“He hit the strings on his guitar, laid it on the floor, had the amp cranked and left his studio – and left it on for days. That was his torture test”: Eddie Van Halen’s rig builder Dave Friedman discusses the guitar legend’s gear testing regime

Eddie Van Halen, onstage in 2007 – the year the EVH 5150 III launched
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Eddie Van Halen is well-known for having an approach of ‘creative destruction’ when it came to his gear. The lasting innovations and breakthroughs he helped to shape –from the locking tremolo, to the D-tuner, the high-gain amp and, of course, the Superstrat concept – were all born from his desire to push things to their breaking point.

Recently, Van Halen’s one-time rig builder and amp industry legend Dave Friedman was interviewed on Jeremy White’s YouTube channel and discussed just such an example of that process.

Towards the end of their conversation [around 1.07], White references marketing material that was shared around the launch of the first EVH 5150 III amp in 2007, claiming the amp had been left to feedback for a month in order to test its longevity. 

“Theoretically... do you think that’s true?” asks White.

“It is true!” replies Friedman. “He did do that. He hit the strings on his guitar, laid it on the floor, had the amp cranked and left his studio – and left it on for days. And it was still operating when he came back. That was his torture test.”

While Friedman says it was a matter of days, Van Halen told Total Guitar that it was indeed, as the marketing material referenced, a month.

What’s more, he then did it all again with a bass to test its reliability with the lower frequencies.

“Oh yeah! I left it feeding back for a month!” says Van Halen. “And then I put a bass through it and left it for another month, because I wanted a really low frequency to see how the amp and the cabinet would hold up.

“[I’d try] different feedback frequencies, really high, then I’d muffle the other strings once I got the note that I wanted it to feedback at, and I’d just leave it.”

EVH 5150 III 100-watt head

(Image credit: EVH)

In the same piece, Van Halen even recalls having visitors from Fender – producers of the EVH gear – to the 5150 Studio as he was conducting the experiment.

“I’ll never forget,” says Van Halen. “We’re walking up the hill to the studio here and they hear this, ‘Ooooh’. Then we open the door and it’s ‘OOOOOH’ then we open another door and it’s just fucking screaming! And they all went ‘What the fuck are you doing?’ I’m like, ‘I’m crash-testing the amp!’”

The result? “It held up!”

We imagine that news came as some relief to the powers that be at Fender – as would have leaving the 5150 Studio compound on that particular day…

Last month, Dave Friedman also discussed a mystery amp built for Van Halen by fellow amp guru José Arredondo that he says disappeared following the modder’s death.

Watch Friedman’s full conversation with White on the clip above and, if you like what you see, head to Jeremy White’s YouTube channel to subscribe.

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Matt Parker

Matt is a staff writer for GuitarWorld.com. Before that he spent 10 years as a freelance music journalist, interviewing artists for the likes of Total Guitar, Guitarist, Guitar World, MusicRadar, NME.com, DJ Mag and Electronic Sound. In 2020, he launched CreativeMoney.co.uk, which aims to share the ideas that make creative lifestyles more sustainable. He plays guitar, but should not be allowed near your delay pedals.