If you weren't one of the few who bagged one of (YouTube guitar celebrity) Rob Chapman's original ML models, well, frankly it was just hard cheese. Your only hope was finding one on eBay. Until now, that is...
Yep, last year Chapman and his compadre Lee Anderton (of Andertons Music in Guildford) commissioned a factory in Korea to produce a fresh run of ML-1 and ML-2 models - a chimp off the old block, if you will. Finish options have been boosted and the respective spec sheets given a light tweak, but the essential strands of the original guitar's DNA have been retained. Now, it's our turn to see just what they - and the many ML disciples - are so damned excited about.
The ML-1 is heavy, but to be fair, that classic S-type body is fashioned from two slabs of solid mahogany, topped with a figured maple veneer, so a weight of a little over 4kg (that's about 9lbs) is not totally unexpected.
Besides, the ML-1's heavy set demeanour becomes more of a bonus than a curse when the guitar is hanging from a strap - it's a reassuringly substantial beast. Likewise, the three-piece bolt-on maple neck has a pleasantly chubby feel. 22 extra jumbo frets offer smooth string bending and a buzz-free performance on the ebony fingerboard, while access to the upper frets is unhindered thanks to a well-sculpted neck heel.
Chappers has chosen to direct-mount (ie, screw down) his self-designed Guitarnivore humbucker and twin Extreme Victory single coils into conveniently pickup-shaped holes in the guitar's top. This not only looks cool, but fellow advocates such as Eddie Van Halen believe that direct mounting enhances tone.
Despite boasting three pickups, the ML-1 is fitted with a three-way (not five-way) pickup selector. The secret here is the push/pull coil-split that doubles as the master tone control. For instance, with the bridge pickup selected, the 'bucker is on full with the coil-split/tone in the down position.
Pull the knob up, and the 'bucker is split and the middle single-coil pickup is activated. The result is the classic Strat 'in-between' sound. Alternatively, pull the knob up when the pickup switch is in the middle position and all three pickups fire up.
Chapman has described his ML-1 as a tonal Swiss Army knife. The fact that the bridge humbucker indulges us with a sweet vintage tone through a clean channel backs that boast up. We love the old-school 'glassiness' of the single coils, too. However, the quality of the pickups is only enhanced with some overdrive.
Start notching up the gain and the bridge unit becomes harmonically rich while possessing enough grunt to pull off some righteous chugging metal rhythm. Add in the Wilkinson vibrato and Grover machineheads, and the versatility is boosted further without compromising tuning stability.
The ML-1 is a worthy competitor to similarly spec'd guitars from the likes of LTD and Schecter. It's beautifully put together and finished, and represents some great ideas, well executed. It even comes with a padded gigbag.