OK-- I took delivery early this afternoon on an Ernie Ball Music Man Cutlass. Played it for about five hours, and the first impression is stellar.
I was sort of expecting that my initial reaction to the neck would be similar to how I felt about the G&L that I played recently, which has a 9.5" radius fretboard. The Cutlass has 10". But it feels so nice and natural in my hand, I was instantly at home with it, to my surprise. Very much in line with all of the reviews I've read and watched. It also comes with stainless steel frets, which should pretty much never wear out. They feel super smooth, almost a mirror finish on them. Bends are a breeze.
Playability is fantastic. Smooth, fast action, perfectly set up right out of the box. Fit and finish are superb. Not a single blemish or rough spot, neck perfectly seated and aligned. And Bob @StylesBitchley, this neck allows my thumb to get right up to the top edge without making my muscle-memory rebel against it, so that I can fret in a way that's conducive to playing rock and blues stuff. No fight in there at all thus far. Still am not going to fret the E string with my thumb, that's a bridge I'm sure I'll never cross. But I can get my hand into the right posture for sure.
It is equipped with Schaller locking tuners, and the 4/2 configuration of the headstock machines means that every string is a straight pull, no angles and without that little clippy thing that Strats have. Ostensibly this should promote the guitar staying in tune.
Here are some photos, and then a handful of short clips I dashed off with a variety of amp sim and pickup selection settings. I'm going to play the crap out of this guitar all week before I make up my mind for sure, but there will need to be some egregious shortcomings to overcome the great first impression. Two things I will be paying close attention to are how well it stays in tune in general, and how well it stays in tune after using the tremolo arm. I have zero experience with a whammy so I will need to push and prod at that at some length.
So without further ado!
Now for some sounds. A major feature of this guitar for me is the "active circuit" that eliminates the hum of typical single-coils. Purists will insist that there's no way to get the "real" tone with such a configuration; all I know is it sounds absolutely like the real deal to me. (The little black panel on the back is where the 9V battery goes to drive the active circuit. Battery life is about 500 hours of continuous playing.)
First some clean sounds. Here's the middle pickup using the Scuffham "Fenderlicious" preset.
Here are the in-between positions (with signature Strat "quack") using the GTR "Edgy clean" preset. First half is the position between neck and middle p/u, second half between middle and bridge.
Here's some effects-y sounds. This is on the neck pickup with the CLA guitar sim using the "Late Night" preset.
Here's a bit of grit using the Scuffham Steely Ray Blues preset. First the mid pickup, then bridge, then neck.
Here's something crunchier, using the Scuffham Duke's Blues preset and the bridge pickup. (bonus dive bomb at the end!)
Finally, here's a highly f/x'd sound using the middle pickup and Scuffham's House Burning preset.
I will report back again later in the week after giving it the full workout. I have 45 days to return it...