HP Special Review
May 11th, 2005
By: Geoff Knapp & Levi Peto
I received the first HP Special on May 10th, 2005. It is a CT arch top without the recessed controls and with the Wolfgang style knobs vs. the speed knobs that will come on all future HP Special orders. It had the trem stop bracket installed and the pick-ups were prototypes and thus may still be subject to slight modification in future guitars so that needs to be known. The finish is a special “Autumn” color they created for me. The guitar has a list price of $2,699. This is the base price for the CT of $2,399 plus $300 for the custom color. Note: All pictures are thumbnails you can click on for a larger image.
Cosmetics / Aesthetics
I am very quickly use to the shape and I think it works. Sharper horns and pointier, longer headstock gives the guitar a cool look. This may be blasphemous but I might even like it a little better than the Wolfgang now that I have them sitting next to each other. I didn’t like the new BMW’s as much as the older ones when they first came out, but it is funny how you get use to new styling pretty quickly. The guitar is like getting a really nice Custom Shop Wolfgang. Everything you would expect. I do prefer the poured binding (minor detail). It is probably not worth the cost difference to offer it. The special autumn color they did turned out great and the same tough as nails, high gloss clear coat that was on the Wolfgang is on this guitar as well. I always thought the Wolfgang had the best clear coat on any guitar I had seen and was the toughest. The HP Special is the same in that regard. The quilt top, custom color, neck and fretboard are all awesome (materials and finish), so if these are representative of the type of materials that will be used on custom orders, people will be very happy. Pretty hard to find something not to like.
I like the cut out on the back (body contour). That is a functional improvement and doesn’t hurt the look (might even help based on your preference). The guitar gets very high marks on its visual appeal, but I am talking about one without recessed controls as well. I will have to get the one with recessed controls and put them side by side for awhile.
The neck feels awesome just like a high quality custom shop Wolfgang. This is the most important thing to me and that is a bullseye. That to me was the single most important decision on this guitar. Well done!
As I mentioned the cut out is a functional improvement that adds playing comfort, which arguably gives the overall guitar a slightly better feel than the Wolfgang. The weight distribution is good and the reach to the upper frets is good.
The versatility of this guitar is what gives it greater appeal than the Wolfgang for the guitar player that doesn’t care if an artists name is on the headstock. They will find this guitar can do more, primarily due to the ability to successfully split the pick-ups and get a single coil sound. However, the single coil sound I experienced was more “Telecaster” like (more mids – less highs) than a Strat. I will address this in the sound section.
I prefer the pick-up selector switch on the top horn like the Wolfgang, but I have already been told there is not room for it there with the reshaped horns. This is a minor detail.
The tremolo system is the same as the Wolfgang and although I am not a trem guy I have had people say they greatly prefer the real one or the one used on some early Wolfgangs that does not have the play in the trem handle. I heard EVH preferred it that way, but that could have been urban legend. My guitar had the trem lock down bracket installed, so it wasn’t floating, but this extra feature (floating trem) provides added functionality. I did feel like there was slightly less sustain in this guitar and I am guessing it is the floating trem. I would say this is minor though. The guitar stayed in tune well the entire time I played it (a couple hours).
Overall the functionality is improved on this guitar over the Wolfgang and is excellent.
I guess this really comes down to what you like. I am told the pick-ups were proto-types and I liked them a lot, but they are different than the Wolfgang. I think they have more mids and less highs and are a little hotter. When we used the POD XT with them we had to back off the drive as compared to the Wolfgang and then it sounded really good. I played the guitar directly through a JSX with Triple XXX cabinets and then we tried it through the POD XT (lots of different settings) with a Peavey 60/60 Power Amp – same cabinets. With the strong mids the guitar seems like it would be great for playing in a band as it would cut through better. What was interesting was the single coil mode. First, this sounds so much better than with the Wolfgang pick-ups if they were split with a modification. Well done there. Again, we do have more mids and less highs in the single coil mode as in the humbucker mode, making it sound more like a Telecaster than a Stratocaster. My friend said it sounded a little like the middle pick-up on a Telecaster. Maybe more of a country sound than a rock sound. It is totally a matter of personal taste. I thought they sounded good, but might prefer the Strat sound (better for rock). Since the Wolfgang didn’t even offer this possibility of the Single Coil sound, it is nothing but a plus.
All in all I am very happy with the sound and the pick-ups. If you are just comparing the Wolfgang to the HP Special in the Humbucker mode, I would give the edge to the Wolfgang pick-ups. However, overall the HP Special is better due to its versatility and the sound is so close that it isn’t like you would like one and hate the other. Also, the harmonics are excellent on this guitar.
Suggestions for Peavey
I would like to see a String-thru version. I am not a trem guy (the majority of the time) and would prefer the better sustain and better action that I think you get with this. The string-thru would be a cleaner, classier guitar. This is no longer an EVH guitar and a string-thru bridge on a high-end guitar is something some other people may want. I do understand that most people will likely still want the trem.
I would try modifying the pick-ups some to see about picking up some more highs and less Mids, but I admit that my ear is not the greatest and I am probably not the best person to make this recommendation. If the single coils sounded more Strat like than Telecaster, I think that would be overall more appealing, not that the Telecaster sound is a bad one.
Summary – Conclusion
I love the guitar. It is not a Wolfgang but compliments it nicely. I think anyone who gets one just like this would be thrilled with zero changes. If someone decided they liked the Wolfgang better it wouldn’t be by much and I could definitely see many people liking the HP Special better due to its versatility. This guitar isn't better than a Wolfgang, it is different and just as good on the quality side. Why choose when you can have one of each (or more!)? The guitar is the type of Peavey Custom Shop Quality I have come to expect and certainly appreciate. This guitar is a winner at a great price.
Check out the pictures above to compare the look of the Music Man EVH and Peavey Wolfgang to the HP Special.