Magneto Eric Gales Sonnet RawDawg III: What is it?
In fact, Magneto was founded by Christian Hatsatt back in 2008 and has built quite an underground reputation with their small production of Japanese-made T-Wave and Sonnet models, which combine neat re-designs of Fender’s finest electric guitars with exemplary hand-craft but, inevitably, high-end prices.
Eric was introduced to the brand just over a decade ago and has been playing them ever since, and, of course, already has his own Raw Dawg II Custom signature guitar based on the Sonnet.
But starting in 2017 Christian set about producing a much more affordable Chinese-made U-One range – which became available in Europe in 2019 – and in 2020 discussions with Eric led to the new signature model you see here, which is anything but high-end in price.
In the flesh, the RD3 hardly reinvents the Stratocaster, but along with its smart metallic finish – that gold mirror scratchplate with its smart-grained ivoroid control knobs and gold-plated Gotoh hardware, not to mention the inlaid signature that surrounds the 12th fret – it’s certainly distinctive in style.
The body outline is altered too: the upper horn is reduced in length and the treble horn is slightly altered from the age-old outline. There’s some dishing around the neck heel which reduces the bulk a little too and you’ll notice an extra strap button at the tip of the heel: as Eric Gales’ fans will know, he plays upside-down, left-handed style.
The neck and fingerboard increase the distance from the vintage recipe with a more Gibson-style 12” radius to the dark rosewood fingerboard while the neck profile feels more like a slighter narrower version of Gibson’s SlimTaper rather than any vintage Fender we’ve played.
The fret work is excellent, the gauge allows enough height for big bends without feeling over-high and the fingerboard edges are lightly rounded: excellent craft.
In contrast the vibrato sticks with vintage style. The all-steel unit is a really quality piece, although we might be tempted to add a neck shim just to reduce the height of those slightly protruding saddle screws.
As supplied, it’s set flat on the body too with no up-bend but, like any Strat vibrato, that’s easily sorted. We don’t get locking tuners either but, not least thanks to a very well-cut oiled bone nut, tuning stability, with sensible use, is surprisingly good. Overall, with a good weight of 7.7lb it’s an engaging, lively and vibrant guitar even before we plug in.
Magneto Eric Gales Sonnet RawDawg III: Performance and verdict
Obviously, with three single coils and a five-way pickup selector, we get the usual Stratocaster voices (and here the mixes are hum-cancelling), but these slightly overwound Metro-Poles pickups have a very even string response - thanks to their flush-pole magnets – and a good kick in terms of output.
With the volume control full up there’s a really modern-sounding sizzle to the high end and while some of that is due to the 500k ohm pots on our sample it’s easily tamed just by slightly pulling back the volume a smidge. The tone control is another surprise that provides a very useable ‘woman’ tone rolled fully off than a slightly humbucker-like, smoother voice as you begin to wind it up.
• PRS SE John Mayer Silver Sky
The exemplary build and a voice that offers an immersive trip through classic Strat-inspired guitar tones make the SE Silver Sky a seductive and affordable version of one of the 21st century's most successful guitar designs.
• Fender Player Plus Series Stratocaster
With a choice of bold and smart new finishes and the high-performance vibe of a flatter fingerboard radius, the Player Plus Series Strat extends the potential of Fender’s most successful range and offers gigging players an instrument that offers classic Fender tones and the ability to modernise them.
Kick in some overdrive and light boost and use those controls and here’s a guitar that’s a lot more than its inspiration. It moves effortlessly from pristine, sparkling funk to full-throttle contemporary blues and just about everything in between. But you really need to use those controls to access the sonic potential.
There’s little doubt that Magneto’s underground style plays a part in the appeal here. This RD3 is around the same price as PRS’s oh-so-mainstream SE Silver Sky, but really holds its own in terms of construction, playability and sound, and although both are based on the good ol’ Stratocaster, it’s the RD3 that comes across as the more inspired reinvention in terms of style.
Unfortunately, not everyone will get the look – and currently, there are no colour options – but don’t blame us if when you track one down and plug it in, you get hooked. We certainly were.
MusicRadar verdict: A compelling reinvention of the classic Strat formula, with super-playable feel, a versatile range of tones, and a certain underground appeal that makes it irresistible once you plug in and play.
Magneto Eric Gales Sonnet RawDawg III: Hands-on demos
Barnett Music Exchange
Magneto Eric Gales Sonnet RawDawg III: Specifications
- BODY: Two-piece basswood
- NECK: Roasted maple, ‘medium C’ profile, bolt-on
- SCALE: 25.5” (648mm)
- FINGERBOARD: Rosewood/12” radius
- FRETS: 22, narrow jumbo
- PICKUPS: Magneto Metro-Poles Custom EG1 single coil set
- CONTROLS: Master volume and tone, 5-way lever pickup selector switch
- HARDWARE: Gotoh Custom vintage-style vibrato w/ steel plate saddles and steel block, Gotoh enclosed tuners – gold-plated
- FINISH: Sunset Gold (as reviewed)
- CONTACT: Magneto Guitars