Behold Ernie Ball Music Man’s ultra-limited, ultra-luxurious Spring 2023 Ball Family Reserve range

Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023
(Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

Ernie Ball has lifted the lid on the Spring 2023 additions to its limited-run Family Reserve series. The four new instruments all feature nitrocellulose finishes, meaning the wide-ranging designs have all been grouped together under one ‘Nitro Collection’ tag.

The new drop consists of three electric guitars and one bass, including the Dustin Kensrue Black Honey, the Cutlass Classic '58, the Axis Translucent Purple, and the StingRay Retro '76.

Dustin Kensrue Black Honey – from the Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023

Dustin Kensrue Black Honey (Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

First on the list is the Dustin Kensrue Black Honey, which offers a dark take on the Thrice man’s signature guitar – and represents the rarest instrument of the Spring 2023 collection, being limited to just 50 pieces. Usually available in Blonde or Tobacco Burst finishes, this one has a black nitro finish with gold hardware. 

Elsewhere, it maintains the Schaller locking tuners, custom-wound Music Man HS pickup configuration and stacked volume/tone controls of the main Artist Series model. Expect to pay $3,599 for the privilege of snapping one up.

Cutlass Classic ’58 - from the Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023

Cutlass Classic ’58 (Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

Another six-string, the Strat-like Cutlass Classic ’58 is clearly rooted in what Ernie Ball Music Man terms “the 20th century's ‘Golden Era’ of instrument manufacturing”. That renaissance period is celebrated here in more overt fashion than on the usual Cutlass models. 

Eagle-eyed readers will note it emulates the Strat’s three control knobs (as opposed to the usual two-knob setup found on the Cutlass) and there’s the traditional combination of alder body and vintage-style maple neck, all wrapped up in that fetching nitro sunburst finish. 

The Cutlass Classic ’58 has a price of $3,499.

Sting Ray Retro ’76 - from the Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023

Sting Ray Retro ’76 (Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

On the bass front, the Sting Ray Retro ’76 offers a similar trick in its emulation of ‘Golden Era’ design, but uses Music Man’s own history as its inspiration. 

As such, the Retro ’76 is all about a return to the Sting Ray’s disco and funk roots, emulating the original specs of the bass. Alongside the nitro finish, that means an Alnico V humbucker, vintage 1976-style ‘radio’ control knobs, a string-thru-body bridge and a pre-Ernie Ball-style ‘bullet’ trussrod poking out the headstock. 

All that retro goodness equates to a price of $3,499.

Nitro Axis Translucent Purple - from the Ernie Ball Music Man Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023

Nitro Axis Translucent Purple (Image credit: Ernie Ball Music Man)

The third and final guitar on offer is a little less traditional, but still casts its gaze backwards, specifically to the firm’s first signature model with Eddie Van Halen. 

The Nitro Axis Translucent Purple has a hand-stained figured maple top adorning a lightweight basswood body with cream binding. It’s loaded with two DiMarzio Zebra humbuckers, a Floyd Rose double-locking tremolo and – we’re pretty certain – some form of hypnotic power.

As with all of the other instruments here (with the exception of Kensrue’s signature) it comes with a certificate of authenticity, a hardcase and is limited to 100 pieces.

The Nitro Axis Translucent Purple carries a price tag of $3,799. 

For more information on all of the Ball Family Reserve Spring 2023 collection, head to the Ernie Ball Music Man site.

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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.