Wolfgang Van Halen and guitar brand EVH have finally announced the commercial release of the semi-hollow SA-126 guitar, coinciding with what would be Eddie Van Halen’s 69th birthday.
There’s been a lot of commotion about this instrument over the past year-and-a-half or so. He was seen playing the guitar that resembles the usual EVH Wolfgang model but with a semi-hollow body, somewhat of a “thinline” guitar. After revealing some details, Eddie’s son assured us that he has more than one of these prototypes and that the guitar will be available within EVH’s line of products.
And now, Wolfgang and EVH have officially announced the release of SA-126, revealing that the model will be available in four finishes this May. The news also symbolically comes at the same day of Eddie Van Halen’s birthday, January 26.
While there’s clearly some excitement surrounding this instrument, we’ll dive into more details and see what sets it apart from other guitars, particularly semi-hollow and thinline guitars and how it compares to stuff available on the market.
As the official press release states, the guitar is a collaboration between Wolfgang Van Halen, the company’s Matt Bruck, and masterbuilder Chip Ellis. They also got some help from Fender’s Tim Shaw, who’s one of the most famous pickup designers. “The end result is a guitar that is unique in its vision and tonal fingerprint,” the statement reads.
They also add that the concept was “crash-tested for two years by Wolfgang,” focusing on aesthetic, sonic, and functional features.
Body and Neck
Although materials are “business as usual,” so to speak, there are a few interesting twists here. The body is mainly made out of mahogany. They refer to it as a “chambered” body. On top, we have a maple top or a quilted maple top, depending on the versions — more on that later.
What’s interesting is that there’s a basswood centerblock rather than a more conventional maple one.
With the neck, we have a usual mahogany one and it forms a bolt-on connection with the body. However, there’s also a scarf joint involved, and the neck has graphite reinforcement. On this neck rests an ebony fingerboard with 22 frets and triple-block inlays. The fingerboard also has a compound radius, from 12 and up to 16 inches. With all that, the scale length is your usual Gibson-style one, 24.75 inches.
Electronics and Hardware
Speaking of which, the electronics are very Gibson-like in their formation. We have two humbuckers, the usual three-way toggle switch, and four knobs — two for volume and two for treble roll-off.
What’s different here is the addition of brand-new humbuckers. Named after the instrument model, we still have no exact confirmation on what they’re actually like, apart from some recordgins in the official video. But they promise a variety in tones and the ability to cover anything from cleans to soaring high-gain tones.
The bridge is a “harmonica”-style one, accompanied by your usual stopbar tailpiece. All variants also include “keystone” tuning pegs. So it’s not entirely your conventional setup, but it’s not far from it either and they’ve not shared too many details on the exact hardware.
Variants and Prices
The guitar comes in two main variants, the main difference being the maple top. The two models that are with the usual maple top have matte finishes and black hardware. The two finishes for this version are Stealth Black and Matte Army Drab. The price for these two is listed as $1,799.99.
Meanwhile, the second option features quilted maple tops and has two finish options, Tobacco Sunburst and Transparent Purple. The purple one has your usual plain hardware while the sunburst one comes with gold-colored hardware. The price for these SA-126 variants is just $100 more, $1,899.99.
What Makes It Special?
It’s no secret that there’s been a lot of hype surrounding this instrument. And when we look at the details and specs, it seems to be closer to your Gibson-style guitars with a few interesting twists.
Most notably, it’s a semi-hollow instrument with vintage vibes and yet it comes with some shred-friendly options. Apart from a compound radius fingerboard, the guitar also has an ergonomic heel design which, in combination with the model’s cutaways, makes for what seems like an easy access to higher frets.
The headstock isn’t like your usual EVH Wolfgang models and doesn’t keep strings in a straight line when they break over the nut. This is in no way a bad thing but more of a vintage-style trait.
In other words, the guitar seems to be perfectly balanced between vintage and modern traits. This goes hand-in-hand with its unique soundhole on the bass side of the lower bout on the body. But this comes with a question — is this blend just a way to broaden EVH’s target audience and capture the hearts of both old-school and modern guitar fans? Or does it have noticeable functional value?
So far, it’s too early to say. The price seems to be in order, at least for now. It’s not far off from other EVH models and we can say that they haven’t overpriced it. But we’re yet to see and hear how it will perform in action.