Saturday, September 7, 2013

2004 Ernie Ball MusicMan SUB 1 Guitar Review


Today we are looking at one of the best values out there in an American-made electric guitar: my old 2004 MusicMan SUB 1.

Back in 2003, the Ernie Ball company wanted to provide a lower-cost alternative to their admittedly expensive guitars and basses; the SUB line of instruments came from this idea. These instruments were built in the same San Luis Obispo factory as their other wares, but with features that made them more affordable. This included cheaper body woods and hardware, as well as textured finishes that required less labor and polishing to complete. You will notice that it does not say “Ernie Ball” anywhere on this guitar...

The SUB 1 was their take on the Silhouette guitar, in this case a hardtail with two humbucker pickups. This one has a poplar body that is finished in Cinnamon, which is a neat color that has oodles of sparkly and colorful highlights that glint when they catch the light just so. This color is not common, and I have only seen a few with this finish. Many of the SUB instruments came with a bizarre faux diamond plate pickguard, but the later ones came with a single-ply plastic guard. This one got a black plastic guard.

The neck is maple (painted matte black) with a 10-inch radius rosewood fretboard and 22 high-profile, medium-width frets sunk into the fretboard. This is a 25.5-inch scale instrument, and the neck is 1 5/8-inches wide at the plastic nut. The neck is attached to the body with five bolts and an angled neck plate, due to the extensive cutaway that allows access to the higher frets. The SUB instruments get the standard MusicMan truss rod wheel for easy adjustments.

The hardware is a bit cheaper than what is found on the Silhouette. This one has chrome-plated sealed tuners, though I believe models with tremolo came with locking tuners. This SUB 1 strings through the body, and the bridge has bent stainless steel saddles.

The electronics package is simple, with volume and tone controls, a 3-way toggle pickup selector and two custom humbucker pickups. Whatever that means…

And this is really a great guitar, regardless of how much it cost (which wasn’t much, really). The pickups are strong, and it has a great thick sound for rock or blues. Though the hardware is not quite as good as their higher-priced models, I do not notice any problems with sustain or tuner slippage.

The craftsmanship is what I expect to see coming out of San Luis Obispo – the neck pocket is tight and the frets are very well done, with nicely finished edges and a level fretboard. This is one of the easiest playing guitars I ever owned, and I kind of wish I still had it. If I remember correctly, this one went off to live with my friend Mike in the UK. God knows what happened to it since…

The MusicMan SUB guitars were made from 2003 to 2006, and they were quite a bargain, coming in at around $500 or so, if I remember correctly. On the used market they sell for about $300, which is a heck of a deal for a solid guitar.



  1. "You will notice that it does not say “Ernie Ball” anywhere on this guitar... "
    well it does - on the sticker with the serial

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