Chapman ML1 Modern Special Run review

Could this be the best Chapman ML1 Modern model to date?

Chapman ML1 Modern Special Run
(Image: © Future)

Guitar World Verdict

Affordable and well-equipped, the ML1 Modern represents a solid choice for someone looking for a wallet-friendly shred machine that offers a little bit extra.

Pros

  • +

    Seymour Duncan humbuckers make this one of the best-sounding Chapmans to date.

  • +

    Top playability.

  • +

    Impressive build quality.

  • +

    Spectacular Rainstorm Blue finish.

Cons

  • -

    No gig bag.

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Since it debuted in 2009, Chapman Guitars’ flagship ML1 model has undergone a number of rebirths. Beginning life as a signature guitar for YouTube star and Andertons demonstrator Rob Chapman, the ML1 has since spawned several Modern, Hybrid and Baritone spin-offs. 

Indeed, the ML1 has come a long way, and early suggestions of questionable quality control have given way to an instrument that, by and large, is associated with two things: solid spec sheets and good value for money. The latest ML1, though – this ML1 Modern Special Run – might just be the best one yet. 

Demoed in Rainstorm Blue, the ML1 Modern Special Run is a solidly built machine. The mahogany body and maple neck combo feels familiar and solid, while the body contours and sculpted cutaway amount to a guitar that is comfortable to navigate. The well-made fretboard also helps: rolled ebony and topped with 24 jumbo frets, the 12” radius fingerboard is slick to get around and a highlight of the build. 

These components add up to a guitar that, even when unplugged, is resonant and full of character – we found it to be a good “pick-up-and-play guitar," with a great action. However, it’s the presence of the Seymour Duncan Pegasus bridge and Sentient neck humbuckers that propels this ML1 to the top of the line. Previously equipped with Chapman Sonorous Zeros, the Seymour Duncans represent a significant tonal upgrade that gives this ML1 sounds to match its build quality.

Chapman ML1 Modern Special Run

(Image credit: Future)

When run straight through the amp, the tones are first rate: the neck is warm and rounded, the bridge bright and snappy. In the middle position – accessed with the perfectly weighted three-way blade selector switch – there’s a nice amount of spank that can be dampened or pronounced depending on the attack of your playing, something the ML1 is particularly responsive to. 

The tone knob, which also doubles as an effective coil-split, does a good job of taming upper-end bite, and can mellow out the neck for some versatile jazzy tones. When a bit of gain is added into the mix, that overall responsiveness remains, and the Pegasus/Sentient combo unsurprisingly excelled when more drive was fed into the chain. 

In terms of appearance, it’s hard to argue the poplar burl veneer isn’t a striking look but, of course, those woody swirls won’t be everyone’s cup of tea. With such impressive tones though, we’d urge you to defer to your ears rather than your eyes if a burl finish isn’t your thing. 

The Chapman ML1 Modern is a resonant and playable instrument with a tonal flexibility that goes beyond its extravagant aesthetic. Affordable and well-equipped, the ML1 Modern represents a solid choice for someone looking for a wallet-friendly shred machine that offers a little bit extra.

Specs

  • PRICE: £649
  • BODY: Mahogany with poplar burl veneer
  • NECK: Maple
  • FINGERBOARD: Ebony
  • FRETS: 24, jumbo
  • PICKUPS: Seymour Duncan Pegasus bridge humbucker, Seymour Duncan Sentient neck humbucker both w/coil-splitting via push/pull tone pot
  • CONTROLS: Three-way blade switch, volume, tone
  • HARDWARE: Chapman Classic Closed tuners, Chapman String-Through Hardtail
  • LEFT-HANDED:  No
  • FINISH: Rainstorm Blue
  • CONTACT: Chapman Guitars (opens in new tab)

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Matt is a Staff Writer, writing for Guitar World, Guitarist and Total Guitar. He has a Masters in the guitar, a degree in history, and has spent the last 16 years playing everything from blues and jazz to indie and pop. When he’s not combining his passion for writing and music during his day job, Matt records for a number of UK-based bands and songwriters as a session musician.