront and aggressive tone profile.
• EVH Striped Series (opens in new tab)
It seems a little like a guilty pleasure, but it's a built-for-purpose virtuoso rock machine that feels, thanks to the oil-finished neck, a little more intimate than many more clinical-feeling modern rock guitars.
• EVH Wolfgang (opens in new tab)
The best Wolfie yet? Without doubt it's right up there - the tone and feel, plus the overall quality that's come from the rigorous R&D process makes it a superb guitar.
Dial up the gain, maybe throw an MXR phaser between you and the amp, and the Shark will smell blood in the water and get really excited. And it's a very capable ally in your shred adventures, that C-profile neck has just got enough meat on it to make it comfortable, but slim enough to let you travel up and down with no delay.
The neck, the compound radius fingerboard, the jumbo frets, the hot tone, and the lightweight construction (a happy side effect of the shark bite) all make for an instrument that is super-playable, that gives you a little extra in the performance.
Sure, just picking it up doesn't mean you'll be able to nail Everybody Wants Some!! by magic. But when you do, it'll sound all that more sweet. Now all you need is a frontman like Diamond Dave.
MusicRadar verdict: Seeing the Shark up close and realised in a production line model is a dream come true for Van Halen super-fans, and its high-performance and aesthetic radicalism does not disappoint when you play it loud.
The Music Zoo
- ORIGIN: Mexico
- BODY: Ash
- NECK: Quartersawn maple, set with graphite reinforcement
- SCALE LENGTH: 629mm (24.75”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Brass/42.86mm
- FINGERBOARD: Pau ferro with dot inlays, 305-406mm (12-16”) radius
- FRETS: 22, jumbo
- HARDWARE: Chrome and Gold EVH-branded Gotoh tuners, EVH Chrome-Plated Solid-Brass Harmonica bridge
- ELECTRICS: EVH Wolfgang Shark Humbuckers (neck and bridge), three-position toggle switch, 500K EVH Bourns Low Friction volume pot with treble bleed circuit, Tone (250K EVH Bourns High Friction pot)
- RANGE OPTIONS: EVH Striped Series Frankie, EVH Striped Series 5150, EVH Striped Series "Bumblebee"
- LEFT-HANDERS: No
- FINISHES: Burgundy w/ Silver Stripes
- CONTACT: EVH Gear (opens in new tab)