EVH Wolfgang Special Review (Fender)
Fit and Feel
When you first pick up a Wolfgang, the most immediate reaction you may have to it is how much the guitar is offset from standard guitars. You’ll notice the body is shifted to the left in standard playing positions. It’s noticeable; coming mostly from using a Strat every day, but it ends up being a welcoming shift to aid in high-positional playing.
Secondly, you’ll notice how comfortable the action is, from the slight-rolled raw fingerboard edges, to the height of the strings on the compound-radius neck. The frets, although they are not stainless steel (as available on the higher-end Wolfgang models) are still very smooth and leveled quite nicely.
Bridge & setup
What a great combination a dive-only Floyd Rose provides with a D-Tuna. Drop-D tuning with a Floyd Rose is instantaneous, and since it’s hinged on the body, there’s no fluctuation in tuning at all. Plus, the fine tuning ability built into the drop-D motion of the tuner allows for even finer setup through a pre-set adjustment. Locking tremolos are great when they’re set up well. And this one came to me at about 92% there. I tightened down the locking nut as there was a bit of play, and adjusted the string retention bar behind the nut as locking the nut tended to pull some strings sharp. However, even with a bit of adjustment, I do notice that the G string does pull itself a bit flat. I’m continuing to tweak that, and it’s getting better. I’ll be sure to updated the final verdict on that.
The unique neck finish on these guitars is quite superb. It’s essentially no finish at all, being hand-rubbed oil. This is unique in the sense that’s there no satin finish (which, BTW, is bound to “shine” up with time – just ask my Strat) however there’s a bit of protection to the wood while still being allowed to breathe. Since we’re talking about a maple neck and fretboard though; expect it to darken with age since there’s no real protectant on the neck (in the way a traditional finish is).
The finish is great as it should be going through Fender’s QA process, and it looks great. I love the creamy vintage white of my particular model; but many color schemes are offered on this guitar and you may find a more appealing finish. Being white, the black binding on this guitar is painted. I’m sure this has everything to do with the special and being a painted guitar; if you opted for a pricier US version, you’d probably find it actually be inlaid binding. The paint quality of the binding is pretty good and only noticeable in it’s lack of 3D-ness which gives it away that’s it’s just painted underneath. However, the detail work for sanding around the recess for the bridge on the body, and behind the back cover plate leave a lot to be desired. The back tremolo cavity behind the cover plate is completely excusable; almost every guitar I own has this problem (who sees it anyway?), however, the “bubblyness” under the tremolo on the body is inexcusable, and probably has everything to do with my tuning issues with the G string as I detailed previously. It should be sanded smooth, as this is the place where the bridge rests on the guitar, and the recess created for the tremolo in the carved top. perhaps a mod I’ll do for this is to remove the paint here, sand it level and smooth, and keep it clear underneath; as I’m not sure on what’s necessary to get that locking trem to work at 100% capacity.
A New Take on Controls
The low-resistance volume knob and high-Resistance tone knob found in the Wolfgang really should be in every guitar. Full stop. It’s silly that little advances in electronics don’t take on like this. Sure, the pots are probably $5 more than the ones they put in stock guitars, but this is literally worth $10, even if it’s passed onto the consumer. Volume swells are much easier when the pot is freely-rotating. The only drawback to a setup like this – especially if it’s not your daily player – is that it’s easier to not be on full-volume than with a traditional pot that will pretty much resist small nudges. With a bit of familiarity though, this shouldn’t be much of a problem for most players.
We all know what this guitar was built for: Van Halen. And the pickups help out with that a lot. They clean up well, but never forget who they are. This thing screams and is an essential 70’s/80’s distortion machine; the exposed humbuckers have everything to do with this. They’re raw and powerful, even if there no the A-Level ones found in USA models.
Unfortunately, I have had an issue with the pickup selector switch. Which is very odd. Since this guitar is mainly used at home, I’ve been lazy about fixing it; but will open up the back cover soon to see if there’s a loose solder joint, a bad wire, or bad switch to get this thing going. Occasionally, when switch to the bridge position, I’ll lose volume from the bridge and will need to switch back and forth until the full bridge bite comes in. This problem is still intermittent and I chalk this up to a sub-par wiring job; something that’s easily adjusted.
To buy or not to buy?
Buy, especially if you can find a good deal. This particular one was snagged off of Reverb used for about $150 off the new price, but in such a Mint condition it honestly appears brand new. The description for the guitar talked about a hairline crack at the neck joint only in the finish. This appears to be a large problem with these styles of guitars (I know Peavey had this issue when they were manufacturing the Wolfgangs as well). Either way, it arrived in perfect condition without any finish cracks at all.