For most of Muse’s career, frontman Matt Bellamy has played custom-built Manson guitars, designed and built by Hugh Manson and Tim Stark. Famously, this long list of guitars has included everything from built-in X-Y pads, Digitech Whammy pedals, Z.Vex Fuzz Factories, even lasers. But in 2015, Muse fans who couldn’t stump to the four-figure prices of Manson models had their dreams realised with the release of the MBC-1: a collaboration of Manson and Matt Bellamy’s designs and guitar manufacturing giant Cort to produce an affordable signature model.
That guitar was released to supermassive acclaim, bagging awards left, right and centre simply as an incredible, affordable electric, regardless of the signature association. The Cort/Manson series followed with the Classic TC and M-Jet models, but fast-forward to 2020 and the partnership continues – with a few important changes.
First up is the big news that Matt Bellamy is now the majority shareholder in Manson – based in his native Devon. Next is that the start of 2020 brought us a brand new signature model in the Manson Meta MBM-1.
Out of the box, the MBM-1 cuts an identical figure to the previous signature model – the distinctive part-Tele/part Les Paul mash-up body, complete with a well thought out contour to help make it comfortable to play.
Elsewhere, the MBM-1 is loaded with a number of contemporary features – the matte black finish that’s seemingly impervious to fingerprints, the satin neck, Cort locking tuners, and the spoke wheel ‘hotrod’ truss rod nut which means you don’t need to remove the neck or fiddle with a restrictive channel to make adjustments.
Electronically, the MBM-1 is equally utilitarian: two Mansonbranded humbuckers, a master volume, master tone and a three-way pickup switch, but this being a Matt Bellamy model, there’d be something amiss if there wasn’t a small hint of onboard experimentation. That comes in the form of a kill switch, neatly mounted to the upper bout.
There’s a common theme with every Manson guitar we’ve played, and it’s a combination of resonance and feel from that neck. Unplugged, the guitar is spritely, chiming away as we ring out some open chords.
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