Has there ever been a more Marmite piece of guitar hardware than the Floyd Rose vibrato? Love it or loathe it, the noble Floyd changed guitar history when it was patented in 1979.
Its double-locking concept book-matched with some ideas that a young Edward Van Halen had about how a guitar should sound and perform. Thanks to Ed and Mr Floyd D Rose, a Strat body, bolt-on maple neck, bridge humbucker and a locking Floyd became the blueprint for rock guitars in the '80s and beyond.
More than 30 years on, the Floyd Rose vibrato has survived more changes in musical fashion than Bon Jovi; and it's still Van Halen's bridge of choice, down-bend only, of course. His latest Wolfgang signature has one fitted - and proves what a great guitar designer the man is.
According to the EVH website it took almost a year to develop the pickups for the Wolfgang. That's pretty remarkable when you consider that Ed used to get by with an old Gibson PAF chiselled into a $50 'Boogie Body'.
Well, Ed's a tone freak and incorrigible tinkerer - that's probably why the EVH Wolfgang, in its new stealth black finish, feels like a guitar that was built by a guitarist.
The Wolfie's thinly applied rubbery finish almost conceals a 38mm thick basswood body mated to a 12.7mm arched AA maple top. We say almost because Edward requested that the control and vibrato cavities be left unpainted (it's true; we looked) to allow the body wood to breathe for better tone.
Does it work? Who knows, but if it makes Ed happy…
The bolt-on maple neck, quarter-sawn for rigidity, has the classic 648mm (25.5-inch) Fender scale length. The neck heel is sculpted for easy upper fret access; the ebony fingerboard has a conical radius for easy chording and string-bending.
The 'board has rolled edges for comfort and EVH has defied modern rock guitar convention and specified 22 stainless steel vintage-size frets instead of the more usual, jumbo nickel-silver jobs.
The Wolfie's black EVH-licensed Floyd Rose vibrato rests on the body so you can only lower the pitch. Tuning stability is unwavering; just as it bloomin' should be.
The Floyd comes with D-Tuna device on the low E string. Pull the D-Tuna out and the string's tuning drops to D. Marvellous. The metal hardware is completed with a locking top nut and a sextet of EVH-branded Gotoh machineheads.
Those two body-mounted EVH humbuckers that took so long to get right are wired to a classic Ed-spec reversed three-way toggle switch (bridge 'bucker only, bridge and neck; neck only), a low-friction Bourns-manufactured volume pot and a high-friction Bourns tone control.
At the risk of pointing out the obvious, the low friction volume is designed to move freely for quick volume changes and swells. The high friction pot is stiffer: roll off the highs and the control will stay put.
To complete the package, the EVH comes with a tough SKB moulded case with 3D Van Halen stripes on the outside, heavy-duty catches and a plush Wolfie-shaped interior.
The EVH Wolfgang is a tone machine. That might be thanks to its direct-mounted humbuckers or the fact that the Floyd Rose sits on its body. Whatever it is, there is an underlying beef to the tones offered by these humbuckers.
Van Halen rejected many prototypes for these pickups because they were too harsh sounding. Well, his fussiness paid off.
The bridge unit offers plenty of bite without a hint of shrillness. False harmonics fly out of this guitar like fireworks when you engage the bridge humbucker. The neck 'bucker fattens up the tone but there's still plenty of clarity there.
The EVH Wolfgang is just about as perfect a rock guitar as Eddie could dream up. The big-voiced humbuckers and Stealth black finish aside, it's the old school touches that make the Wolfie so enjoyable.
The vintage profile frets and the rolled fingerboard edges make this guitar a cracking player for any guitarist, regardless of whether you turn your nose up at a Floyd Rose vibrato or not. Yes, at over £2,500 the asking price is a little bit hairy, but let's face it, we guitarists tend to aspire to something that is, at least temporarily, beyond our reach.
If you aspire to owning the ultimate Floyd Rose-equipped twin-humbucker guitar, the EVH Wolfgang sets that standard.