Magneto guitars first appeared back in late 2008, the brainchild of Christian Hatstatt, a guitar designer and maker who has worked with various European brands, most notably Gary Levinson’s Blade Guitars.
Christian’s initial designs centred on two models: the Sonnet and T-Wave inspired by Fender’s Strat and Telecaster. Later in 2012, the Velvet was added, a more Les Paul-inspired style. Yet unlike many modern makers who might simply change a headstock outline, Magneto subtly reevaluates those originals.
Initially, they were only made in Japan via a collaboration with Kei Yatsuzuka, but more recently the Chinese-made U-One range, introduced into Europe in 2019, provides Magneto style at a much lower price point.
Eric Gales joined the party in 2011. “We were introduced to Eric by a friend from NYC who put us in touch with his manager at the time,” reports Christian. “We got him one of our guitars to try out and he has been playing them ever since. After a discussion with Eric in early 2020, we came up with the idea to build a guitar that would be more affordable but would feature what Eric likes the most: size, weight, pickups, hardware and some cool design features.”
And the RD3 you see here – based on Eric’s Japanese-made Raw Dawg II Custom – was born.
Although the inspiration is obvious, there are plenty of aspects here that change both the look and the function. The upper horn sits slightly lower into the body and the treble horn appears more out-flowing, not to mention the three cut-outs in the gold-backed plastic mirror scratchplate (the same material is used for the vibrato’s spring coverplate).
Meanwhile, the body heel area, for example, has a dished relief, while the heel itself is thinner and slightly tapered. Then there are the classy control knobs from smooth grained ivoroid with black rubber ribbed grips. Being an artist model, the guitar has Eric’s signature on the headstock and a larger version that surrounds the 12th fret.
Eric’s ‘Raw Dawg’ nickname is displayed on the gold-plated neckplate, too, plus we get an additional strap button on the tip of the body heel. Eric, of course, plays his guitar upside down left-handed style, simply because that’s how his elder brothers played (and not because he’s left-handed).
While the Lollar Sixty-Four single coils Eric uses on his custom guitar were impossible to use on a guitar at this price point, “the Metro-Poles EG1 set was modelled after our 62 single coils”, says Christian, “and we found out that Eric liked my idea of using flat poles. It always bugged me to have less volume on some strings when the guitar is played clean! An important part of the plan was to develop pickups that would have the dynamics and great midrange response, which play an important role in Eric’s guitar tone.”
Feel & Sounds
Under the very classy, lightly metallic finish we have a two-piece basswood body that results in a nice weight of 3.49kg (7.7lb). Of course, it feels very Strat-like strapped on, but while that slightly wider cutaway and tapered heel do give a little more ‘air’ for higher playing positions, that extra strap button might be a signature feature too far.
The satin-finished neck feels very good, too, and it’s pretty mainstream in size – 42.2mm wide at the nut, just over 21mm deep at the 1st fret and 23.5mm by the 12th with a pretty classic full-ish C-meets-D profile (that’s actually very close to Gibson’s SlimTaper, albeit slightly narrower in width) and has slightly incurving and comfortable sides to the fingerboard; the top edges are lightly rolled.
The fret size suits the style at 2.38mm wide by 1.25mm high, very slightly wider and taller than those used on PRS’s similarly priced SE Silver Sky, which is an obvious reference, although here they sit on a flatter Gibson-like 305mm (12-inch) radiused fingerboard. Fretwork and setup certainly match the price point, and the oiled bone nut is very nicely cut. It’s good craft.
As set, the vibrato is decked, but the six-screw unit should be easy to set to floating if you’d prefer, and with the saddle screws sitting someway above the saddles themselves, well, the first job we’d undertake is to add a neck shim. That aside, we appear to have steel saddles and a top plate with a full-size steel block. Not least with that excellent nut work, tuning stability is really good.
Obviously, what we hear is very Strat-like and with both volume and tone full up there’s no shortage of high-end sizzle, which produces a quite modern voicing on the (hum-cancelling) mixes, but might be a bit too much for some on the solo pickup selections. However, just pull back the volume, which barely reduces the output, and those highs round really nicely.
The tone control is pretty wide-ranging, too, with smooth graduation to further tame the high-end. Turned lower, it almost hints at a humbucking voice, particularly with a level boost or overdrive; full off it’s a very usable ‘woman’ tone. You’ll be missing a lot if you just keep these controls full up – they really are the key to what is an expansive and expressive guitar.
Anything that shines a light on Eric Gales is very welcome in our book and there’s little to disappoint here, aside from some minor, simple-to-fix setup issues.
This is a very cool-looking rerun of a classic that has just enough original style – not least its custom colour and gold mirror scratchplate – to add a little bling and elevate it above a tidal wave of ‘really can’t be bothered’ lookalikes.
Conversely, it is a signature guitar with no colour options and many players might prefer a more classic appearance. But above all, it’s the sounds and slick playability that are rather impressive here. Time to add Magneto to your ‘to-try’ list, we’d say.
- PRICE: $1,299/£849 (inc gigbag)
- ORIGIN: China
- TYPE: Double-cutaway, solidbody electric
- BODY: 2-piece basswood
- NECK: Slab-sawn roasted maple, ‘medium C’ profile, bolt-on
- SCALE LENGTH: 648mm (25.5”)
- NUT/WIDTH: Oiled bone/42.2mm
- FINGERBOARD: East Indian rosewood, pearloid dot w/ inlaid signature at 12th fret, 305mm (12”) radius
- FRETS: 22, narrow jumbo
- HARDWARE: Gotoh Custom vintage-style vibrato w/ steel plate saddles and steel block, Gotoh SG-360-07 enclosed tuners – gold‑plated
- STRING SPACING, BRIDGE: 51.5mm
- ELECTRICS: Magneto Metro-Poles Custom EG1 single coil set, 5-way lever pickup selector switch, master volume and master tone
- WEIGHT (kg/lb): 3.49/7.7
- OPTIONS: None
- RANGE OPTIONS: In the U-One series the Sonnet, on which the RD3 is based, is available in various styles from £349
- LEFT-HANDERS: Sonnet Classic US-1300 (£399)
- FINISHES: Sunset Gold (as reviewed) – high gloss polyurethane to body; vintage tinted satin to neck
- CONTACT: Magneto Guitars