What is it?
A signature solid-body for Manson Guitar Works' majority shareholder, Mr Matt Bellamy, the META MBM-1 sports many of the stage-ready features the Muse frontman might look to in an electric guitar.
Okay, there is no onboard Kaos Pad or Z.Vex fuzz circuit, but we've got the modified V profile maple neck, the stealth Satin Black finish – NASA-esque Starlight Silver is the alternative – and two humbuckers wired in a circuit with a kill switch.
A sense of minimalism abounds. There are no markers on the Indian laurel fretboard. But who needs markers? Where we're going, we don't need markers, right? Well, wherever your fretting hand is going, it'll get there quickly.
That soft-V is build for speed and comfort, with the shred-accelerant coming via a compound 12"-16" fretboard radius that's so very of the moment in contemporary shred guitar. Is this a shredder's guitar? It is, albeit dressed down in a super-modern T-style that's got a lot of wood on that top shoulder.
The body is basswood, to which the neck is bolted on with a heel plate revealing that Manson has designed it, Cort has manufactured the instrument in Indonesia, as per the previous affordable Bellamy signatures. Is this a world apart from, say, the 2015 Cort/Manson Bellamy signature, the MBC-1?
Well, yes, this feels different. It's a dual humbucker deal whereas the MBC-1 had a singlecoil at the neck. Sure the the tune-o-matic bridge is the same but the neck profile feels more designed, and its satin finish feels under the palm than the gloss of before. And where the MBC-1 had a rosewood 'board we've now got laurel. Well, the world has changed since 2015...
Performance and verdict
In so many respects, the MBM-1 is definitely a player-friendly guitar. The spoke wheel truss rod nut promises allows you to make adjustments on the fly. It's the little things but they all add up. The action out the box was good. That satin finish on the neck smooths things out nicely, while the soft V is a grown-up shredder's choice – a don't knock it 'til you try it shape.
We would have liked some fret markers but there you go. We plugged in through a high-gain amp, dialled up the drive, played some open chords and were met with a rich, saturated tone.
• Trinity By Relish
If you like the cut of the Trinity By Relish's very playable modernist gib, investing in those extra pickup sets to make the most of the pickup-swapping concept is very tempting indeed.
• PRS S2 Mira
The Mira is noticeably light, but its generous acoustic resonance translates to a garage-band vibe. It's midrange focused but in a good way - and there's a lot of Les Paul Special/SG here.
• Cort M-Jet
In a marketplace crowded by high-powered electrics aimed at the black t-shirt demographic, yet another convincing performer can only add to the sense of option paralysis any rock or metal guitarist feels whenever they walk into a guitar store.
There was a nice balance between both pickup's output. They share a nice midrange detail, but the bridge position reveals a little more of the upper-mids and top end sizzle. Rolling back the tone control takes some of that off, and makes for some very nice blues tone when you have the gain down low.
The neck pickup smooths out some of that top end, and in the mix position you can get some lovely tones up and down the full rock spectrum, from big-beast '70s rock right on through to Sabbath riffs and searing contemporary metal.
Manson offers its usual complement of upgrades. For £55, you can get a coil-split – a feature we'd like as standard but let's not mix this up with a Ryan Air flight. You can get Dunlop or Schaller strap-locks from £20 extra, and there are a variety of pickup options.
The big ticket upgrade is the Sustainiac Pro Sustainer, which will set you back an extra £369. If you happen to try this guitar and love its feel, like the look, and see the potential in it, the Sustainiac would be a very cool upgrade, and then it would really feel more like a Matt Bellamy guitar.
As it is, it feels very much like what it is: a well-considered rock machine that's a lot of fun to play, with very convincing tones. The locking tuners help keep it nice and stable while adjusting the bridge or the truss rod is a cinch. Muse fan or not, this is a serious fish in the mid-priced electric guitar market, and one that's muted enough in its finish that you can put your own stamp on it. That, quite honestly, is the sign of a good signature guitar.
MusicRadar verdict: The MBM-1 is in many respects exactly what you'd imagine – it plays quick, the tones are hot, the kill switch is fun, and the finish impressive for the money.
The web says
"There’s no shortage of brands offering incredible quality in the mid-priced battleground, but Manson have delivered a workhorse clothesline to its competition here. Contemporary feel, ergonomic playability, efficient design and killer sounds should cost more than this."
"You’re not getting the tonal complexity of a vintage Fender or Gibson type here but that’s not the point. This is simply a super-playable guitar with a meaty yet disciplined 21st-century rock voice that could cajole a crowd into hysteria – and we’ve a feeling that’s exactly what the boss asked for."
Manson Guitar Works
- Price: £569
- Body: Basswood
- Neck: Maple, soft V profile
- Scale: 25.5” (648mm)
- Fingerboard: Indian Laurel, 12”-16” compound radius
- Frets: 22
- Pickups: Manson Humbuckers
- Controls: Master volume, master tone, three-way pickup switch, momentary kill switch
- Hardware: Chrome T-o-M-style bridge and tailpiece, Cort locking tuners
- Left-handed: No
- Finish: Satin Black, Starlight Silver
- Contact: Manson Guitar Works