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Why the Ed O'Brien EOB Sustainer Signature Guitar is my favourite genuine Strat and what could be further improved

FenderGuitarsS-Style and Double-Cut Guitars
2019GPXFenderEOBStrat700-min.jpg

At heart I’m very obviously a Strat-type or double-cut guitar shape fan and have been so from day one - I feel these instruments are just better ergonomically balanced and aesthetic-wise much more favourable than their single-cut brethren. That said I tend to get hung up on headstock shape, tuner alignment and type, perpendicularity of string pull etc. - and have tended to therefore gravitate towards those designs from PRS, MusicMan and Schecter - typically 3+3 or 4+2 variations.

 

That said, like most people I love the core spanky Stratocaster tones, but am usually more at home with a Humbucker as my bridge pickup. I also have a pet peeve about the output jack siting on the front face of the guitar rather than in its more ergonomic placement along the edge - as is now the standard for most modern guitars.

 

Being a massive Radiohead fan also helps, but I’m equally a fan of Ed O’Brien’s core missions statement - which I hope many of you witnessed in the recent That Pedal Show episode (as below). I had come across this guitar before - but was properly awoken to its existence and potent potential and versatility during that show.

 

It solves many of the issues I have with core Strat guitars, and while I would still probably prefer to have a Rosewood fretboard and more ergonomic headstock, I really like the overall aesthetic here of blonde wood with Olympic White body - so I will let those provisos slide on this occasion. The guitar is priced at around £899 - £999 - the price just recently went up for newer models - but you may still find some lower cost ones in distribution. At that price point it is at the higher end of Made in Mexico Fenders, but has the upgraded hardware to easily justify its price (pickups).

 

Seeing string trees on headstocks always makes me feel somewhat uneasy as it is a clear sign of a design flaw - so my first change here would likely be to replace the stock Kluson style Tuners which I’ve never been a fan of for more modern and staggered-post locking tuners - probably the Graphtech PRL-9721-CO Locking Ratio Tuners with Staggered Posts.

 

Next I would thoroughly check out the nut - which is listed as ’Synthetic Bone’ which often just means cheap white plastic. I would likely replace this with one of the Graphtech Tusq style nuts - and would check with my guitar tech to see which was the most suitable.

 

Finally, I always fit my guitars with Schaller Strap Locks - they have always served me well, and I see no reason to change from something that works so exceptionally. Those 3 changes would all significantly improve the user experience of the guitar for me - and although a relatively costly exercise is one which has served me beautifully over the years.

 

What I like best about this guitar is the ingenious selection and combination of pickups - where the Neck pickup is a single coil Fernandes Sustainer Driver, the Middle pickup is a Texas Special for extra twang schwang, and the Bridge Pickup is a glorious Seymour Duncan JB Junior Mini Humbucker - it’s this combination and the range of tones and textures onboard which make this such a special instrument. I’m an unusual breed of player who has a 2 amps (stereo) 40 pedals, and ideally just one or two guitars to rule them all. The Holy Grail of guitar has always been to find a single one that combines the voicings of a Strat, Tele and Les Paul - and while not exact replications - this guitar delivers largely on all those and more besides. I’m looking to own no more than a handful of guitars - and want them all to be versatile and multi-disciplinary like this one. Besides the unusual pickup arrangement and different jack placement - everything else here is really very standard strat - including the pickup switching:

 

5-Blade Switching

  • Position 1 = Bridge pickup
  • Position 2 = Bridge and Middle pickups
  • Position 3 = Middle pickup
  • Position 4 = Middle and Neck pickups
  • Position 5 = Neck pickup

I think there’s quite a lot you could do with the electronics to give even more tonal possibilities - like having coil-tap / split on the Bridge Humbucker - and having an additional setting which then allowed you to play all 3 pickups together - so a fun wiring project for some creative soul somewhere along the way.

 

You have 2 separate toggle switches for the Sustainer - one to switch the Sustainer function on/off, and a 3-way toggle to switch between Harmonic-only (+5th) / Fundamental-only / Blended Harmonic + Fundamental modes.

 

For me this is the perfect guitar to approach the more experimental side of bands like Radiohead and Sigur Rós - and as Ed intended - come up with new ways of sound-shaping and guitar playing which push the format forwards. I fear a lot of ’guitarland’ is filled with persons simply engaged in different forms of idle/idol mimicry - trying to impossibly re-capture tones of former legends - when they should be rather using those as spring boards onto pastures new.

 

As always I’m torn between a variety of doublecut guitars - and have a number in my sights at all times, but this could very likely be my next acquisition. Note that even though the radius at 9.5" is pretty standard - the neck shape tends towards a relatively thick v-shape which is rather its own thing, and some will obviously be more used to playing thinner profiles. I’ve seen a number of reviews take away points for the higher echelon pricing of this guitar for a MIM type - but I feel that the combination of pickups installed pretty much justifies it - this is a great guitar for anyone with a slightly more experimental mindset - I for one feel it would serve me very wel.


Key Specs

  • Colour : Olympic White, Gloss Polyurethane
  • Body : Alder
  • Neck : Maple, V-Shape, 25.5" Scale Length
  • Fretboard : Maple, 21 Tall Narrow Nickel Frets
  • Nut : Synthetic Bone, 42mm width
  • Pickups : Fernandes Sustainer Driver Single Coil at Neck, Fender Texas Special Single Coil in Middle, Seymour Duncan JB Jr at Bridge
  • Hardware : Kluson style Tuners, Vintage style Trem
  • Controls : 5-way Blade Switch, Master Volume, Master Tone, Intensity Control Volume (Sustainer), Sustainer On/Off, 3-way Sustainer Modes - Harmonic/Fundamental/Blended
  • Typical Weight : c3.5kg
  • RRP : £999

EOB Sustainer Stratocaster Launch Video

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