Steve Lukather is unquestionably one of the world’s finest guitarists, from his work with Toto to his countless studio sessions and his brilliant solo work. (He’s also a great interview and a hilarious dude). Luke’s guitar requirements are quite demanding and he swears by his Ernie Ball Music Man signature models. The Limited Edition BFR (Ball Family Reserve) True Gold is only available to dealers within EBMM’s Premier Dealer Network, a select international group of high-end retailers with access to special instruments. This guitar is limited to only 200 instruments, each hand-signed by Lukather himself. The thing abut Premier Dealer Network instruments is you really have to be on the ball (pun not intended but gleefully acknowledged) when it comes to ordering one before they’re all snapped up, but each instrument made available to the Premier Dealer Network is a fine showcase of EBMM’s craftsmanship and designs. For instance, this BFR Luke True Gold gives you a great overview of the Luke model as a series, as well as what you can expect from an instrument sold through the exclusive Premier Dealer Network. So if they’re all sold out by the time you scape together the cash, despair not – use this review as a guide to what to expect from a Premier Dealer Network instrument.
The Luke True Gold’s body is made of alder, with a high-gloss polyester finish bringing out the awesomeness of the finish. The bridge is the standard Music Man floating two-point fulcrum design, made of hardened steel with bent steel saddles. The tuners are Schaller M6-IND locking models. Unlike the first incarnation of the Luke model many years ago, there’s no locking trem: these days Luke feels that a vintage style tremolo bridge and locking tuners are more than stable enough for his whammy needs.
The neck is made entirely of rosewood – that’s right, the whole neck! Even the headstock face is rosewood. The back of the neck is finished in EBMM’s famous gunstock oil and hand-rubbed special wax blend, which feels great. There are 22 low-profile frets, and the whole shebang is attached with five very secure bolts. No shifting this thing.
Electronics consist of a trio of active EMG pickups: an 85X humbucker plus two SLVX custom single coils. The battery compartment has its own little door (always a plus), and the electronics shielding is achieved via graphite acoustic resin in the body cavity and an aluminium-lined control cover. EMGs are famously low-noise anyway, but EBMM has really gone out of their way to make sure no stray interference will get in there.
The Luke plays great. The low frets and deep-but-not-too-thick neck make for a nice tactile playing surface that really allows you to dig in. This is great because the resonance of the body really encourages you to experiment with picking dynamics. All three pickups sound smooth and round, with nice harmonics and plenty of output. This guitar really sings: there’s a vocal quality to single notes that really makes them jump out for solos, while power chords sound fat and thick rather than scooped and abrasive. This guitar’s natural inclination seems to be to really stand out for leads and single note lines while being able to hang back with the rest of the band during chording. And whammy wigglers rejoice: the bridge holds its tuning exceptionally well, and even avowed Floyd fans won’t complain about the lack of locking nut once they try it.
Lukather’s axe is ideal for rock, blues and fusion players who need a big range of variety and who aren’t afraid to really be heard when it’s time to step into the spotlight. On top of that, the playability is brilliant, and the construction is utterly flawless. It does feel a little weird to look down and see a rosewood neck, but the neck itself feels great.
[geo-in country=”Australia” note=””]Ernie Ball Music Man is distributed by CMC Music. This is an extended version of a review I wrote for Mixdown magazine.[/geo-in]