Twenty-four-fret neck, coil-splitting humbuckers, set neck, bone nut, affordable, light enough to play all night—oh, yeah and make it cool looking too, OK?
Phred Instruments tackled this request with its Ernesto VH3 guitar. To further sweeten the pot, this Trey Anastasio-inspired guitar includes a Koa veneer top and the OBEL preamp.
OBEL stands for onboard effects loop. You’ll notice there are two output jacks on the guitar; one is your standard "to the amp" output, the other calls for a stereo or Y cable coming in and out of your pedalboard. This allows you to switch your effects on and off right from your guitar. Because the preamp includes a buffer, it needs a 9-volt battery to play the guitar plugged in.
We’re not done with the acronyms yet. VH stands for virtually hollow. While most semi-hollow guitars have a center block, the VH3 does not. The result is a more-live and louder sound similar to an acoustic guitar. Also, the virtually hollow factor cuts down in the weight department. On my not-so-precise bathroom scale, the VH3 weighs in just more than 6 pounds.
At first glance, the controls may seem overwhelming. I labeled a picture below, but briefly, you have a master volume, a three-way pickup selector, the OBEL on/off switch and a tone knob and coil-splitting switch for each pickup. I found the stock pickups to be nice and punchy all while having no trouble handling higher amounts of gain.
For an additional charge, Phred Instruments will install Seymour Duncan 59s or Schaller M6 tuners. Like the stock pickups, I felt the stock Wilkinson tuners held their own.
Out of the box, I had to do no setup work besides tuning it up to pitch. The only mods I did to get it gig ready were a piece of orange tape so as not to confuse the output jacks. I also put a thick rubber washer over the top strap button.
Clip 1: Here's the liveness I’m talking about. Just the neck in humbucker mode direct. You can hear my fingers smacking the side of the neck as a nervous twitch for keeping time.
Clip 2: My favorite setting; both pickups on with the neck pickup in single coil mode and the bridge pickup set to humbucker mode. Very full sounding for rhythm, while leads cut nicely too.
Clip 3: If you haven’t learned by now (from Dave Grohl to Ted Nugent) that hollowbodies can rock, here’s the VH3 with a ton of gain. I have it on the bridge pickup in humbucker mode. Plenty of harmonic overtones without getting into a squealing noisy mess.
Street Price: Ernesto VH3 Brown Burst K, $610
You can't believe everything you read on the Internet, but Billy Voight is a gear reviewer, bassist and guitarist from Pennsylvania. He has Hartke bass amps and Walden acoustic guitars to thank for supplying some of the finest gear on his musical journey. Need Billy's help in creating noise for your next project? Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.